Slice an 8-ounce block of sharp cheddar, measuring the thickness of each slice
Slice an 8-ounce wedge of Manchego, measuring the thickness of each slice
Measure each plane’s handle, head, and blade
Evaluate planes for comfort and efficiency
A good cheese plane makes it easy and safe to produce consistently thin, even slices from semihard cheeses. A cheese plane is essentially a small trowel with a blade embedded in the flat head; using even pressure, you simply pull the blade across a cheese wedge or block in order to get a uniform slice of cheese. To find the best cheese plane, we bought nine models priced from $6.75 to $28.00 and put them to work slicing solid blocks of two semihard cheeses, dense cheddar and more-porous Manchego.
We found that all the blades were plenty sharp. But straight blades were better—the one model with a serrated edge cut corduroy-like ridges into the cheese, making for less pleasant eating. We also liked blades that were around 2.25 inches long. Shorter blades couldn’t cover larger wedges of cheese in a single pass, and longer blades were sometimes ungainly.
The thickness of the cheese slices produced by the planes—determined by the angles of the blades themselves—proved critical. We found that cheese slices 0.08 to 0.09 inches thick (slightly thicker than a nickel) were ideal. Anything thinner made it hard to get a sense of the cheese’s texture; any thicker and the slices felt a bit unwieldy and overwhelmed delicate crackers.
Certain models were also easier to use, making it simple to produce clean-cut, smooth slices with no broken tips or edges and fairly little variation in thickness from piece to piece. The metal heads surrounding the blades came into play here. We preferred models with thin (0.02 to 0.03 inches thick), flexible heads because they hugged the surface of the cheese and were easier to maneuver.
Finally, we liked models with relatively large, cushioned, textured handles. Narrow or slick handles were hard to grip and sometimes slipped during use, resulting in uneven slicing.
Our winning cheese plane, the Wüsthof Gourmet 4¾-inch Cheese Plane ($19.95), produced perfect 0.08-inch-thick slices every time. It had a comfortable handle, a relatively long and sharp blade, and one of the thinnest and most flexible heads in the testing, making for effortless, responsive slicing.