Some cooks and cheese experts believe that the only tool you need to prepare your cheese for serving is a good sharp knife. But after talking to Will Sissle, cave manager and cheese expert at the renowned Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, Massachusetts, we learned that there are good reasons to use a cheese plane instead. When letting your guests cut their own semihard cheese, a plane is safer to leave out on a cheese board than a sharp knife. But more important, the razor-like blade of a cheese plane can make it easier to consistently slice thin, even pieces that are pleasant to eat. Thin slices come up to optimal serving temperature more quickly than thicker wedges or chunks, allowing guests to better appreciate the cheese’s flavor and texture. To avoid carving a trough in the rectangular cut surface of a cheese wedge, simply trim the rind away from one side and shave across, creating triangle-shaped slices.

Still, Sissle doesn’t recommend using a cheese plane with all cheeses. They’re best with relatively young semihard to hard cheeses that are fairly uniform in texture, such as young gouda, Manchego, or Comté. Firm, crumbly, or harder, more aged cheeses should be cut with a knife for best results, so that the unique texture gradient between the rind and the center of the cheese can be preserved and enjoyed.