Rotary Graters

From Gnocchi and Panzanella

How we tested

To find a tool that works quickly and with the least possible amount of pressure, we asked testers with various hand sizes to try four models ($9.99–$34.99). We gave them everything from hard Parmesan to semisoft cheddar to soft mozzarella, and even a chunk of chocolate.

Not surprisingly, the most important factor turned out to be the size of the grater’s barrel: The larger its diameter, the faster it worked. Models with barrels narrower than 2 inches in diameter came in with correspondingly sluggish grating times, while the widest-barreled (2 5/8-inch) grater zipped through an ounce of cheddar in 15 seconds.

The other major considerations—handle comfort and cleanup—were all about simplicity. Graters that disassembled quickly and contained fewer pieces made cleanup a breeze. We also much preferred classic designs—in which one hand presses a clamp against the cheese to hold it in place while the other hand rotates the handle—to innovative devices. Operating one sleek-looking model, for example, meant balancing its T-shaped body in your palm while painfully pressing the cheese clamp against the barrel with only your thumb. Even an ultra-wide (2¾-inch) barrel couldn’t compensate for the gimmicky peppermill-like design of one model. To generate any shreds at all required twisting the body with considerable force, and even then it produced scrappy, squished bits of mozzarella and a paltry pile of grated chocolate.

The bottom line: No rotary grater is going to match the speed of a box or rasp-style tool, but our favorite rotary model, which sports an ergonomic turn-crank handle and a pair of easily interchangeable wide-mouth drums (fine and coarse), makes short work of small, at-the-table grating tasks—and cleans up in the dishwasher.

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The Results


Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.


Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.


Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.


Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.


Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.


Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.