How we tested
We use rasp-style graters to zest citrus fruits and grate hard cheeses, ginger, shallots, garlic, nutmeg, and more. One manufacturer has ruled the fine-grating roost for years—heck, it invented the game. Grace Manufacturing, the parent company of Microplane, pioneered and patented a special photographic chemical etching process that creates razor-sharp grating teeth. The company initially produced long metal rasps for woodworking but found that consumers were using them in the kitchen, too, so they added a culinary line. But their patent on this process expired in 2011, freeing other manufacturers to create their own versions of this handy tool.
The ideal rasp-style grater would make delicate shreds from a range of foods and would grate said foods evenly. The Microplane Classic Zester/Grater ($12.95) has been our longtime favorite, and while it makes perfect shreds, its narrow (1-inch) grating surface often carves into cheese, leaving behind a trench. This isn’t a deal breaker, but since we last tested, Microplane and other manufacturers have come out with new options, some with wider grating surfaces. Was our old favorite still the best? To find out, we tested it against seven new contenders, priced from $9.99 to $28.00.
Our first test was grating Parmesan cheese. We trimmed eight identical 1-ounce chunks of Parmesan, one for each model. Then we put a cutting board on a large scale so we could be sure to use the exact same amount of pressure for each swipe and started grating. Six of the graters turned in admirable times, taking between 40 and 50 seconds per ounce of cheese. A seventh model took around a minute, and the eighth took a glacial 2 minutes.
The slow model’s grating teeth seemed very tiny, so we measured the teeth on all the graters for comparison. The teeth on the sluggish grater averaged 0.9 square millimeters, while the rest of the graters’ teeth were two to four times as large, at 2.1 to 4.4 square millimeters. Wider teeth allowed the cheese to pass through at a higher rate, making for faster, more efficient grating. Because of its small teeth, the slow model also produced much finer shreds than other graters. We always recommend measuring grated cheese by weight rather than volume, since 1 cup of finely grated cheese can weigh a lot more than 1 cup of coarsely grated cheese. So these finer shreds won’t throw a recipe off as long as you weigh them; we did, however, find them a bit wimpy, and we noted that they disappeared when sprinkled on hot spaghetti.
We also looked at the shape of each grater’s teeth. All the graters except for the small-toothed model had teeth roughly shaped like the letter U. (The slow model’s teeth looked like triangles with rounded tips.) We knew that smaller teeth were less than ideal, but our next test, zesting lemons, showed us that those models with larger teeth—with tips resembling a more opened-up U—could also be problematic.
Removing the vibrant yellow zest of a lemon without digging into the bitter white pith below is a balancing act. A grater has to dig in—but not too far. We noticed that the wider-toothed graters often plunged deeply into the fruit’s rind, where they got stuck, eventually emerging with both zest and pith. The smaller-toothed grater was able to nicely remove just the zest, but again, it took longer to do it. The best graters, those that were able to cleanly and quickly remove the zest alone, had medium-size U-shaped teeth between 3 and 4 square millimeters. Their teeth were large enough to bite into the surface of the fruit but not so large that they got stuck or dug too deep. We painstakingly counted the number of teeth on each grater and found that it didn’t really matter whether a grater had 255 teeth or 333, but the pattern they were arranged in did matter. If you look at the grater teeth straight on, they are arranged in series of curved rows, like a big stack of smiley faces; the rows on one model, however, were organized in this pattern but also in diagonal lines that ran from left to right down the face of the grater. When we pushed food down this grater, the food followed the grain caused by this secondary pattern and slipped off to the right—not good.
As for the models with wider grating surfaces, which measure between 1.5 and 2.5 inches across, we wanted to see if they’d solve the trenching problem we always experience with the Microplane Classic. Unfortunately, the teeth on all three wide-surfaced graters were too large, so they struggled to cleanly zest citrus. We want a grater that’s good at both zesting citrus and grating cheese, so the wide-surfaced one-trick ponies were out. We’ll keep rotating our cheese to avoid trenching and achieve an even grate.
In addition to grating Parmesan cheese and zesting lemons, we also used each model to grate garlic cloves, whole nutmeg, and fibrous ginger root. To test for durability, we ran the graters through a dishwasher 10 times and then moved them in and out of a crowded utensil holder 100 times each to simulate the wear and tear of repeated home use. A few of the graters looked pretty banged up by the end of testing. To see how this affected performance, we repeated the scale/timer/ounce test of Parmesan cheese.
For most models, the wear and tear were purely cosmetic. But one grater, the Cuisipro Fine Rasp V-Grater, which had previously turned in one of the fastest Parmesan-grating times at 42 seconds, took twice as long to get through the test, clocking in at 1 minute and 22 seconds. We compared our testing grater to a new model and could see and feel that its teeth had worn down significantly. Disappointed, we relegated this previously promising model to the back of the pack. We need a grater that lasts.
Comfort was secondary to a good grating surface, but it did play into our preferences. The handles on some of the models were too small, others too angular—we preferred larger, rounded handles. Our previous winner, the Microplane Classic Zester/Grater ($12.95), features medium-size teeth arranged in a staggered pattern and has a rounded handle. But its handle is made of hard plastic, while a newer model, the Microplane Premium Zester/Grater ($14.95), has a grippy rubberized handle. Their grating surfaces and teeth are identical and performed similarly, but for $2.00 more, the Premium model was slightly more comfortable and secure—qualities that earned it the top spot as our new favorite rasp-style grater.
We tested eight rasp-style graters, priced from $9.99 to $28.00, using them to zest lemons and grate Parmesan cheese, garlic, nutmeg, and ginger and evaluating their ease of use and the quality of the grated food. To test their durability, we ran the graters through the dishwasher 10 times and slid them in and out of a crowded utensil holder 100 times. Testers of varying hand sizes and skill levels also used and rated each model. At the end of testing, we repeated our initial timed Parmesan-grating test to evaluate how the graters’ blades held up over time. We purchased all models online; they appear in order of preference.
Grating: We examined the grated Parmesan, garlic, ginger, and nutmeg, as well as the lemon zest. Models that made fine, even, intact shreds of cheese and evenly grated other foods rated highest.
Comfort: We rated each model on how comfortable and secure it felt in our hands. Models with rounded, tacky handles rated highest.
Speed: We timed each test and graded the models on their speed; faster, more efficient models rated higher.
Ease of Use: We evaluated the user experience for each of the models. Those that required more finicky adjustments while grating scored lower, while those that were intuitive, with just the right amount of bite in the grating teeth, scored higher.
Durability: We rated the models on how their grating surfaces, handles, and frames stood up during testing. Models that remained sharp and looked new at the end of testing rated highest.