As a recipe developer who’s made lots of delicious cheesy recipes, I’ve grated and shredded a fair share—more like an enormous mountain—of cheese using a box grater. So I know that it can be a dangerous job. One wrong move and I’ve suddenly grated more than just cheese. Plus, the box grater itself can be unwieldy, resulting in a mess of cheese spread across my kitchen counter. And by the end of the whole process, the grater is smeared with cheese, making it nearly impossible to clean.
So what’s my trick for grating or shredding cheese using a box grater without injuring myself, making a mess, or losing my mind? I pop the block of cheese in the freezer before I grate or shred it.
The Smart Hack for Easily Shredding Cheese Without Making a Mess
Semi-hard cheeses like cheddar, gouda, and Swiss are too pliable for shredding right out of the refrigerator. Their flexible nature means they’ll yield to pressure, causing blocks to bend and break as you attempt to push them through the box grater.
If the cheese is at room temperature, you also run the risk of turning it into a pile of “cheese paste.” This happens when the cheese gets smashed through the grates instead of gliding over them. None of these results are favorable, but luckily, you can solve the problem by freezing your cheese!
Give your cheese about 30 minutes in the freezer before shredding it. This is just enough time to partially freeze and firm it up, making it easier to pass through the box grater holes without making a mess.
A longer freeze time isn’t necessarily better. Fully frozen cheese will be impossible to grate and you’ll be forced to wait for it to thaw, which defeats the whole purpose of freezing it. Larger blocks of cheese might need a bit more time but check at the 30-minute mark just to be sure. And if you don’t end up shredding the whole block, no problem. Wrap it up and store it in your refrigerator.
3 More Helpful Tips for Grating Cheese
- How to Tackle Hard Cheeses: If your cheese is hard, like Parmesan and Grana Padano, you may have the opposite problem. The cheese may be too dry and hard to make grating easy. To remedy the problem, introduce a bit of moisture by wrapping the block in a barely damp cheesecloth or a clean, damp paper towel. Then place it in a zip-top bag and store it in a high-humidity compartment, like a cheese drawer in your refrigerator. Depending on how dry your cheese is, this could take as little as an hour and up to one day.
- Protect Your Fingers: Also for grating hard cheeses, consider using a silicone potholder to get a firm grip on your cheese while protecting your fingers. Cheese can be slippery and accidents are no fun.
- Use Parchment Paper to Catch Your Cheese: Place a large piece of parchment paper under the box grater to catch all of your grated or shredded cheese. Skip the bowl or plate which can be unstable and awkward. The parchment paper on your counter provides a safe, flat surface. When you’re done, pick up the parchment and slide the cheese off of it for cooking or storage.