Order of Cutting

It makes a difference which cheeses you cut first, and which cheeses you save to cut last, whether you use a cheese wire or a knife.

The primary reason it makes a difference is, if you follow the order outlined below, it is less messy, and secondly, the probability of cross-contamination is reduced. I usually avoid the “contamination” word when I speak about cheese, as cheese is already undeservedly feared. The contamination referenced here is more about the commingling of flavors that can occur. Unless after cutting each cheese you are diligent in cleaning your cutter: knife, wire or otherwise. Cheese flavors can spread from one cheese to another.

I recommend cleaning your cutter anyway, if only with the quick wipe of a cloth. With the harder cheeses the cuts are cleaner and fewer residues will remain on the cutter, which can end up in the next cheese that is cut. Softer cheeses do not cut as clean as the harder ones—one reason to save those for later. A soft cheese may ooze – this can be problematic.

There is no substitute for fresh cut cheese, by the way. Yet if you must cut cheeses a little ahead of time, the harder cheeses will hold up longer than the softer ones. Once cut, a softer cheese may end up spreading across the plate, sometimes onto other cheeses. This commingling of flavors is the more serious type of “contamination” I mentioned above. Maybe not a serious problem but for the purist, a cheese is better appreciated on its own or with an accompaniment besides another cheese.

The blue cheeses should be cut last. Most of them are moist, if not soft. And once you have blue on your knife, the flavor of blue cheeses being as persistent as it is, it can easily overwhelm the subtleties of the milder cheeses. If the blue cheese is cut before a non-blue, the blade should definitely be wiped clean beforehand.

So the recommended order of cutting is not necessarily the same as the recommended order of eating. The harder cheese should be cut first, the softer cheeses next, saving the blue cheeses for last. One point to keep in mind here: just because a cheese is soft does not mean it will be a mild cheese, not at all.

- Max McCalman

Spread the curd!
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