We would lie if we said grating cheese was not always on our minds. No? Just us? Cheese is a flavorful and useful ingredient capable of imbuing recipes with a wide variety of flavors and textures. But for many recipes, prepping enough cheese can take time and effort. We all love homemade pizza, but when you’re having guests over and need enough Pecorino Romano for everyone, the task can be daunting.
There are three main graters capable of relieving your cheese grating worries: box graters, rasp graters, and rotary graters. Perhaps the most common of the three, box graters, have been around since the 16th century. Typically boasting a different size or type of grate on all four sides, the box grater is a kitchen prep powerhouse. Rasp graters are handheld with one long, rectangular side of tiny grates. These can be proficient tools for grating hard cheeses and zesting citrus fruits — ingredients that are transformed into aerated piles of little shavings when a sharp, shallow-toothed grater is used. Rotary graters churn hard cheese into thin gratings and soft cheese into long ribbons with a rotating hopper and hand crank.
Considering how much kitchen space you have, what tasks you want to accomplish, and what price range you’re comfortable with are essential aspects of choosing a new kitchen tool. With graters, however, the variety of capabilities and designs available can make the decision daunting. Personally, we loved the Microplane Specialty Series 4-Series Box Grater as our favorite. Regardless of the grater you’re looking for, we’ve tested them to advise you on which best serves your grating needs.
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Microplane Specialty Series 4-Series Box Grater
Pros: This grater conquered all of our tests with ease.
Cons: While we think it’s worth the investment, this is one of the pricier graters we tested.
The Microplane Specialty Series 4-Series Box Grater was the best cheese grater we tested out of nearly two dozen. It was just so easy to use! Little effort was required from our testers in all three of our test kitchen trials. The medium grater even works in both directions, a feature not all graters have, but one that makes shredding a large amount of cheese much easier. This grater also had no issue with grating soft cheese into uniform pieces.
One of the deciding factors for us was effortlessly zesting an orange, something not all box graters can do. This grater is super versatile — a perfect one-size-fits-all tool for anybody’s kitchen. Because of the rubber feet and rounded handle, it sports it’s comfortable to use and has a unique look.
The Microplane Specialty Series 4-Series Box Grater is also easy to clean, partly due to the side with the ribbon blade being entirely removable for easy access. Not to mention, it’s dishwasher safe. Whether you’re grating a whole block of fontina for a full pot of mac and cheese or just looking to sprinkle some Parmesan on top, this grater is functional and accessible for any cook.
Price at time of publish: $46
- Dimensions: 10.25 x 5.12 x 3.12 inches
- Types of grates: Ultra-coarse, fine, ribbon, and removable slicer blade
- Dishwasher safe: Yes
Best Dual-Purpose: Zyliss SmoothGlide Dual Grater
Also available at Walmart.
Pros: Dual sharp blades and a well-designed handle make this a 2-for-1 at a great price.
Cons: While designed well, it is on the bulkier side for a rasp-style grater
With an ergonomic handle for extra comfort, the Zyliss SmoothGlide Dual Grater is a user-friendly grater offering cooks the best of both worlds. With one side a larger grater and the other finer blades resembling a zester, this grater can work through cheese and citrus zest.
The dual sides provide textural options. When grating hard cheese, the large blades produce thicker shreds, while the smaller side makes for delicate, string-like pieces. Using soft cheese renders similar results. Our testers were pleasantly surprised to learn the smaller blades tackled mozzarella while maintaining the cheese’s natural bouncy texture. Zesting required a little more work, but we ultimately achieved both ribbons and delicate flakes of zest.
More compact than a box grater and quick to clean by hand or in the dishwasher, the Zyliss SmoothGlide Dual Grater is perfect for anyone who wants a multipurpose grater. Our test kitchen was impressed by the performance of both sides of this grater for all of our tests, making it perfect for the countertop.
Price at time of publish: $20
- Dimensions: 11.22 x 3.74 x 1.18 inches
- Types of grates: Two sides; large and small blades
- Dishwasher safe: Yes
Best for Zesting: Microplane Classic Series Zester
Pros: Born to perfectly shave hard cheeses.
Cons: Not a friend of softer ingredients, like soft cheese.
If you have zesting to do in your future, look no further. There’s a reason the word Microplane is used colloquially to reference finely-bladed handheld graters. The Microplane Classic Series Zester defends its (home kitchen) championship title by proving that it zests like no other; not only did it eviscerate our hard cheese testing, but it was a real pro when it came to zesting oranges. Our testers said it could zest the fruit without bruising its skin, producing more than a tablespoon of perfect zest per orange. This is the grater for you if you’re looking to make simple work of transforming hard cheeses into cloud-like powder.
One of the most significant benefits of a Microplane is its flat-backed design. When cleaning or shaking fine shavings from its teeth, you can run a finger down the back of the grater. This makes washing it safer and easier. Plus, its plastic blade guard keeps it sharp and makes it safe to store in a drawer or kitchen tool canister.
Price at time of publish: $16
- Dimensions: 12 x 1.31 inches
- Types of grates: Small u-shaped grates
- Dishwasher safe: Yes
RELATED: The Best Zesters for Citrus, Spices, Cheese, and More
Best Large: Spring Chef Professional Box Grater
Pros: The size of this grater makes the work go by quickly.
Cons: Not perfect when it comes to grating soft cheese.
A classic box grater, if there ever was one, the Spring Chef Professional Box Grater has four sides. The coarse, medium, fine, and slicer blades offer options, options, options when it comes to breaking down cheese (or anything else, really). Our testers found this grater performed very well in the hard cheese test when using both the coarse and medium sides. The soft cheese test did occasionally break the cheese rather than turning out identical shreds, but our testers weren’t too bothered by this.
The rubber base of the Spring Chef Professional Box Grater is removable when washing, ensuring no food is trapped between it and the body of the grater. This is a fantastic option for a home cook looking for a standard grater. Our testers felt it performed well enough in both cheese tests to be very much worth its very low price.
Price at time of publish: $25
- Dimensions: 9.88 x 5.59 x 5 inches
- Types of grates: Coarse, medium, fine/zest, and slicer blades
- Dishwasher safe: Yes
Best Value: Gorilla Grips Sharp Stainless Steel Zester
Pros: It’s dishwasher safe and a fantastic value, making it perfect for anyone on a budget.
Cons: It’s a specialized tool, excelling more in finer grating than shredding ingredients meant to maintain uniform shape.
The Gorilla Grips Sharp Stainless Steel Zester is an ideal pick for our Best Value category because of its smart design, expert handling of fine grating tasks, and affordable price point. As a rasp-style grater, this zester is made to zest. That being said, our testers felt it was extremely effective. The hard cheese and orange zesting tests turned the ingredients into downy piles of fine shavings. Not all graters can maintain texture like this; we were thoroughly impressed.
As the name promises, its soft grip handle makes for comfortable usage even during tasks that take time. It’s dishwasher safe for easy cleanup and has a rubber guard opposite the handle for resting against a countertop to make zesting easier and safer. With all of these features and the low price, this is a grater we want in our kitchen.
Price at time of publish: $12
- Dimensions: 15.4 x 1.4 inches
- Types of grates: Small u-shaped grates
- Dishwasher safe: Yes
Best Rotary: Vivaant Cheese Grater
Pros: Produces large, ultra-fluffy cheese shavings with ease.
Cons: As expected with some rotary graters, holding down the clamp requires some physical effort.
The Vivaant Cheese Grater has two rotary drums in coarse and fine grate. In our hard cheese tests, this was our favorite of the rotary graters. With minimal effort from the user, the coarse grate created ultra-light feathery pieces. The fine-grate drum easily grates the hard cheese into soft shavings. While it’s not quite as easy to grate soft cheese with the fine grate (it tends to break into pieces in a rotary grater), doing so still produces stringy, bouncy shavings.
With a classic rotary grater appearance, our testers were happy with the design, particularly the two drum options. The Vivaant is dishwasher safe, and we think it’s worth the price given its versatility in cheeses.
Price at time of publish: $40
- Dimensions: 7.4 x 3.9 x 4.2 inches
- Types of grates: Coarse and fine
- Dishwasher safe: Yes
Our experts agree that the Microplane Specialty Series 4-Series Box Grater is the ultimate grater for cheese. After testing nearly two dozen box, rotary, and rasp graters, this one took the [cheese]cake. Using it felt so effortless, and with four varied sides of sharp grates, it aced all our tests. We love how versatile it is and how cleverly it’s designed — non-slip feet, a comfortable grip handle, and a removable ribbon blade make for a highly user-friendly grater. Whether you’re a home cook or a more experienced chef or have mozzarella or manchego in mind, this grater is up for the job.
To accurately assess the performance capabilities of each grater, our testers began by shredding and grating hard cheese. The texture, uniformity, and ease of use when breaking down 4 ounces of cheese like Parmesan gives us an idea of how difficult it will be to prep a large quantity of denser ingredients. Next, we moved on to soft cheeses. Grating a soft cheese like mozzarella can often be tricky; the grater needs to be sharp enough to produce uniform shreds rather than crumbling the cheese due to pressure. This is also a test in which we consider the tool’s longevity. If there’s concern that the blades might dull quickly, foods like soft cheese will be difficult to deal with.
To ensure we understood the full capabilities of each grater, our testers zested oranges to see if the graters were equipped with blades fit for zesting citrus. Zesters designed with citrus in mind will ideally produce a powder-fine texture from the citrus rind, but this depends on the blade’s sharpness and style. For other graters, we hope to see that they have the ability to zest amongst their different functions. Often, graters without smaller, sharper blades produce a wet-textured result instead. This is especially obvious with citrus fruit that has high water content, like oranges. After each, testers rated the graters on performance, ease of cleaning, ease of use, and value.
Factors to Consider
Ease of Use/Comfort
Cheese graters are one of the workhorses of your kitchen. From a last flourish of parm on your pasta to a pile of cheddar for your mac and cheese, a good cheese grater is essential to great cooking. So, choosing one that is easy and comfortable to use is very important. If you only use a small amount of grated cheese at any one time, the manual options are fast, easy, and usually dishwasher safe, making cleanup a breeze. If you do a lot of grating, finding one that lets you achieve those fluffy piles without cramping will be a better idea, whether it is a manual version or an attachment for an electric appliance.
Cheese is a messy ingredient; it can be sticky and pasty and get into cracks and crevices. A cheese grater that is easy to clean will be your best investment. Dishwasher-safe versions are obviously the best choice, but if the style you prefer is not dishwasher-safe, it should either break down easily to clean and then reassemble just as quickly or be a one-piece unit where all areas are easily accessible with a cleaning brush or sponge.
Sometimes a recipe calls for a super fine grating, sometimes a coarse grating, and sometimes somewhere in between. Depending on how you cook, you may need a single grater with several options of shred size or a couple of different styles of graters that get you what you need.
Types of Graters
There are many types of graters available. If you have a food processor, you will have the most options for various shred sizes in the available attachments and the ability to grate lots of cheese quickly. If you do not have a food processor but still want the ease of producing a lot of cheese fast, there are attachments for your stand mixer that work well, or you can choose a manual rotary style grater which uses a hand-crank to quickly dispatch lots of grated cheese. If you only can store one grater, choose a classic box grater with four different shred styles to give you the maximum flexibility in one small package. For small amounts of cheese quickly and an easy-to-store-and-grab grater, look at either rasp-style graters or flat hand-held, which provide ease and flexibility.
Pro Panel Q+A
We reached out to food blogger Sapna Dalal, The Vegetarian Tourist, to check in on her thoughts regarding cheese graters.
What’s the difference between a zester and a grater?
“Zesters are used mostly for citrus, Dalal says, “whereas graters are more multipurpose in their potential uses.” While you can use some rasp-style zesters for hard cheese like parmesan or pecorino, they are too fine for softer cheeses. While they can be used for other foods, cheese graters come in a variety of shred sizes and are specifically designed to work well with cheeses of all types.
How do you clean a cheese grater?
Dalal keeps cleanup simple. “I prefer to use a brush for cleaning cheese graters.” This removes the bulk of the cheese that might get gunked up in the little blades. The brush also keeps your hands away from the sharp blades. If the grater is dishwasher safe, it is still best to use a brush to remove cheese bits before running it through the machine.
What else can you use a cheese grater for?
Cheese graters can be a multi-purpose tool, says Dalal, and specifically, she loves to use hers for the traditional Gujarati dishes of her family. “Cheese graters often work well on vegetables. I have used a cheese grater to grate cucumbers for raita, a spiced Indian yogurt, and to grate opo squash for handvo, a savory lentil cake.” Cheese graters can also grate frozen butter for pie crusts and biscuits.
What Didn’t Make the List
- Zwilling Z-Cut Tower/Box Grater ($40 at Zwilling)
- KitchenAid Gourmet Stainless Steel Box Grater with Detachable Storage Container ($18 at Amazon)
- Cuisipro 4-Sided Boxed Grater ($37 at Amazon)
Results Still Simmering:
- Microplane EcoGrate Series Fine Grater ($18 at Amazon)
- Zyliss Classic Rotary Cheese Grater ($22 at Amazon)
- Rosle Coarse Grater ($45 at Amazon)
- Microplane Premium Zester ($18 at Amazon)
- Utopia Cheese Grater and Shredder 6-Sided Box Grater ($12 at Amazon)
- OXO Good Grips Etched Coarse Grater ($13 at Amazon)
- Cuisipro Surface Glide Technology Deluxe Dual Grater ($15 at Amazon)
- Cuisinart Boxed Grater ($11 at Amazon)
- OXO Etched Box Grater ($33 at Amazon)
- Westmark Trio Rotary Grater ($20 at Amazon)
- Deiss Pro Citrus & Cheese Grater ($12 at Amazon)
- OXO Good Grips Multi Grater ($15 at Amazon)
Christa Glennie has worked as a freelance writer and food editor for nearly 20 years. She is also the author of two cookbooks and specializes in food and drink trends, agriculture, the regional foodways of Western New York, and the restaurant business. Her respect for simplicity and uncluttered counters in the kitchen ultimately fuels a desire to find and own well-designed, multi-purpose, best-in-class kitchen tools. Stacey Ballis, a freelance writer, recipe developer, and product reviewer, also contributed to this piece.