When I used to work behind a cheese counter, I could count on a variety of cheese knives to get the cutting done: huge, double-handled cleavers, large chef knives, and slender, sharp slicers. For the most part, it's not a problem if you don't personally own tons of different knives; once you get smaller portions of cheese home, you can use a pretty standard knife on nearly anything. But there's one professional cheese cutting tool that sometimes I wish I had: A cheese wire, best used for soft, gooey cheese and crumbly goats. Luckily, there's an easy way to emulate its function, with something you already have at home.
At cheese shops, cheesemongers will use cheese wires or fancy cheese harps to cut soft and crumbly cheeses neatly. But when at home, use dental floss on delicate cheeses!
Typically, the fate of a soft cheese is sealed: it's nearly always smothered or smushed on a cracker or a piece of bread. But when spreading isn't your goal, and you crave clean, sleek cuts for salads, individual cheese plates, or a neat appetizer bite, dental floss is your friend. (You can also use dental floss to neatly slice your cake layers in half crosswise!)
If the cheese is small, you can hold it in one hand while your other pulls the floss taught and does the cutting. For larger situations, place cheese on a surface, shimmy the floss beneath it, and simply slice up, holding both ends of the floss and crossing the two ends to complete the cut. Then repeat in equal intervals.
This trick is especially great if you need the cheese to stay intact, as is the case for breading and frying goat cheese rounds. Dental floss works well on sticky cheeses, too, since there's nothing to which the cheese can attach itself. It just kind of glides through, leaving a nicely cut edge behind. Floss acts almost like those cheese knives with holes going down the blade itself, meant to decrease not only the surface area of the knife but also the amount of cheese that would potentially sacrificed on the blade.
So while it's not cool — though perhaps your dentist would disagree — dental floss can come in handy for your cheese service: before, during, and come to think of it, afterwards, too.
Nora Singley used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop. Until recently she was a TV Chef on The Martha Stewart Show. She is currently a freelance food stylist and recipe developer in New York.