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Sometimes I need to shred a block of a soft cheese such as mozzarella, or cheddar. When I use my grater, the cheese starts to get kind of chunky as I'm grating it. I end up wasting a lot of cheese when I try to grate it.

It never happens when I grate harder cheeses like peccorino.

Is there a way to grate softer cheeses without ending up with big pieces of wasted chunks? Is there a particular grater that works better for softer cheeses?

I currently use a mandolin grater, and not a box grater.

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I usually just eat the extra chunks :) – ManiacZX Jul 14 '10 at 1:02
Why does it need to be grated in the first place? There are a couple of types of mozzarella - the firm, processed type will grate from the fridge. – codeinthehole Jul 19 '10 at 17:54
What cheddar are you referring to, most are fairly reasonable for grating? – Orbling Jan 1 '11 at 7:10
up vote 27 down vote accepted

I usually freeze mozzarella and then grate it (longer the better, unless you are in a hurry, then 20 minutes or so works OK). This works very well. Other soft cheeses, such as those meant to be eaten at room temp, brie, for example, I wouldn't freeze... Of course, I don't think many of us are grating brie anyway.

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Yeah, what's probably happening is that the cheese is getting warm from the processing and from being out at room temperature. So the grater ends up stretching it instead of cutting through it. Freezing or deep-chilling it will extend its working life. – GalacticCowboy Jul 13 '10 at 17:31
Great! I never even thought about doing that. Thanks! – Jacob R Jul 13 '10 at 17:33

Freezing cheese will force out moisture within the cheese, ruining some of its desirable characteristics. This may not matter for cheap cheese, but that $4 ball of today's fresh mozz might give you pause. You could still use the freezer though. Putting a soft cheese in the freezer for several minutes prior to serving will firm it up enough to grate it more cleanly.

Another option is to grate it into larger chunks. Use the coarsest grater for the softest cheeses.

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Yah, I agree with this point 100%. There is a fine balance between ruining nice cheese and driving yourself bonkers grating properly ;--) +1 for trying to protect cheese integrity. – nicorellius Jul 13 '12 at 21:11

Use a box grater instead of a mandolin. Because the mandolin has a larger blade, it's placing stress on a much larger piece of the cheese resulting in large breaks. If you use a box grater, you get more localized pressure on the cheese for shorter periods of time. You'll still get some breaking with mozzarella or cheddar, but not nearly as much. Any breaks in the cheese will also be much closer in size to the final shredded product than with a mandolin grater.

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I find that mozzarella (and other soft cheese) is good sliced. I wouldn't want to freeze the cheese unnecessarily, just so I can get to use a grater.

I think it's really only worth grating hard cheese.

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Spray the grater with cooking spray or rub the outisde with a little oil on a paper towel. It'll go through the grater much more easily.

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A potato masher works ok in a pinch.

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I freeze any soft cheese and grate straight onto the pasta. The heat will automatically defrost it for you.

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I freeze the cheese then put in in small chunks into the magic bullet with the flat blade and in no time I have grated two pounds of cheese.

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I would tend to tear mozzarella for pizza or as a topping to focaccia.

For other soft cheese, slicing it with a chef's knife works fine; putting the diced cheese into a bowl of water can help it stop sticking back together. For example, when making a salad with ripe brie, I slice the cheese during prep, then drain and add it just before tossing the salad.

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