When you think about your most beloved kitchen tools, your sharp chef’s knife and your cast-iron Dutch oven probably come to mind. The humble cheese grater, though, can be just as indispensable. After all, a cheese grater is one of those culinary tools that’s tricky to substitute or creatively workaround if you don’t have it. And a solid grater can be used for much more than a brick of parmesan. Options abound, so whether safety is your top priority or you’re looking for a true workhorse of a tool with myriad uses, here’s how to figure out the best cheese grater for your needs.

Tips for Buying a Cheese Grater

Besides the style and size of your grater, there are a few additional finer points:

  • Consider two specialized (and smaller) graters over one large, all-in-one tool. A box grater is bulky, and if you only use one or two of its sides, buying two handheld ones might be a better option.
  • Besides maintenance, think about your personal cheese preferences. Some graters work well for both soft and hard cheeses, but if you mostly use one or the other, a more specific grater might serve you better.
  • Take stock of any appliances or tools you already own that have similar abilities. Maybe you’ve already got other tools that cover your non-cheese grating, slicing, or zesting needs, like a food processor or mandoline? You might instead opt for a single-blade, ultra-nimble grater.

Our Top Picks

Here are six standout cheese graters that will expertly handle all your zesting, slicing, and grating needs.

Do-It-All Pick

This four-sided OXO grater has medium and coarse grating planes, plus slicing and zesting options. A non-slip base makes it sturdy and comfortable to hold. One special feature we love: A removable storage container with a lid that measures one cup of grated cheese. Another nice perk: The zester smartly detaches, which makes cleaning easier and eliminates the need for a separate microplane.

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Wide Sides

This popular four-sided, stainless-steel option has angled, wide sides that are safer and easier to clean than narrower, straight-sided graters. Plus, the width allows you to grate bigger chunks of cheese more quickly. Choose from coarse, medium, fine (aka zesting), and slicing options, the latter of which is useful for more than cheese (think: potatoes, squash, zucchini, carrots, lemons, and cucumbers).

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Adjustable Handle

Brilliant little details abound on Joseph Joseph’s dishwasher-safe handheld grater with a duo of etched blades (coarse and fine grate) that work well for both soft and hard cheeses. The adjustable handle has two positions, so you can either grate smaller amounts straight into a bowl, or tilt the handle to a 90-degree angle to grate larger quantities of cheese downwards on a slope. The reversible storage sheath is multipurpose, too: use it as a blade cover, or to collect shredded cheese. As a bonus, it’s smaller and easier to store than a box grater.

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Enclosed Blade

Cheese grating can be a perilous sport, especially if you’ve got kids or are just injury-prone in the kitchen. Zyliss’ rotary cheese grater eliminates the danger factor because of the enclosed blade. Though there’s only one grate size, you won’t mind when you see the mounds of restaurant-caliber wisps of Parmigiano Reggiano or Asiago this grater can produce in seconds. In fact, the grater is certified by the National Sanitation Foundation for restaurant use, so it’s vetted for safety and durability. Plus, you can also use it to grate ingredients that take a bit more elbow grease on a box grater, like chocolate and nuts.

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For some cooks and cheese pros, a pyramid-shaped tower grater is preferable to a box grater. And unless you think you’ll often use the largest slicing side of a traditional box grater, you won’t miss that fourth side.

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Ideal for Zest

For hard cheeses like pecorino or parmesan, a classic handheld microplane excels at fluffy mounds of wispy cheese tendrils, which melt more quickly than coarser grind sizes. It’s also ideal for zesting citrus or mincing ginger and garlic, and is useful for spices like cinnamon or nutmeg (skip the soft cheeses, though, as they’ll get stuck in the blade). The long, surgical stainless–steel grater resists rust and shouldn’t need sharpening. The plastic tabs on the tool’s edges help prevent scratches to countertops and tables. Though the grater is dishwasher safe, it’s best to give it a quick rinse by hand after using so nothing gets stuck.

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Ask the Experts 

What type of cheese grater is the best for me?

It really depends what kinds of cheese you’ll be grating, how much storage space you can allot, and how safe you feel using it.

Are cheese graters dishwasher-safe?

Many graters can indeed be popped into the top shelf of the dishwasher for easy cleaning, though be sure to check first. The tiniest holes on the grater can get gunked up, so it’s best to hand-wash zesters, microplanes, or any sort of pinhole-sized blades right after use, even if they’re dishwasher-safe.