This post is part of our 'This Is Fire' series, where our editors and writers tell you about the products they can't live without in the kitchen.
Of all my guilty food pleasures, cheese tops the list. I grab my cheese slicer so often that I hand wash and dry it throughout the day and rarely slip it into a drawer until bedtime. Even then, I occasionally sneak it out for a late-night snack.
You would think, with all that use, I would be replacing my cheese slicer every few years or collecting an array of models. Nope. I’m actually the second owner of my stainless steel, Norwegian-style cheese plane, and it is as effective today as when I pulled it along my first block of cheese more than 40 years ago.
The slicer’s geometry allows the center opening to neatly peel off a slice of even a hard-aged cheese, like parmesan, without needing a razor-sharp edge that could nick a finger.
Bjørklund Wooden Handle Cheese Slicer
Cuts thin, even slices
Stays sharp after decades of use
Safe for kids and adults to use and wash
Less effective with softer cheeses
Growing up, we had two cheese slicers in the kitchen: a handheld rolling model, which cut between its wire and roller the thick slabs of cheese my dad likes, and a cheese plane, my mom’s favorite cheese-slicing tool. You drag the flat stainless steel plate, which resembles a small serving spatula, across the surface of the block of cheese, and it feeds a thin, even slice through its center hole, much like a pasta roller sends out a sheet of dough.
Norway claims provenance of the cheese plane. Most sources trace the original model back to the 1920s and Norwegian furniture maker Thor Bjørklund, who was inspired by a carpenter’s hand plane to design a better cheese slicer. It not only works, but it also does so without moving parts that need to be replaced or sharpened. The slicer’s geometry allows the center opening to neatly peel off a slice of even a hard-aged cheese, like parmesan, without needing a razor-sharp edge that could nick a finger.
I can’t remember when I sliced my first piece of cheese, but it was probably with the cheese plane. My grandmother owned one too, and it could be used as safely by my little hands as by her old arthritic ones. By the time I have memories of making my own lunches, it was my favorite slicer in the drawer. My other option, the rolling wire slicer, became awkward with age as the wire loosened, and the thick slices often fell out of sandwiches.
With the cheese plane, I could cut thin strips of sharp cheddar that would mold themselves to peanut butter mounded on apple quarters. Slices were thin enough to lay on a cracker and jam into my mouth in one bite, so I could snack on the sofa without leaving crumbs. If I wanted more cheese per bite, I could always fold a long slice in half.
When I left my childhood home, I would have taken the cheese plane if I thought no one would miss it. Years later, after my grandmother died, my mom adopted her cheese plane and the one I grew up with moved to my kitchen. Thankfully, a Norwegian cousin gifted my sister an original Bjørklund model at her wedding, diffusing any potential family cheese slicer envy.
Our generations-old cheese slicers remain effective but do show their age. The finish on my cheese plane’s wooden handle has worn away in places. It likely ended up in the dishwasher before we realized hand washing and a quick towel dry would keep the stainless steel blade and wooden handle in the best shape. My grandmother’s original slicer shows less handle wear but has less blade shine when set beside my sister’s 15-year-old model.
My family’s cheese planes vary slightly in style. The oldest has a leaf-shaped blade without grooves along the cutting edge, which needs slightly more pressure to start a cut on a hard cheese. The others have a grooved edge for easier cutting that leaves its pattern on each slice. All work best on hard and semi-hard cheeses, from parmesan and aged Gouda to cheddar and firm Tuscan goat cheese.
I hope to pass my cheese plane on to another generation, perhaps after a quick sand and refinishing of the wooden handle.
Beyond these varieties, I always reach for a cheese plane when I’m slicing gjetost, or Norwegian brown cheese. Bjørklund likely had this long-cooked blend of whey and cream in mind as he started experimenting. When sliced ultra-thin with a cheese plane, it melts in your mouth like caramel.
I hope to pass my cheese plane on to another generation, perhaps after a quick sand and refinishing of the wooden handle. If I ever were to replace it, I would choose a new Bjørklund Wooden Handle Cheese Slicer, still modeled after the original design. I am also considering that collection of slicers: The company makes cheese planes with serrated edges for dessert cheese, versions with a short grater, and even models without a full blade to cut soft cheese. What cheese lover wouldn’t be tempted?
Material: Stainless steel blade, wood handle | Dimensions: 9 x 3 x 0.6 inches | Dishwasher Safe: No
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Julie Laing has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years and is the author of the weekly newspaper column and food blog, Twice as Tasty. Every kitchen tool and gadget must earn its place in her 500-square-foot home, where she somehow finds space to make her own cheeses and smoke hard varieties. Julie published her first cookbook, "The Complete Guide to Pickling," in 2020.
The story: Craft tradition for almost 100 years. Bjørklund1925.