That 4-Sided Grater Box Makes Good Sense

I wrote about this subject back in February of 2014 (“How to Correctly Use a Grater Box”), but I want to talk about it again because of an experience I had recently. I was attending a kitchen shower the other day when, as the bride-to-be was unwrapping a 4-sided grater box, one of her friends asked “I’ve never really understood what all those different holes are for. What do you do with them, anyway?”

You can imagine the smiles on the faces of the older guests. (It’s probably better to call them “seasoned cooks.”) Anyway, the question is a good one, and maybe you’ve wondered the same thing. I know I have, and this honest query started a great discussion regarding grater boxes and their modern counterpart, the food processor. Here’s the information those seasoned cooks shared:

SIDE 1: Medium holes with a cutting edge on bottom (looks like large raindrops) : used for shredding. This side is commonly used for shredding cheese.

SIDE 2: Small holes with cutting edge on bottom : used for shredding when you want a finer end result. Again, used for cheese. I used this side when making cheese sauces because the smaller shreds melt quicker than the larger shreds.

SIDE 3: Outward protruding holes with spiky edges on all sides: used for grating. A grated food is much smaller than a shredded food. This is a good choice for whole nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, or for zesting lemons and oranges. This side of the box is a suitable substitute when you don’t have a microplane.

SIDE 4: A single wide slit that looks like a smile : used to slice things to an even thickness (potatoes, for instance). I’ve never used this feature, as I can get fairly consistent slices with a knife, but if you're not so skilled, it could be used to slice potatoes for an au gratin (might need to slice them in half first, as the slot isn’t wide enough to fit a whole potato), or to slice firmer cheeses. It can also be used for slicing cabbage for coleslaw (again, once cut down to fit), cucumbers or carrots for salads, etc. As the blades aren't razor sharp, there are some softer items (such as tomatoes) that it just won't work for (you’d likely opt for a more expensive mandolin or at least a serrated knife).

But here’s where the conversation got interesting. All the older gals (oops, seasoned cooks) seemed to agree that although a food processor can be used for the above-mentioned tasks, you have to consider a couple things (besides initial cost and the space the machine takes up). First, while it's very easy to shred lots of cheese in a food processor, cramming it all into the container tends to fuse it back together from the force and the heat, which defeats the purpose. Chilling the cheese first will help this issue a little, but you also need to keep emptying the work bowl.

Then there’s the cleaning all the parts—too time-consuming for some folks. So if you have a strong arm and your food processor is on the small size, a hand shredder might actually be faster and give better results. Turns out, that simple grater box is the tool of choice (especially for cheese-shredding) for these very reasons.

I agree. I do have the much-heralded food processor, but honestly, I use and love my grater box just as much.

So back to kitchen shower: I couldn’t help but think that that 4-sided grater box was a perfect gift. We live in such a space poor, thing-rich world today, and we’re so inclined to believe the marketing bologna that screams at us that we gotta have bigger and better, new and improved, and more of it. Really? That little grater box will take up less space, and do lots of jobs at the same time. So the new bride doesn’t have a food processor just yet, she’ll be OK—her 4-sided grater box makes good sense and it will work just fine!


    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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