A grater is a kitchen utensil that is used to grate foods into slices, strips, or powders. Most graters are made of a rectangular metal plate into which openings have been pressed. At the bottom of the opening, the metal is generally sharpened to make grating as easy as possible.
Many kitchen supply stores carry four-sided graters that are shaped similarly to a cow bell. Each side of the grater has holes of different sizes and shaped to allow for different kinds of grating thicknesses. These graters are rather ergonomic. They generally have a handle on top that the cook can grasp while using one side of the grater. The grater that can yield the finest rendering of ingredients is the tamis, which is pronounced just like the female name “Tammy.” In fact, a tamis can be used as a strainer as well as a grater.
There are a vast number of kinds of cheese graters. This is because cheese can vary widely in both texture and firmness. Very hard cheese, such as pecorino romano, is often grated with a grater that has many small holes. This yields very fine pieces of cheese, almost a powder. Larger openings may be used to create slices or strips of softer cheeses such as cheddar or Gouda. Because it is so popular to grate cheese over pasta, a hand held crank has been developed that grates cheese table side. It is common for Italian restaurants to use these types of graters.
The same kinds of graters that can be used to make very fine powder out of cheese can be used to create zest from citrus peels. In fact, graters are very useful in the preparation of vegetables. Carrot peelers are, in fact, simply a kind of hand held grater. Although they are referred to as “carrot peelers,” they can be used to peel or create long strips of almost any kind of vegetable. These kinds of graters can also be used to grate spices, such as nutmeg. Although nutmeg is widely available in its pulverized form, most chefs agree that freshly grated nutmeg is preferable in most recipes. However, the actual nut is quite tough and must be grated with a many-holed grater that yields the requisite fine powder.
Because grating can be a somewhat arduous task, there are a number of kitchen utensil companies that offer automatic graters. Automatic graters can quickly slice vegetables, cheeses, and meats into slices of varying thicknesses. They can also grate herbs, spices, and harder cheeses into finely chopped pieces or even powders.