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Grating tasks

Unless you’re making mass quantities of food that require grated ingredients — gallons of cole slaw for the annual block party, or dozens of latkes for the Hanukkah bazaar, in which case you’ll head for the food processor — you’ll have more control and get better results grating your ingredients by hand.

The tasks performed most commonly by manual graters are:

  • extra-coarse grating of cabbage, carrots, potatoes and other vegetables, fruits, and soft cheeses, such as mozzarella
  • coarse grating of vegetables and fruits, harder cheeses (like Gruyere), chocolate, coconut, and ginger
  • medium grating for all the above and below
  • fine grating, often used for foods with significant water content such as onions, garlic, and ginger, to produce a puree-like consistency; or for drier foods such as nutmeg, cinnamon and other hard whole spices and nuts, to produce more of a powdery grind. Fine grating is also used for food with medium water content to produce zests (citrus rinds), and thin shavings of Parmesan and other hard cheeses.

Many box graters devote a side for shaving/julienne slicing; this won’t take the place of a mandoline or dedicated slicer for heavy duty slicing tasks, but it can be a useful feature.

Tool characteristics

Apart from a range of coarseness grades that will handle the aforementioned tasks, the two essential qualities that make for a high performance grater are sharpness and stability. Sharpness is crucial for all grating tasks; stability becomes increasingly important with larger and/or harder-to-grate foods. Grating edges that are sharp and stay sharp over time result from the materials used and the manner in which the edges are formed in the material. Operational stability results from a structural design that includes a comfortable handle, and that allows the user to apply significant pressure. A well-proportioned grating surface will make the tool easier to use, even with irregularly shaped food and small pieces, such as radishes and nutmeg cloves, which require fingertip precision. Also, a well-designed tool will be safer to use: for example, it’s easier to avoid scraping your knuckles or fingertips on a slightly convex surface than on a flat or concave surface.

With the exception of a few porcelain ginger graters, grater work surfaces are usually made of stainless steel. Some manufacturers specify the grade of steel used by use of a fraction that represents the percentages of chromium and nickel in the steel alloy — 18/10 and 18/8. Generally, stainless steel is more corrosion-resistant than other metals, and the difference between the use of stainless steel and ordinary steel in kitchenware is significant. Less important are the slight differences between the various types of stainless steel in this context. Also, the particular grade of steel is not as meaningful a determinant of how the grater will perform than is the tool’s design and construction. Additionally, we’ve found that the country of manufacture is not an important indicator of grater quality. Microplane graters, which we recommend enthusiastically, are made in the US, Khun Rikon in Switzerland, Pedrini in Italy, and most others, including Cuisipro, a quality line of graters, are made in China.

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Grater Types

All but a specialized few of the manual food graters used in home kitchens today can be put into one of the following four categories:

  • Box graters are hollow, multi-sided boxes , usually with three, four or six sides, each with a different grating configuration. They have a handle at the top, and are open at the bottom so that the grated food collects on a plate or other work surface, though many models come with a removable food compartment that attaches to the base to collect the grated ingredients.
  • Rasp and paddle graters usually have a straight handle resembling the handle on a woodworker’s file, and usually one, in a few cases, two different grating surfaces. A flat grater is a rectangular grating surface, sometimes with more than one set of teeth, mounted on a metal frame typically 11″ long and between 4″—5″ wide. These are often used to grate ingredients into a bowl, upon which the grater rests horizontally.
  • Rotary graters are usually two-piece units with cranks that turn a removable cylindrical grating drum. Ingredients are placed in a hopper with a cover that’s pushed down to apply constant pressure to the ingredients as they are grated. The waiter who offers you fresh grated Parmesan at your table may use a rotary grater, already loaded with the cheese to be grated.
Cuisipro six sided box grater, with ginger grater Ikea paddle grater
Good Cook flat grater Progressive rotary grater, with three drums

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Box graters

Pyrex World-Kitchen Ekco box grater

For generations, the box grater has been the most popular grater type. Variations on the traditional four-sided version include a six-sided model, which allows for another coarseness grade and julienne slicing; a three-sided pyramid, which isn’t quite as steady or as comfortable as the rectangular version; and a conical model with a round base that is even less stable. Most box graters are stainless steel, and dishwasher-safe. Handle styles differ by model; contoured soft-grip handles provide a better grip and are more comfortable than flat, narrow metal handles. Some box graters have non-skid rubber bases, some have detachable plastic storage containers, or measuring compartments, on the bottom. With or without a food compartment, the box grater is most commonly used on a solid work surface, held vertically, with pressure applied downward toward the base while the food is moved over the grating surface. In situations where you want to grate directly into a bowl or a cooking vessel, a box grater will work, but a more portable rasp, paddle, or flat version might work better. One drawback to box graters is that they are bulky and require more storage space than other grater types.

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Rasp and Paddle graters

Microplane rasp grater

Those of us who had always used box graters remember how surprisingly effortless it was when we first used a Microplane grater. Originally invented in 1990 as a woodworking tool, and introduced in 1994 in a version for the kitchen, Microplane rasp graters, now available in over two dozen versions, are the most popular food graters today. Their cutting surfaces are as sharp as those of any food graters, they are well designed with comfortable handles, and they’re available in a wide selection of models, covering most grating applications. The success of the Microplane line has inspired other manufacturers to offer food graters in woodworker-tool-style rasp format, and there are many very good models to choose from. As opposed to a box grater, the rasp doesn’t have a built-in base, and its grating surface is thinner and longer than those on a box. The rasp is not as suitable for heavier grating tasks with large pieces of food. Because most rasp graters have only a single grating-tooth configuration (though some have two), each separate tool is not as multi-functional as a box grater.

Paddle graters are similar to rasps, but usually have shorter and wider grating surfaces, making them well-suited to shaving cheese and chocolate. Paddles and rasps can be used either by holding the grater vertically or at a slight angle, resting the end on a work surface to steady the tool, and moving the food over the grating face, or by holding the grater aloft, as you would to add grated ingredients directly to a pot or to add garnish to a plate. The bottom end of most paddle graters has non-skid rubber mounted to its frame to keep it from sliding during use on a work surface. Finally, rasp and paddles are easier to store than box graters, and they often come with a plastic cover that protects the grating surface when not in use.

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Flat graters

Flat graters occupy the least amount of storage space, and bridge the gap between box and rasp graters. They are basically one side of a box grater, with one or two sets of grating teeth, attached to a metal frame, one end of which is used as a handle. The frame allows the grater to rest on, and drop its gratings into, a bowl. Extension graters are flat graters with a telescoping wire handle that can be adjusted to fit over different size bowls.

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Rotary graters

Cuisinart rotary grater 89565

Rotary graters are used less frequently during cooking and baking than are boxes and rasps. A rotary grater’s enclosed hopper usually doesn’t hold more than one or two ounces of food, and the grating can be slow. But the rotary grater has praises worth singing. It’s portable, and since the food — usually hard or semi-hard cheese — is enclosed and remains untouched during grating, it’s an appropriate tool for the dinner table. The food is protected from the users’ fingers, and fingers are protected from the sharp grating surface. Cleaning these tools by hand can be more time-consuming than other graters you needn’t disassemble, but the models we recommend are dishwasher-safe.

In addition to the four grater types described above, there are specialty tools designed for particular applications, which we include in our individual recommendations, below.

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Microplane box grater, with knuckle protector

People who have been cooking for fifteen years or longer know that the razor-sharp grating surfaces on many of today’s graters are a relatively new development. The reason for this is a technology that helped Microplane to raise grater standards in the 1990′s, and which Cuisipro and other manufacturers have since adopted. With conventional technology, still widely used, grating surfaces are made from stamped metal, with cutting edges formed by machine punching holes into a flat or curved surface. The newer technology uses a chemical process in which acid acts on a stainless steel surface, onto which a photographic image has been printed, etching the cutting pattern into the surface. The edges created by this stencil-aided, controlled, corrosive process are “cleaner” than the ragged ones created by punching through the metal; the tools are sharper and they maintain their sharpness longer. Food passes easily and smoothly over the grating surface, instead of having to be dragged over dull edges, which tears the food, producing ragged, inconsistent results.

Some box graters come with a “knuckle protecting” attachment that holds the food and slides along the grating surface, maintaining distance between fingers and sharp edges. They offer a measure of safety at the expense of being somewhat cumbersome.

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Grated material: volume versus weight

The issue of volume versus weight, with which cooks commonly deal when following recipes, is aggravated by the sharper edges on many of today’s graters. Particularly, the Microplane and Cuisipro rasp graters produce very light, relatively long, fluffy curls that take up more space than shorter, heavier, solid shards. An ounce of solid hard cheese or chocolate grated on a fine rasp tool will yield about 1/2 cup; on a coarse box grater, the volume of the grated food would be about half that, while a medium grating surface will yield about 1/3 cup, halfway between the volumes of the fine and the coarse.

Traditionally, recipes have specified quantities in volume as opposed to weight. Increasingly, publishers, especially of baking recipes, are specifying weight. If a particular grater is not specified, and the quantity is given in volume, a good rule of thumb is to increase the volume by half if you use a fine rasp.

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kitchenCritical Recommends

(Categorized by grater type and listed in order of ascending price within each category)

Oxo Good Grips box grater
Price: $18
Oxo Good Grips box grater

The Oxo Good Grips box grater is a sturdy, four-sided grater that has a slicer and a super-fine surface among its grating surfaces. While its slim design resembles the Cuisipro Accutec, it also has a soft-grip handle in the tradition of the Good Grips products line, and a non-slip rubber ring at the base that keeps the grater in place on a work surface. Plastic storage compartments that attach to the bottom of box graters have become popular, and the one on the Oxo Good Grips works well for catching, measuring, and storing freshly grated ingredients.



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KitchenAid KG300 box grater
Price: $18
Warranty: Lifetime
KitchenAid KG300 box grater

The stable, four-sided KitchenAid KG300 has a comfortable handle and the right degree of curve on the grating surfaces to keep the Band-Aids in the medicine cabinet. It comes with a plastic container/base on which the grater can sit as you work, allowing the grated material to drop conveniently into the container. The container has markings to indicate amounts, and a lid to store surplus material. The KitchenAid box grater is available in almond, blue, empire red, green, yellow, black, white and gray.




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Cuisipro four-sided box grater
Price: $30
Warranty: 25 years
Cuisipro four-sided box grater

Cuisipro is another kitchen gear maker known for the acid-etched tools pioneered by Microplane. The company has an extensive line of etched blade food graters, all of which carry the company’s 25-year warranty. Cuisipro makes three different box graters; it recently replaced its highly-rated and bestselling 3-sided Accutec model with a more conventionally shaped 4-sided model, while retaining the super-sharp edges the line is known for. In addition to the four grating sides—coarse, ultra-course, fine and a slicer, the base doubles as a ginger grater. The new model has a coated non-slip handle, an improvement over the 3-sided model’s uncoated steel one. Though a bit more expensive than the two models above, Cuisipro box graters are more highly regarded than any other box models, including Microplane’s version. In addition to the 4-sided model Cuisipro has a six sided variation and a garnishing model, with Julienne, shaver, and super-fine surfaces for the perfect finish for a dish.

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Rasp, paddle and flat graters

Microplane Classic Original and Premium Classic Series

Since the game-changing introduction of its first rasp food grater in 1994, Microplane has developed several lines of graters that have helped the brand keep its preeminent status.

Microplane’s somewhat confusing four lines of straight-handled graters are more easily thought of as two groups: a group of rasps and a group of paddles, each available with two handle choices. In the case of the rasps, Microplane distinguishes between the handles by referring to them as “Classic” and “Premium”. The Classic handle is plastic, and is available in black, red, or blue. The Premium handle is a soft-touch handle available in eight different colors. Also, the Premium versions have non-scratch end tabs for resting the end of the rasp on a cutting board, bowl or plate while holding the rasp vertically.

Both the Classic and Premium Classic Series includes the company’s original zester/grater and four other grades: extra-coarse, medium ribbon, spice, and a no-handle version of the zester. Both Classic lines are available, in 3-piece sets (zester, medium ribbon, extra-coarse), for $35 and $40, respectively.

Price: Classic rasps – $9-$13
Guarantee: 30-day money back
Price: Premium Classic rasps – $10-$15
Guarantee: 30-day money back
Microplane Classic extra coarse rasp Microplane 46020 Premium Classic series of rasp graters

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Microplane Professional Series 38000 and Gourmet Series 45000
Price: Gourmet Series 45000 – $17-$20 each; $96 set
Guarantee: 30-day money back
Price: Professional Series 38000 – $13-$17 each; $80 set
Guarantee: 30-day money back
Microplane Gourmet Series 45000 paddle graters, with attachment Microplane Professional Series 38000 paddle graters, with attachment

Microplane’s Gourmet Series 45000 stainless steel paddle graters feature soft-touch handles, a non-slip rubber foot on the end, and are available in six different grating configurations: coarse, extra-coarse, ultra-coarse, medium ribbon, fine/spice, large shaver, star Parmesan, and sea salt shaver. Most are $17. Microplane sells a set of six (omitting the ultra-coarse grater and sea salt shaver) for $96. All graters come with a protective cover for safe storage.

The Professional series is essentially a version of the Gourmet series with curved stainless steel handles. Most of the individual graters sell for $17. The ultra-coarse model, at 4”, is an inch wider than the other grades, and sells for $20. The Professional set has five graters — all grades included in the Gourmet set, except the star Parmesan — and sells for $80.

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Cuisipro rasp and paddle graters
Price: Rasp – $16-$22 each
Warranty: 25 years
Price: Paddle – $16-$22 each
Warranty: 25 years
Cuisipro fine (coarseness) rasp grater Cuisipro coarse paddle grater,
model 74-6801
with Surface Glide Technology

Cuisipro, which we recommended in the box grater category, has a large selection of rasp and paddle graters that receives positive feedback from consumers. Cuisipro is Microplane’s most formidable challenger in this particular category. The company offers five rasps with traditional handles; grating grades range from fine to a shaver. A two-way model has sharp grating teeth arranged for back-and-forth grating. Cuisipro also makes a dual-grater in a handle-less rasp format, with fine and coarse surfaces. Finally in the rasp category, there is a 3-in-1 pocket grater, with a retractable blade including coarse, superfine, and starburst grades.

Cuisipro’s paddle graters are the company’s answer to Microplane’s Gourmet Series, with wide, razor-sharp grating surfaces, non-slip handles and non-slip ends for comfort, safety, and stability. They’re available in five degrees of coarseness, adding an ultra-coarse grade, which is more suitable for a wide paddle than a narrow rasp.

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Rosle flat graters
Price: $29-$66
Warranty: Lifetime
Rosle flat grater,
medium coarse

Kitchen utensils from German company Rosle, along with products manufactured by Swiss company Kuhn Rikon, have been considered among the best culinary tools and gadgets in the world for several generations. Rosle has a dozen flat graters and slicers, all made from 18/10 stainless. The most popular of its models are the coarse, medium, and fine 15.7″ graters, which sell for $34 each. They have non-skid silicone feet for stability, and are large enough to fit over many bowls and even saucepans. In this format, Rosle also offers a Julienne slicer and an adjustable slicer, for $58 and $66, respectively. For $29, the company sells smaller flat and paddle models (11″-13″) covering the range of grater grades.  



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Rotary Graters

Zyliss All Cheese grater
Price: $20
Warranty: 5 years
Zyliss All Cheese
dual drum rotary grater

Zyliss has been a leading brand in kitchen gadgets since the introduction of its first culinary tool, a garlic press, in 1948. The Zyliss All Cheese grater is the newer of two rotary graters offered by this Swiss company. It comes with two drums — fine and coarse — which cover all cheese, chocolate and spice grating duties with the exception of the ultra-fine grating performed by a zester. Its ample hopper and ergonomic design makes the work easy for both right- and left-handed work, and it has a handle that folds for compact storage.

For $17, Zyliss offers its Classic rotary grater model, which is functionally similar to the All Cheese, but with a single fine grating drum.



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Cuisipro Rotary grater
Price: $24
Warranty: 25 years
Cuisipro rotary grater

Cuisipro’s rotary grater comes with two drums, one for coarse grating for vegetables and medium/soft cheese, and a Parmesan blade for harder cheeses and chocolate. Like all of Cuisipro’s graters, the cutting surfaces are acid-etched and very sharp. The clear plastic housing has a non-slip grip and an extra-wide hopper.





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Specialty Graters

Norpro Nutmeg/Ginger grater
Price: $9
Warranty: 180-day replacement
Norpro Nutmeg and Ginger grater

Along with Oxo, Progressive, Anolon, and Zyliss, Norpro is a bestselling brand of well designed, affordable kitchen gadgets. Norpro recently improved on its traditional conical nutmeg grinder, which is still available for about $4. The new version is larger at 6-1/2″, has a less rounded, but still convex, grating surface mounted in a plastic frame. It also features a built-in storage compartment, and is easier to handle than the smaller model. Norpro calls it a Nutmeg/Ginger grater, though it performs better on nutmeg and other dry ingredients than on ginger and other fibrous foods.



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Progressive Grate and Store sets
Price: HG-85 – $12
Warranty: 1 year
Price: HG-83 – $15
Warranty: 1 year
Progressive HG85
Grate and Store set
Progressive HG83
Grate and Store set

Progressive is a Seattle-based company that manufactures about 200 innovative and affordable kitchen products. Many products stand out for their bright colors and clever, storage-friendly design, such as the collapsible colanders and dish racks. The 10″ Progressive HG-85 is one of two sets that combine flat grating blades with storage containers that double as non-skid bases. The HG-85, a rectangular model, includes four blade inserts: for shredding, slicing, medium grating, and zesting. The blades are stainless; the 3-cup capacity measuring/storage container/base is sturdy plastic.

The slightly more expensive 13″ 2-cup HG-83 is round with a 6″ diameter, and comes with three blades: fine, medium, and Parmesan (medium-coarse).

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Kyocera Ginger graters
Price: 3-1/2″ – $15
Price: CD-18 6-1/2″ – $23
Warranty: Lifetime
Kyocera CD-18 6-1/2″ ginger grater

The Japanese company Kyocera is one of the world’s leading manufacturer of ceramic knives and other kitchen tools. Its plate-type ginger graters are among the simplest of its culinary gadgets, but there isn’t a better tool to grate ginger, which clogs the holes in a conventional metal grater with a few strokes. Raised teeth on a plate in the middle of a ceramic bowl evenly grates the ginger, leaving the rough, stringy fibers in your hand to be discarded. The raised grating teeth are configured in a pattern that provides for a consistent grated puree.

These are available in 3-1/2″ and 6-1/2″ diameters, each fitted with a non-slip silicone ring on the bottom.



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Broadway Panhandler Triangle Horseradish and Ginger grater
Price: $38
Broadway Panhandler
Triangle Horseradish and Ginger grater

If there is a food used in its grated form as fibrous as ginger, it is horseradish. Broadway Panhandler, a Manhattan retailer of dozens of fine brands of kitchenware and cookware, offers this German grater, which is designed to grate the tough root vegetables without clogging. A hinge-mounted perforated stainless steel plate is positioned behind a grating surface that contains alternating grating teeth. After grating, the plate and the grating surface are swung apart, and the grated pulp can be added to your bowl or pan.




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Broadway Panhandler
Cuisipro graters
Cuisipro rasps
Cuisipro paddles
KitchenAid home page
Kyocera ginger graters
Microplane Classic Original rasps
Microplane Gourmet Series
Microplane Professional Series
Norpro graters
Oxo graters
Paderno World Cuisine
Progressive graters
Rosle graters
Trudeau graters
Zyliss All Cheese grater

About the Reviews

See About the Reviews to learn how we assess products.

revised: September 17, 2012

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