How to choose ... a grater

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 May, 2005, 12:00am

How to choose ... a grater

Of all the ordinary kitchen tasks, grating foods has to be one of the most boring. It's messy

and takes a bit of muscle. Unless you're grating a large quantity of food, however, it usually

isn't worth the effort of using a food processor with grating attachments - and all the cleaning that entails.

What is it? A flat (usually), metal (almost always) surface with sharp holes on which to shred or grate foods.

What's it used for? Graters can be used on just about any non-liquid food. Most people use them only for cheese or hard vegetables such as carrots, potatoes and Chinese radish, but they are also useful for softer vegetables such as onions and raw tomatoes, and for grating firm pasta and pastry doughs.

Sizes: graters come in several sizes, as do the holes on their surface. Box graters are rectangular, with each side used for fine, medium or coarse grating, plus one side for thin slicing. Other graters have specific uses, such as one with sharp tiny holes used for grating nutmeg. The Alessi cheese grater (below left) has a curved plastic shell that neatly catches grated parmesan.

What else? To make the mess easier to clean up, cut a square piece of aluminium foil and grate on top of that, rather than trying to grate into a bowl. The biggest advance in graters has been the Microplane (below). This fabulous tool was 'invented' about 15 years ago by a Canadian homemaker, who borrowed her husband's wood-working rasp to grate some orange zest. Although it looks similar to a conventional grater, the edges of the Microplane are razor-sharp. It grates much more quickly and more efficiently, and the texture of the grated ingredient is lighter and more delicate.

Where to buy? Unfortunately, Microplanes don't seem to be available in Hong Kong, so pick one up next time you visit the United States, Canada, Australia or Britain. Alternatively, buy a wood-working rasp from a hardware store. Regular graters are available at all kitchenware shops and some supermarkets.