Review: Kraft Grate-It-Fresh Parmesan Cheese with Disposable Grater

I never thought that I'd ever be taking the time to write a review about cheese on my web server. (In all fairness, the list of things that I never thought I'd end up doing is a long one, just so you know.)

Nor did I really think that anyone would care about a review of something as common as parmesan cheese. But I have written about other things that I thought nobody would ever care about, and actually have received comments. So, who knows. I also didn't think that I'd find much information other than whatever blurb Kraft Foods had decided to write about this product. I was apparently wrong.

If you're looking to actually buy this Kraft product at your local grocery store, it looks something like this after the cheese is gone:

Kraft Grate-It-Fresh Parmesan

Most of the reviews of this product have been negative in nature. I don't entirely disagree with them, and for at least one of the same reasons that were pointed out. My biggest issue is with the concept of taking a perfectly good grater and throwing it out after you've used it. Like most products that are supposed to be disposable, major functional parts of the grater probably remain perfectly functional after the cheese is gone. I don't like that. I'm no big environmentalist, but the fact that so much perfectly good or reusable-for-something-else material gets left to rot (very slowly, I might add!) in a landfill kind of rubs me the wrong way.

And of course, you can buy yourself a grater and keep it for a very, very long time. That will work out cheaper in the long run, since you will already have the grater and can buy the cheese at a much lower price. Kraft is definitely selling convenience here. People will buy into convenient products, though, if they answer a need or solve a problem in a good way. To a lesser extent, some people will also buy into a product if it has a certain novelty to it.

This product certainly has some novelty. I doubt if I'd buy it again--the reason I bought it in the first place was because I saw it one day on the dairy shelf at the LeRoy, IL IGA store and wondered what it would be like as compared to pre-grated parmesan. I also wondered how well the grater itself worked.

The first thing to talk about is the grater. I've come to expect that grated parmesan cheese was more like a small and relatively dry cheese curd-like product. Not so with this--the grater actually "grates" the cheese into long thing hairlike strands. The grater actually seems to work quite well, although I did have a hard time getting all the cheese to come off of the grater output so it wouldn't make a mess on the floor and table. The long, thin strands of cheese are hard to remove, and shaking the package either doesn't do anything or sends them flying everywhere.

You are supposed to turn the grater clockwise to dispense the cheese, and it's relatively foolproof. If you turn it counterclockwise, then the cheese inside loosens up a little, but enough clockwise rotation will get things back where they belong. You can't "unwind" the cheese--something in the grater design prevents counterclockwise rotation from being effective after the first few turns.

Then there's the cheese itself. It is safe to say that I've never had parmesan cheese quite like this before. It tasted good, but all of the parmesan cheese I've ever had has tasted not only sharp but also rather salty. This cheese is sharp without being salty. It was an interesting difference, and I'm not sure where it came from or what the difference would be between the two. The cheese itself was different while still tasting very good.

All in all, I'd recommend the product. It's worth at least one try if you see it in your grocery store and have a couple of extra bucks to spend. The cost is about $5 in the US, so it's not much different than a name brand can of pre-grated (or shredded) parmesan cheese.

That only leaves one more thing to talk about, and that's the disposable nature of the grater package. Lots of things are sold as disposable items, such as Dallas clock modules, disposable cameras and even some cars and computers. Of course, whenever the most consumable part of a disposable product is used up, other perfectly good parts are left behind and may be reused for other purposes. Kraft has printed a notice on the package that is supposed to make you believe that the grater package is not reusable and Must Be Thrown Away when you are out of cheese.

 Grater is not reusable

Curiously, the cheese is made in the US while the grater is made in Italy. Shouldn't that be the other way around?

Perhaps even more curious is the "cheese grater is not microwaveable or dishwasher safe" admonition on the back. I suspect that at least the first part of that warning is the requisite "idiot-proofing". The truth is that you don't get to use all the cheese in the package anyway. The last half inch or so of cheese will not come out and the grater just slips after that.

But you can open the grater, and after studying it, I feel very strongly that it could be easily reloaded with fresh cheese, thusly keeping it out of the landfill. A side benefit is that the grater package itself costs less than most graters do. So I'm going to tell you the secret behind opening the grater package, and you are going to act excited like you have just received a valuable money saving tip. (Because, in a way, you have.)

It isn't rocket science to open the grater. (I know this is true because I'm not a rocket scientist and I figured it out within a minute or two of looking at it.) Start by holding the clear part of the grater package firmly with your fingers. Hold it so the green wheel that you normally hold while turning the top is facing down.

Curl your fingers around the lip of the green wheel, and flex it outward a little bit while firmly pulling down. Go around the sides doing this, and you'll hear popping noises as the plastic assembly comes in two. When you've done all four, you can lift the clear top away from the green wheel, and you will have something that looks like this (only with a block of ungrated cheese at the bottom).

Grater Taken Apart

If you haven't yet figured this out, you can "unscrew" the green plate from the threaded shaft it lives on. Then--if you haven't already--you can eat the little chunk of cheese that's left over.

With the plate unscrewed, you can closely examine the magic of the grater. It's nothing more than a bunch of little pointy plastic pieces that do the grating work, as you might be able to see in the following picture.

Small grater surface close up

The teeth are only plastic, so I suppose they might wear down after a while, if you grate frozen cheese with them, or if you take this grater with you on the set of the Iron Chef TV show.

Anyway, when you've gotten the grater completely apart, you will have the following three pieces. They can all be washed by hand. I haven't checked on the dishwasher "safeness" of the grater, but if motherboards are dishwasher safe, this thing surely has a chance of being safely placed in the dishwasher as well.

All three of the grater pieces

It would be fairly easy to simply get a new block of parmesan cheese, find a way of putting a hole down the center and put it back on the spindle for another go-round after snapping it closed. So it isn't quite as "disposable" as Kraft might have you believe.

All in all, I'd rate the Kraft Grate-It-Fresh product like this:

Novelty: 85%
Value for Money: 65%
Reusability: 90%

It's definitely worth taking one of these home at least if you see one in your friendly local grocery store. And you don't even have to eat any worms to enhance your enjoyment of the product. Sadly, I think it may have been discontinued. I could find no mention of it on the Kraft web site, although the expiration date on the can I bought is December 1st, 2008. It was the last one available in the store.
Go Back>

Copyright ©2008 William R. Walsh. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to reproduce this work in its entirety with all copyright notices intact. No fee may be charged for access to this information, other than to cover any duplicating, media, or connect-time costs. Portions of this work may be used for other projects, provided credit is given for the portions of this work that you use and that such works are for non-profit distribution or information purposes.