Like the Le Creuset, the Microplane is one of those products that has achieved the glittering pinnacle of needing only to be referred to by its brand name. Sure, Le Creuset makes silicone spatulas and wine bottle coolers and whatever — but anyone who says “Hey, I really want a Le Creuset for my birthday” is very clearly referring to an enameled cast-iron oven. (Woe unto the hapless friend who misunderstands that birthday request.) Microplanes are the same: as far as the kitchen is concerned, there simply is no other super-insanely sharp mega-effective grater. This is how ubiquitous Microplane has become: I don’t even know if any other brands are trying.
The classic Microplane is the inch wide, 12-inch long version, and anyone who knows their kitchen lore knows the story of how it began life in a hardware store as a rasp, but hordes of home cooks quickly adopted it for its literally actually astonishingly insane ability to shred hard cheeses into airy, snowy haystacks and to drive even the most stubborn citrus zest to its knees. Nutmeg? Dust. Garlic? Pulverized. It is an unstoppable force.
My pick: I have three Microplanes: two of the classic version (one for citrus, one for cheese) and one of the big ones (for big cheese!). All three are about 5 years old, are used on a multiple-times-a-week basis, and are still sharp as heck, as evidenced by the extremely painful and totally gross wound on the side of my thumb that is a result of last night’s overzealous encounter with a stub of Grana Padano. Fuck you, Microplane, but that’s why I love you.