The Real Reason Not Every Deli Cheese Slice Is Square

The deli counter is a cheese-lover's paradise. There's sharp cheddar, mild Muenster, creamy mozzarella, spicy pepper jack, crumbly Parmesan... the list of choices just goes on and on. What you choose depends on your personal preferences and what you plan to use it for. Are you making a charcuterie board? Eating it straight from the package? Whipping up a grilled cheese?

If you're doing the latter — or making any type of sandwich, for that matter — you're likely going to want to choose sliced cheese over grated or shredded (or even just a straight-up block or wheel). But anyone who's ever ordered cheese freshly cut from the deli counter knows that not all slices are created equal, i.e., some cheeses come in square slices, while others come in circles. What gives? Turns out there's a reason why certain cheeses are shaped differently than others. Here's what you may not have known about the pack of cheese you just bought.

It depends on how the cheese is made

Why is Swiss or American cheese cut into square slices while Provolone is cut into circles? According to a Reddit thread, the shape of the slice is determined by how the cheese itself is made. Provolone, for instance, is traditionally made in a log shape, so it's easy to cut into individual circular slices. Other common cheeses, like cheddar, are made in large blocks for easier shipping and convenience (via Today I Found Out). Those larger blocks are then cut into smaller blocks which are sliced into perfectly square pieces.

Many cheeses are also produced in large wheels, the Reddit thread explains. But no one wants a mega slice of cheese — that's not exactly practical for sandwiches or any other recipe, for that matter. So dairy producers cut smaller blocks out of the wheels to sell to grocery stores. These are the blocks you see at the deli counter which, you guessed it, also yield square-shaped slices.