The flat hand or rasp grater is hand held so it can be manually moved across the food to create the food gratings. Hand graters can be flat or curved to accommodate an item to be grated and can also be used to grate small bits of citrus peels, such as zesting.
A flat heavy duty grater is typically larger than the hand grater and is held steady with one hand while the food is moved across the surface of the grater, instead of the grater being moved across the food. It consists of a single panel with grating holes and rasp protrusions to use for the grating.
An all purpose grater or box grater generally has several grating sides that form a triangle or square with each side containing a different grating pattern. With different panels, the specific grating procedure can be easily selected as the food is moved across the flat grating surface.
Multi-purpose graters are most often considered to be any of a variety of graters that have removable plates for slicing, grating or shredding ingredients. The grater has a housing that serves as a structure for the base of the grater. Each plate is then inserted into position for the specific slicing, grating or shredding process to be undertaken.
Rotary graters are hand held utensils that consist of a turning mechanism with a grating surface that is formed into a circular drum. The food is placed into a compartment that holds small amounts of food, while the rotary grater blade is hand turned, rotating over the surface of the food. This type is also referred to as a mouli grater or cheese grater and is very effective at grating hard cheese, such as Parmesan. Often advertised as a utensil for chopping or slicing nuts, chocolate and other similar foods, various rotary graters may not be as effective as they appear. It is wise to ask for a demonstration if the grater is desired to be used for more than simply grating cheese.
Speciality graters are typically made for specific grating purposes such as graing ginger or zesting citrus fruits. Ginger graters may be made of porcelain or stainless steel, are small in size and are all easily hand held. Porcelain graters have rows of sharp protrusions that enable the grating to be accomplished. Similarly, the stainless steel variety have rows of sharp points of metal cut from and elevated above the steel plate that serve as the grating surface.