There are many different types of knives that you could purchase for your home. Do you need them all? Not necessarily, but there are a few that most chefs and experts agree you should have in your kitchen. One of these necessary knives is called a paring knife.
What is a paring knife and what is it used for? Where did it get its name? How do you use one, and what should you look for in a new paring knife? This guide to paring knives will answer all these questions, and look at the best paring knives on the market today.
What is a Paring Knife?
A paring knife is very small and only used for specific tasks. The blades come in a few different lengths, between two and four inches, and have either a curved or straight cutting edge. Regardless of its shape, the blade is always short and sturdy. They are lightweight and easy to handle.
Many professional chefs consider the paring knife to be the second most important knife in any kitchen, next to the chef knife.
Best Paring Knives
These are the best paring knives available on the market today:
The Premier 4-Inch Paring Knife from Shun is handcrafted, strong, and comfortable. It is made of layered Damascus steel and features a traditional hand-hammered finish, known as a tsuchime finish. This tsuchime finish keeps food from sticking to the blade during cutting, allowing you to cut faster without having to stop to release pieces of food.
The pakkawood handle is smooth and comfortable to use. The blade measures between 3 ¾ and four inches. Due to its handcrafted nature, the length of the blade could vary from one knife to the next.
- Layered Damascus steel makes the blade strong and durable.
- The tsuchime finish features air pockets which help to release food as they’re being cut.
- The handle is very smooth and easy to hold.
- The long four-inch blade allows you to use it for a wide variety of tasks.
- The handcrafted nature of the knife gives it an attractive look.
- A full tang makes the knife sturdy and durable.
- The blade is very sharp, and Shun offers a free sharpening service to keep it that way.
- A wider blade offers more versatility.
- The smooth handle can be difficult to grip.
- You will need to keep the handle completely dry. Wooden handles absorb moisture very easily.
- The longer blade may make it more difficult to control the knife during certain tasks.
- The tip of the blade can break off quickly after moderate wear. It can also break if dropped onto tile floors or used on tile counters.
The Genesis Forged 3.5-Inch Paring Knife from Mercer Culinary is comfortable, durable, strong, and balanced. The handle is made of Santoprene, which offers comfort and a grip that won’t slip. A bolster provides strength and stability, and an option is available for a shorter bolster. Balance is provided by the bolster and full tang.
The blade measures 3.5 inches and is made of high-carbon German steel which will not stain, rust, corrode, or become discolored. It features a taper-ground edge, which makes the blade stable, long-lasting, and easy to sharpen.
- The Santoprene handle is durable and comfortable. It will not become damaged by moisture, hot oils, or extreme temperatures.
- It’s easy to grip and hold onto the handle.
- The bolster and full tang make the knife stable, durable, and balanced.
- High-carbon German steel construction makes the blade strong and resistant to stains, rust, corrosion, and discoloration.
- The taper-ground edge allows the blade to retain its edge longer.
- The blade is 3.5 inches long, which is the ideal length for most tasks.
- The knife requires special care to preserve its efficiency. The intense heat and detergents in a dishwasher will damage the blade. It cannot be submerged in water for long periods of time, especially in an aluminum or stainless steel sink which may cause pitting in the blade.
- The blade can start to rust quickly, even after careful use.
- It’s too bulky to hold while cutting. It’s best used on a cutting board.
- It is often ground unevenly, which causes it to cut crooked.
- The handle is too thick and bulky for smaller hands to hold comfortably.
- It can sometimes seem too heavy and unbalanced.
The 4-Inch High Carbon Stainless Steel Paring Knife from Zwilling J. A. Henckels is durable, strong, sharp, resilient, and comfortable to use. The blade measures four inches and is made of a single piece of solid, high-carbon, stainless steel. This makes it very strong and stable. Stability is also provided by the bolster and full tang.
The blade is ice-hardened, which allows the edge to stay sharp longer. The handle is made of durable polypropylene. It is permanently bonded to the blade, eliminating gaps and making the knife extremely durable. Both the edge and spine are slightly curved, giving it a very sharp point which is ideal for peeling and cutting.
- The blade is very strong and durable.
- It resists stains and rust.
- It is designed to hold its edge for a long time.
- The bolster and full tang offer stability.
- The handle is very comfortable to use and durable.
- The sharp point is ideal for most peeling and cutting.
- The knife is lightweight.
- Frequent sharpening is sometimes needed.
- The knife can feel too lightweight to offer balance.
- It’s resilient, but very thin and flexible. This could compromise its efficiency when cutting.
- The knife is supposed to be dishwasher-safe, but it rusts easily in the dishwasher.
- The finish dulls quickly.
The 4-Inch Paring Knife from Zelite Infinity is sharp, beautiful, and durable. The blade measures four inches and is made of 67 layers of strong, high-carbon, stainless Japanese steel, folded to give it a Damascus pattern. It offers minimal slicing resistance, so food won’t stick to the blade.
The knife has a spear point design, featuring a slight curve on both the edge and spine. It is liquid nitrogen tempered, which allows the knife to last longer. It retains its edge very well, requiring less sharpening than other paring knives.
Full tang construction, triple rivets, and a tapered bolster provide stability. The blade resists stains and rust and is sharpened to an angle of 12-15 degrees.
The military-grade G-10 handle is non-slip, rounded, and ergonomic. It’s comfortable to hold and riveted to the full tang.
- Japanese steel folded according to Damascus methods gives the knife strength, durability, and stability.
- Stability is further provided by the full tang, triple mosaic rivets, and tapered bolster.
- Food slides off the blade.
- The curve provided by the spear point design gives it the ability to chop vegetables.
- The point is very sharp, ideal for piercing thick skins.
- The blade won’t easily stain, rust, or corrode.
- The handle is durable, smooth, and comfortable, providing a secure grip.
- It is beveled on both sides, allowing both left- and right-handed users to handle it with ease.
- The knife doesn’t fit most knife cases. It is best stored with a magnet.
- Though it should retain its edge, it needs sharpening fairly quickly.
- The blade can rust with light use.
- It is brittle and chips easily.
- The handle can feel a little short and unbalanced.
- It is very heavy and can be difficult to handle.
The 4-Piece Swiss Classic Straight Paring Knife Set from Victorinox features four paring knives with a spear point design and straight edge. Each knife is sharp and laser-tested.
The blade measures 3.25 inches and ground in two directions for sharpness and durability. It is made of stainless steel. The nylon handle is ergonomic, durable, lightweight, and contoured for a comfortable grip.
- The design of the knife provides a slight curve and straight edge.
- The short blade offers precision and control.
- The stainless steel will not easily rust or corrode.
- The handle is durable and lightweight. Its nylon construction will not absorb water easily.
- It is comfortable to hold and light enough for anyone to use.
- The set features four bright handle colors.
- The point is rounded, which is useless for piercing thick skins and requires a careful cutting angle.
- The blade is very thin and flexible, which reduces its sturdiness.
The 4-Inch Swiss Classic Serrated Paring Knife from Victorinox is a multipurpose knife that provides accuracy and precision. It is designed with a variety of tasks in mind, including slicing, dicing, and mincing. The serrated edge is ideal for slicing soft fruits and vegetables without damaging them.
The blade is made of stainless steel and features a spear tip. The black handle is made of nylon, which gives it durability, slip resistance, and a comfortable grip.
- The knife is ideal for a variety of uses.
- It is lightweight, yet durable.
- The serrated edge is intended for delicate fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes.
- The black nylon handle is durable, comfortable, and won’t slip.
- The serrated edge cuts well, but will not provide a clean cut.
- The knife often slips, leading to accidental cuts.
- The handle is slippery when wet.
- The blade is thin and flexible, and the handle feels hollow.
- It must be resharpened often because it dulls quickly.
The Millennia 3.5-Inch Paring Knife from Mercer Culinary is durable and comfortable to use. The blade is made of a single piece of high-carbon stainless Japanese steel. It is easy to maintain and sharpen.
The handle is made of Santoprene and polypropylene, with an ergonomic grip, textured finger points for slip resistance, and a protective finger guard.
- High-quality Japanese steel makes the blade durable, strong, and resistant to rust.
- The handle is durable, resistant to moisture, and comfortable to hold and use.
- Textured finger points and a finger guard improve safety when cutting.
- It doesn’t retain its edge very well and needs frequent resharpening.
- The knife doesn’t come with a sheath, so you will need to find a cover, block, or magnet that will properly protect it.
- The blade is thick and doesn’t slice cleanly.
The Advanced Ceramic Revolution 3-Inch Paring Knife from Kyocera is an attractive knife, with a white blade and bright handle. The ceramic blade features a straight edge and a rounded tip. It is ground by diamond wheels for sharpness and edge retention.
The short blade length offers better control, precision, and accuracy than longer knives. It is resistant to acids, oils, salts, and rust.
The handle is made of resin and provides durability and comfort. Eight different colors are available for the handle. The knife is lightweight and well-balanced.
- The white ceramic blade and brightly-colored handle provide an attractive appearance.
- The blade is sharp and keeps its edge.
- The short blade makes it easy to cut with precision and control.
- It is resistant to most forms of corrosion, including acids, oils, salts, and moisture.
- The resin handle is durable, comfortable, lightweight, and colorful.
- It is beveled on both sides, so left- and right-handed users can handle it with ease.
- Users can cut themselves easily.
- No sheath or cover is provided.
- The blade is brittle and chips easily after light use.
- It can also chip if it encounters bone or other hard materials.
- The blade can become discolored after a short period of time, especially after cutting brightly-colored foods, such as radishes.
- A space between the handle and the blade allows food to become trapped.
- It requires a special sharpener due to its ceramic construction.
What is a Paring Knife Used For?
Though it’s small and considered a specialty knife, there are still several uses for the paring knife. It is primarily used to peel, trim, and prepare fruits and vegetables. It can also devein shrimp, cut fat off meats, remove seeds, slice cheese, and many other tasks. Some of its specific uses include:
- Peeling tomatoes, oranges, grapes, and other fruits and veggies that a peeler would not be suited for
- Removing the cores of fruits, such as apples, peaches, and avocados
- Hulling strawberries
- Cutting citrus fruits into sections
- Removing outer peels of onions
- Deveining shrimp
- Removing seeds
- Removing membranes from chilies
- Slicing cheese
- Slicing up salami or pepperoni
- Cutting kernels off a corn cob
- Removing eyes from a potato, while preserving the skin
- Scraping out vanilla beans
- Trimming the fat off chicken, fish, and meats
- Light chopping of small fruits and vegetables
- Decasing sausage
Why is it Called a Paring Knife?
A paring knife gets its name from its job – a paring knife pares. Paring means to cut away something’s outer surface, cut off its ends, or otherwise trim it.
Do I Need a Paring Knife?
A good chef knife is great for a wide variety of tasks, but it’s a good idea to have a few specialty knives in your kitchen. Paring knives are perfect for tasks that require precision, control, and delicacy. You would have a very hard time coring fruits, removing seeds, and peeling small grapes with a chef knife. With a paring knife, you can avoid cutting yourself while preparing small fruits.
Can a Paring Knife Cut Meat?
While a paring knife is not recommended for separating or chopping large sections of meat, it can be useful for trimming fat and undesirable parts off of meats. It can also be used to remove bones and cut up small sections of meat. When cutting meat and removing bones, it’s best to use the tip more than the rest of the blade.
What is the Best Size for a Paring Knife?
Paring knives normally come in two sizes: a two-to-three-inch version and a longer three-to-four-inch version. Usually, the shorter knives are more curved than the longer straight knives. It’s better to have a long knife, so that you have more versatility in the types of tasks you can take on. A knife between three and 3.5 inches will suit most people best.
Look for a paring knife with a slight curve, so you can use it on a cutting board and have more control when cutting, slicing, and even chopping. However, beware of blades that are too curved or have a tip with a sharp angle. This will make it too difficult to core or hull fruits.
Though you could use a paring knife on a cutting board for certain tasks, it is usually held aloft while cutting fruits and vegetables. You should view it as an extension of your hand, aiming for precision and control.
The paring knife you choose should fit inside your palm perfectly. Avoid handles that are too large or too small for you to hold comfortably. Having a good grip on the handle will improve your control while using the knife.
When first learning to use a paring knife, it’s best to go slow. Move carefully, with purpose. As you get used to the knife, you will control it better and reduce the chance of slips.
Make sure to maintain your knife between uses. This will keep it sharp and effective every time. Sharpen your knife often. Store it in a dry place and protect the blade inside a sheath or other cover.
Which Paring Knife is Right for You?
A paring knife is a beneficial and essential part of any kitchen. There are many versions on the market, ranging from strong Japanese steel to specialty ceramic knives and everything in between.
Any of the knives on this list will add efficiency and style to your kitchen, though certain qualities will be best served by various models. For instance, if you’re looking for durability, you can’t go wrong with an offering from Mercer Culinary or Victorinox. The most comfortable handles are found in Victorinox, Zwilling J. A. Henckels, and Kyocera knives.
No matter what you’re looking for in a paring knife, there is one on this list that will serve your needs well. So choose one of the above options and give your kitchen an extra tool to make preparing delicious recipes that much easier.