When it comes to knives in the kitchen, I don’t think that there can be any denying that the best little workhorse of them all is the Paring Knife.
It’s one of those knives that tackle just about any job you can throw at it, from peeling vegetables to shaping unique and pretty garnishes to adorn your culinary creations.
For a knife which is going to be used on a daily basis in your kitchen, you will want to choose something which is not only quality but will give you the best value for your money spent.
After all, you are going to have to live with this knife for a very long time.
My Top 3 Paring Knives Picks
Wusthof Classic High Carbon Steel Paring Knife
I really like the Wusthof Classic High Carbon Steel Paring Knife.
Not only is it a great little paring knife, but its 3 ½ inch blade is sharp with a lovely pointed end which is great for digging out things like those troublesome eyes on potatoes, etc.
Made from high carbon stainless steel, it has a riveted high ergonomic handle that feels nice in the hands, with a great heft.
I don’t know about you, but I am not fond of knives which feel flimsy. This one has also been designed using a new computer-controlled method for putting the edge on knives from tip to heel, making for a knife which is sharp and holds its edge longer.
Precision forged from one piece of steel; this would make a great addition to anyone’s collection.
Victorinox Paring Knife
If you are wanting a great little knife at an unbelievable price however, you really can’t go wrong with the Victorinox Paring Knife.
Built for performance and durability this knife has been manufactured by the same people who brought you the Swiss Army Knife.
With a great balance and degree of sharpness, this is a knife you will find yourself reaching for again and again.
Kuhn Rikon Colori Paring Knife
If you are looking for something a bit more colourful you are sure to fall in love with the Kuhn Rikon Colori non-stick paring knife.
It boasts a non-stick silicone-based coating which comes in a variety of colors and an ultra-sharp Japanese blade.
You can also choose from a serrated or a smooth edge. This is one pretty knife that is sure to stand out in the knife drawer.
The silicone coating means that food won’t stick to it, which is always a plus in my kitchen.
There is nothing more annoying than having half of what you are cutting stick to your knife!
This attractive little knife also comes with a plastic sheath for protection when storing!
You might even want more than one, in different colors. Why not a rainbow!
What Is A Paring Knife?
Most of us will already be familiar with what a paring knife is, but for those of you who aren’t, a paring knife is a small knife with a thin sharp blade that is somewhat of a necessity in the kitchen and in any good knife collection.
In fact, I think it is probably the one knife that will get used multiple times daily. It has many purposes.
Why You Need A Good Paring Knife?
It is a must when it comes to peeling vegetables and fruits, as well as for slicing smaller ingredients.
It is also invaluable when it comes to detailed and controlled cutting purposes such as garnishes, or hulling berries.
Having a good one in your knife collection is something that you will thank yourself for time and time again.
This is one tool that is destined to become one of your best friends in the kitchen.
I actually have several different ones and wouldn’t be without any of them.
What To Look For When Buying A Paring Knife?
When it comes to a paring knife, you will really want to invest in the best that your money can buy.
That goes for any knife really, but with a knife you will be using regularly even more so.
Like myself, you may even want to invest in several. I love each of my paring knives for different reasons.
One factor that is important to me is that they mustn’t be extremely heavy and should feel comfortable in my hands.
The Blades of Paring Knives
One with a sharp short and straight blade is a must. This is called a “Sheep’s Foot”, and you will find that it features a smooth and straight edge, which is perfect for jobs like cutting through blocks of cheese, the thinner the better, and it really shines when it comes to julienning fruits and vegetables. I like using a knife for julienning as you have far more control as to size than you would have with any other tool. A great sheep’s foot paring knife is the Victorinox Paring, 3.25″.
You may also want to invest in one with a slightly curved blade or a “Bird’s Beak” paring knife. This paring knife will really come in handy when it comes to some of your more complicated uses such as carving a pattern into mushroom caps or creating radish roses. A great Bird’s Beak paring knife is the Victorinox 40007.
I have both kinds of paring knives as well as several “Spear Tipped” which have sharp short and straight blades. These are the ones which I use the most often. A great spear tipped option is the Messermeister Meridian Elite Spear Point Paring Knife.
Finally, there are paring knives which feature serrated blades. They come as the other three types of paring knives but will have a serrated rather than a smooth edge. Great for cutting through thick skins or thick crusts. One option for this type of knife is the Wusthof Classic 3.5″ Serrated Paring Knife
The Balance and Quality of Paring Knives
Many of the things you should look for when purchasing a paring knife are the same things you will consider when purchasing any knife for the kitchen, such as balance and quality.
In main, however, you want to consider the thickness of the blade along with the quality of steel which has been used to create it. High carbon steel with a full tang is the best.
You should also take into consideration the things you are planning on using it for.
If you will be using it for anything which requires putting a bit of force behind it, you will want a paring knife which is able to withstand a bit of pressure as well as resistance.
The last thing you need is for the tip of your knife to break or the blade to snap off, which can happen if you are using a paring knife of a lesser quality composed of inadequate steel.
This is not only inconvenient but can be hazardous.
The Handles of Paring Knives
You will also want to strongly consider the quality of the handle.
You want one with a handle composed of a material that will not become overly slippery when dampened with the moisture from your hands or food you are working with.
A knife that slips around in the hand while you are using it is a very dangerous tool, especially when you consider the pressure and force you will be putting behind it when in use.
Something with a non-slip coating is ideal, as is a handle which has a bit of texture rather than being totally smooth.
The handle should be thick, ideally, and feel comfortable in the hand.
Thicker handles are easier to control as you can get a firmer grip on them. You don’t want it to be completely round (slips easily) or completely flat (lacking in comfort and control).
Finger grips shaped into the handle are a really nice option.
Safety should be a primary consideration when choosing a paring knife, especially when you take into allowance the fact that it will normally be used in conjunction with your other hand which, more often than not, will be holding the food which you are trying to peel, dice or slice.
With all that in mind, here are other several options for you to consider:
Zwilling J.A. Henkel’s Professional “S” Paring Knife
This is the Zwilling J. A. Henkel’s Professional “S” Paring Knife. This is available in both 3 and 4 inch lengths.
A classic knife for those who want a professional feel to their home kitchen. Precisionally forged from a single piece of (exclusive formula) high carbon no stain steel under the all-new Sigmaforge standard.
This is a knife that will not bend under normal use and which holds an edge. It stays sharp all day and has a good balance.
It’s great for peeling fruit and cutting sandwiches and has a lovely comfortable grip. With its precision-honed blade and laser-controlled edge this little work-horse is ideal.
Nunchi Japanese Paring Knife
If beauty is something you are looking for along with quality and excellent performance, you might want to consider this 3.5-inch professional Japanese VG-10 stainless steel paring knife with its Damascus blade and no-slip Pakkawood handle.
This is a knife which has been designed for precision, with elegant craftmanship.
Beautiful as well as being super sharp this knife is a joy to use. Well made, with an extremely sharp edge it feels fabulous in the hand.
It is a paring knife that really stands out and comes highly recommended.
Recommended Read: Best Japanese Chef Knives
B-Chef Paring Knife
This Paring Knife from B-Chef is not only very affordable, but also comes with its own protective sheath.
The price and the sheath also make it the ideal knife to take when you are on the move or going camping.
If you are like me, you won’t want to risk taking a more expensive paring knife with you which might get lost or damaged in either situation.
With its 3 ½ inch stainless blade and cover, it’s also perfect to take on picnics or to keep in your desk at work for those times when you might need a knife to maybe cut up a piece of fruit or some cheese for break time.
Light and efficient it comes with a no quibble guarantee.
Mercer Culinary Paring Knife
If you are looking for a knife which is going to give you quality at a very affordable price you can’t get much better than the Mercer Culinary 3 1/2-inch paring knife.
Composed of high carbon, no stain Japanese steel it also boasts an ergonomic polypropylene handle with texture finger points, which make for a great grip, increasing slip resistance. Always important.
It is also NSF certified which means that it meets with their standards for quality, safety, and performance. It has been described as the “pick-up truck” of paring knives!
Dalstrong Gladiator Series Paring Knife
If price is no option and you are looking for exceptional craftsmanship, you can’t go wrong with this 3 ½ inch Dalstrong Gladiator series paring knife.
With its award-winning design and luxury pakkawood handle this is a paring knife that has been engineered for perfection.
Precision tempered and stain resistant this is the ultimate paring knife, perfect for the busy kitchen.
With a 55 Rockwell hardness which has been carefully tapered to help improve hardness, flexibility and minimal slicing resistance.
Perfectly weighted to feel good in the hand it also comes with a water resistant and stain proof BPA free protective sheath for safe storage.
Hand sharpened and easy clean, you can’t go wrong.
Saken Paring Knife
My final recommendation would be for the 3 ½ inch Saken Paring Knife.
Its high carbon German steel blade, razor-sharp edge and small size make it perfect for mincing, slicing and chopping.
It does an excellent job of cutting paper-thin slices of fruit or vegetables and is ideal for mincing smaller items such as ginger, garlic or shallots.
I have always found that it is a much safer option when cutting smaller items such as these to use a smaller knife, which will give you far better control.
With classic European styling, it closely resembles a much larger Chef’s knife, but its blade is thin enough for delicate work.
This knife delivers on every promise being sturdy, well built and sharp right out of the box.
This is quite simply an excellent knife.
How to Use a Paring Knife
A paring knife is not just for peeling fruits and vegetables.
It can be used for so many more things than that.
I often use mine to hollow out or core apples, rather than dig through my utility drawer to find my apple corer.
It’s also invaluable when making shallow deep cuts in things that you don’t want to burst open when you are baking them, such as baked apples.
You simply use the tip of the knife to cut a very shallow strip horizontally around the middle of the apple.
At the same time, you can slice off a very narrow bit at the bottom to help it stand upright better.
Another thing you can use it for is pitting dates so that you can fill them with a yummy cheese filling.
Just cut a thin slice down one side with your paring knife, pop out the pit and then fill with your favorite cheese.
Chopped toasted walnuts mixed with a good cream cheese make a lovely and delicious filling for dates.
How Not To Use A Paring Knife
One thing you don’t want to be using it for is in the place of a screwdriver and you don’t want your partner to be doing that either.
The number of times I have had to rescue my good paring knives from my husband’s use of them as a tool is unbelievable.
It never seems to sink in. I am ever vigilant, however! Improper use of a paring knife (or any knife) in this way affects their sharpness and can easily break off the tip of your knife.
I never put my knives in the dishwasher, even if they are said to be dishwasher proof.
I simply wash them in hot soapy water with a soft cloth, dry and put away safely.
It doesn’t really take long to do and will prolong the sharpness of your knife.
I also believe washing them by hand is a lot better for the handles of your knives.
Paring Knives At Work
One thing that I really like to use my Paring Knives for is to make quick, easy and pretty garnishes for use on serving trays, sandwich platters, and dinner platters.
I remember back in the 1970’s watching a chef turn an apple into a swan on the television and trying it myself afterwards. My love of simple and pretty garnish began right then and there.
Here are a few ideas for simple garnishes that you can execute with a paring knife that I believe just about anyone can do.
This has to be one of the simplest of garnishes.
Peel your carrot and cut it into a manageable length that is roughly the same circumference all the way down.
Using the tip of your paring knife cut evenly sized wedges down the length of your carrot all the way around.
Once you have done that, you can simply cut it into slices about ¼ inch thick.
These are really pretty on a vegetable tray or even in stir fries!
These are incredibly simple.
Just cut a length of washed cucumber and then slice it crosswise into thin pliable slices.
For the ruffle, you will need a cocktail stick/toothpick. If you have one with a pretty decoration on it so much the better.
Simply fold your cucumber slices in half and fold into a ruffle, threading them onto the stick.
You can also take two slices and fold in half, sticking a carrot stick into the center like a flower stamen and thread them onto a cocktail stick.
You have a couple of lilies, or maybe a heart, depending on how you look at it.
Thinly sliced cucumber also looks nice when placed on a whole poached salmon so as to look like fish scales, especially if it is being served cold.
CARROT AND CUCUMBER GARNISH
Now, this is a really easy one.
Cut your cucumber and peeled carrot into roughly the same length crosswise.
Now using your paring knife, carefully hollow out the center of the cucumber, roughly the same size of the carrot.
Push the peeled carrot into the center of the hollowed-out cucumber.
You can now cut the filled cucumber into thin slices ready to garnish just about anything.
Lemon Garnishes look especially nice on seafood trays when serving cold seafood for appetisers, or warm fish and seafood for a main.
Take a washed lemon and cut both ends off so that it lays flat when you stand it up on either end.
Taking the tip of your paring knife, make diagonal cuts into the lemon towards the centre horizontally all the way around the middle of the lemon, making a zig-zag pattern.
Make sure you cut it all the way into the centre of the lemon. Once down you can gently twist the lemon and it should pull apart into two lovely shapes ready to use as pretty garnishes.
You can roll the edges in chopped parsley if you like, or paprika for some color, or simply tuck a sprig of parsley into the center. Very nice.
I remember my mother making radish roses to garnish her sandwich plates when she was having ladies over for tea.
Radish roses are always nice and very easy to make. Simply make small scalloped cuts around and down the sides of a trimmed radish and then pop them into ice water until you are ready to serve.
They open like a rose as if by magic. You can also use the same method as I did with the lemons to make a simple, yet very attractive radish rose, with a lot less trouble.
Why not make little radish baskets?
Trim your radish at both ends so that it will lie flat and them decide where you want the handle to be.
Now trim and cut away ¼ of the radish on either side of the handle. Now taking the tip of your paring knife trim away the insides of the radish to leave you with a handle and hollowed out basket bottom, which you can fill with whatever you choose.
I have used chopped parsley, carrot and cucumber. These are quite pretty and most unusual!
I hope today that I have given you enough advice and information in order for you to choose wisely when it comes to picking out a paring knife for your kitchen.
Basically, it depends on what you want to use it for. I highly recommend having several.
A straight sharp one, a curved beak one and finally a cheaper one for lugging about that you won’t feel too devastated about should you accidentally lose it.
There is no reason why, with proper care, your investment in this little kitchen workhorse shouldn’t last you for a lifetime.
Marie Rayner is a Canadian, who moved over to the UK and began a new life in the year 2000. At the age of 45 she decided she needed a career change and went back to College to take a Chef’s course, after which she worked as a Personel Chef for a number of years.