The 10 Best Paring Knives
10. Wusthof Classic
9. Global Western
8. Victorinox Swiss Classic
7. Mac Professional PKF-30
6. Tuo Cutlery Fire
5. Dalstrong Shogun Series
4. Henckels Four-Star
3. Zelite Infinity
2. Mercer Culinary Genesis
1. Yaxell Gou 3-1/2-Inch
An Important Addition To Any Kitchen
Many chefs will tell you that playing with flames and sharp things is the most fun part of their job. For some, that was the specific reasons they started working in the culinary field. And it's obvious that few tools are as crucial to cooking as a good knife.
But not all knives have fat, six-inch long blades. Not all of them are suited for slicing prime rib roasts or carving turkeys. And the fact is, there are many kitchen tasks that require a level of attention and accuracy that can't be achieved with a serrated slicer or a heavy German chef's knife. For a wide range of intricate tasks, chefs around the world turn to the highly versatile paring knife.
It's a common misconception that these knives got their name because they cut whole pieces of food into pairs. They carry that title because they pare down excess material from foods, reducing them to smaller pieces.
These are small knives, between about three and four inches long. Very often, the handle will actually be longer than that. These short steel blades are shallow from spine to edge, no deeper than 3/4 inches. The entire setup is designed to fit easily in the palm of your hand. This allows you to use your thumb and forefinger freely to guide the small foods you're working with, lending great precision to your work.
What's In A Knife?
The vast majority of paring knives on the market are made of steel. The few exceptions to that are some ceramic options, but those are difficult to sharpen and very prone to chipping and breaking. For that reason, they should generally be avoided.
Like with many other kitchen knives, you'll run into two general styles of paring knives: western and Japanese. These differ in two important ways: geometry and materials. Not only are Japanese knives more smoothly tapered to a point, their blades are thinner and their edges are ground at a more acute angle. Western models, specifically knives from German makers like Wüsthof, tend to have a broader heel, and their taper is more sudden and begins closer to the point.
Eastern knives are often made with harder steel alloys. This allows for lighter, thinner blades that are more maneuverable and can hold an edge longer, but require a bit more care to use and may be prone to nicks. French and German styles have heavier blades made of slightly softer steel, which makes them more suitable for many heavy-duty tasks (somewhat counterintuitively). For example, it's not recommended to work with tough foods like winter squash, sweet potatoes, or seed pods using more brittle, harder alloys. And you'd never want to use a traditional Japanese chef's knife to split bones for marrow.
Overall, the softer, western-type knives are much easier to maintain than high-hardness pieces and can get usually get just about as sharp. Moderate honing is all they need on a daily basis, and they're fairly resistant to chips and turned edges.
A lot of the fancier, more expensive paring knives have dense handles with attractive finishes. Some of these will provide better grip in wet or oily conditions, and some feature attractive, handcrafted designs. Both stainless and carbon steel models are available with different types of cladding and chemical resistance to oxidation.
You'll notice that some high-end options have prominent bolsters designed to provide maximum balance and surety of cuts. But because of the small nature of paring knives, it just so happens that some of the smallest, most economical options can outperform many heftier and far more expensive choices.The simplest models consist of narrow handles made of textured, high-impact plastic.
You'll find yourself most often using the paring knife in the air and not on the counter, so a low-profile handle helps to add control and safety to your cutting. The blades of these inexpensive options are narrow, maneuverable, and easily sharpened, and they're readily available at affordable prices. This makes them perfect for stocking an entire kitchen in need of precision tools.
So Small A Blade, So Much Possibility
Because of its small size, the paring knife has a wide range of uses and is a definite necessity in any chef's toolkit. This versatile item cores tomatoes with ease or shaves paper-thin slices of garlic. It's the perfect knife for removing stems and cleaning strawberries. Potato eyes are no match for the paring knife's small and easily maneuvered blade. Devein shrimp or prepare fine garnishes with the right variety of these diminutive cutting tools.
Everybody loves a stuffed pork loin or chicken breast. A razor-sharp, 3-inch knife is perfect for making a quick incision into a piece of high-quality meat, making room for delicious, cheezy, breadcrumb-filled goodness. Paring knives even work in place of a peeler in a pinch, letting you strip the hard rind from a squash or a melon without straining or cutting yourself.
In high-end kitchens, you'll see talented chefs using incredibly sharp paring knives for the intricate carving of vegetables. Classic designs like green onion tassels, chili pepper flowers, and tomato rings add visually creative and flavorful elements to a dish. You can even find sheaths for your paring knife that strap right to your belt. This way you have instant access to this incredibly useful tool at a moment's notice, no matter where in the kitchen you are or what you're doing.
With so many different functions, these are truly essential items to any home or professional cook. Just make sure to clean and maintain yours as thoroughly as you would any important kitchen tool. This will ensure the knife's long life as well as your fingers' safety.