What is a Paring Knife Used For?
Learn how the small but mighty paring knife can help improve precision in the kitchen.
What is a Paring Knife?
If you had to sum up the purpose of a paring knife in a single word, that word would be precision. Just like a surgeon needs a scalpel and a painter needs a sable-hair brush, this kitchen tool will help you execute the finest details with confidence and ease.
What is a Paring Knife Used For?
A paring knife is shaped like a chef's knife, but it’s much smaller in size. This is a knife that’s designed for accuracy. Generally ranging between2.5-4” in size, the paring knife is a tool for small jobs that require a fine touch.
When you have a fresh tomato or a ripe pear that need scoring, reach for a paring knife. The sharp tip will help pierce the skin and allow you to navigate around the stem for the perfect cut all around.
If you’re making a pie using fresh fruit and you need to remove the delicate skin from apples, peaches, or figs, then a paring knife will help you with the job. The benefit of this accuracy is that you lose less fruit flesh thanks to the small, sharp blade.
Scoring is a crucial step-in bread baking, and paring knives are well-suited for the job. The sharp edge cleanly pierces the dough without creating drag. It’s also the perfect knife for strategically scoring the skin of meat or fish before marinating.
The fine black entrails of shrimp are easy to extract with a sharp paring knife. The small size makes irideal for tasks that require a keen eye and attention to detail. Just pierce the vein starting at the fat end and slowly pull along the back. Be sure to rinse your knife before cutting other food to prevent cross-contamination.
If you’ve ever picked or purchased a batch of fresh strawberries, then you’re no stranger to removing the tops. A paring knife makes this a simple job, and you don’t even need a cutting board. Just hold the strawberry in one hand, balancing it with your opposite thumb. Use your pointer finger to guide the knife across the top for a clean slice.
Don’t have the patience to peel an orange while you eat? Dislike the bitter taste of pith? Using a paring knife to peel back the skin and segment your citrus is a game changer. A little bit of work upfront will allow you to savor the sweetness later.
Details are important. So, when it comes to trimming the fat or taming tough tendons, the paring knife has your back. This sharp little companion is able to cut through even the smallest fatty and fibrous segments of meat and poultry for pristine presentation.
Mincing and Dicing
For small items like ginger, garlic, shallots, and chile peppers, a paring knife is the dexterity tool you need. Cut away the rough skin from nubs of fresh ginger, finely dice those shallots, and peel back pepper seeds and pith with ease.
How You Should You Hold a Paring Knife
When using a sharp blade, proper knife skills are critical. Knowing how to hold and position a paring knife is important. The specific grip will depend on the job. For example, if you’re peeling an orange, then you can hold a paring knife like you would ache knife since the cutting motion will be the same, just with greater precision.
If you’re peeling something small that doesn’t require a cutting board, then you’ll want to place the thumb of your knife-holding hand on the object for grip. You’ll use your pointer finger to guide from the flat edge of the blade, and slowly peel towards your thumb. The main thing to remember is to keep a firm hold but Beslow and relaxed in your movements.
How to Keep Your Paring Knife Sharpened
Since a paring knife is a precision tool, you’ll want to keep it sharp for the best performance possible. For this, you’ll want to use either a honing steel, a wet stone sharpener, or any other trusted knife sharpening tool that you’re comfortable with.
Before you start, it’s important to know the correct angle of your blade. Most kitchen knives have a 17-22 degree angle. You can find more durable steel with beveled edges at higher degrees. For example, the 32Dumas Idéal Provençao Paring Knife has a 25 degree angle. This is unusual for a paring knife, but because it’s made with fully-forged steel, the strength of the metal can handle such acuity.
How to Care for Your Paring Knife
In addition to regular, weekly sharpening, you should also make sure you’re storing your paring knife correctly. To keep the blade in good condition, wipe it clean after sharpening to remove any metallic debris. Then store it on a magnetic bar or inside of a fitted sheath to keep it from getting jostled around, which could dull the edges or damage the blade.
Paring knife blades are delicate, and depending on the style of knife you own, the handles are often nondifferent. If your knife has a wooden handle, like most French and Japanese knives, it should be hand washed and immediately dried. German knives with synthetic handles could technically be put in the dishwasher, but these delicate tools are better preserved when not subjected to the extremes of a dishwasher.
How Not to Use Your Paring Knife
Whereas a chef knife is an everyday workhorse, a paring knife exists for a specific purpose. This is a precision tool meant for more delicate tasks. It’s not designed for cutting through tough meat, bones, thick-skinned vegetables, or frozen foods. Using it for any purposes other than what it's meant for can potentially cause the blade to slip, resulting in injury. A paring knife has a sharp, pointed blade that you definitely don’t want to accidentally meet the end of. Use it correctly and you’ll see that it’s a true master of the tasks it was uniquely designed for.
Next to a high-quality chef’s knife, a great paring knife is the second most essential cutting tool for any cook. It’s a tiny taskmaster when it comes to small jobs, like working with fruit and thin-skinned vegetables. It helps you meticulously trim off what you don’t need with greater precision than a chef’s knife. Once you start working with this meticulous tool, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.