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Paring Knife

Small knives for trimming and peeling vegetables. The classical shape is center-tip style, with curved back and edge. Versatile and allow for excellent control of the blade.



Blades between 5cm/2in to 10cm/4in. Mainly straight bladed though some are curved. Look out for a tang that is the full length of the handle and a good sized bolster to prevent fingers slipping onto the blade. The price you pay then depends on the quality of the steel. Some handles have the fused tangs and no rivets, so the choice it depends on how much you want to spend and personal preference.


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The Cook's Illustrated Guide to Paring Knives

A kitchen's second workhorse by Jack Bishop The Choices

What to Look For

Test Kitchen Notes

The Bottom Line

Along with a large chef's knife, a paring knife gets the most use in our test kitchen. A paring knife is a must for peeling fruits and vegetables with thick skins, such as oranges or turnips. It's also handy for tasks too delicate for a chef's knife, such as slicing garlic or coring tomatoes.

The Choices

Manufacturing Technique Knives are either forged or stamped.

Forged blades, which are generally more expensive and considered to be of higher quality, are made by heating a crude piece of steel and then beating it into the shape of a blade using a mold and forging hammer. The blade must then be ground down, tempered by repeated heating and cooling, sharpened, and then finished with many labor-intensive, expensive steps. One sign that a knife has been forged is the presence of a bolster--a thick collar of metal between the blade and handle.

Stamping, on the other hand, is less expensive. The process begins with a large sheet of metal from which crude blades are cut out, much like cookies are cut from rolled dough. The finishing steps are similar to those for forging.

Blade Flexibility Some paring knives are flexible, so that the blade gives a bit as you peel round objects or work in tight spots, such as orange sections or tomato cores. Other blades are stiffer, more like little chef's knives.

Sharpness The are two factors to consider here--how sharp is the blade when you buy it and how easy it is to restore edge sharpness once the blade has dulled with use.

Handles The are two types of handles: those made from wood and those made from molded plastic. Besides materials, another point to consider is hand comfort.

What to Look For
We find that a paring knife with a 3-1/2-inch blade is the most useful size. Since jobs such as peeling apples for a pie can take quite some time, hand comfort is a major issue. A handle that is comfortably shaped won't cramp hands the way a handle that is either too large or too small can. In addition, the handle must be easy to grip. Hands are often wet or sticky when using a paring knife and a slippery handle can lead to accidents and injuries.

Test Kitchen Notes
We tested eight paring knives from leading knife manufacturers. We peeled, quartered, and cored apples; minced shallots; cored tomatoes; peeled and sliced turnips; and peeled and sectioned oranges.
To our surprise, the issue of how the blade was manufactured proved inconsequential. Although our favorite knife was forged, we did not find a correlation between manufacturing technique and performance.

Unlike a chef's knife, a paring knife is used for lighter tasks, where weight and balance are not crucial. For example, it doesn't require much effort to peel an apple. Our testers found that the extra weight and balance afforded by the forging process and the bolster did not add up to a distinct advantage when considering paring knives.

Blade flexibility was more important. A flexible paring knife can be maneuvered better into tight spots or around sharp turns. This is especially important when trying to peel turnips or core a tomato and not cut away too much flesh. Stiffer blades are slighter better for slicing and mincing, but these are secondary tasks for paring knives.

Likewise, testers found that sharpness was a marginally important issue. With one exception, all the knives tested were plenty sharp right out of the box and most took an edge well.

By far, the most important factor to consider when choosing a paring knife is the handle. Unfortunately, this factor is also the hardest to quantify. The cooks in our test kitchen have hands of varying sizes and each had a distinct preference as regards comfort. In general, testers liked the molded plastic handles better than those made from wood. Testers also liked handles that were neither too thin nor too bulbous.
Our advice is to test-drive paring knives. Hold several knives in your hand and ask yourself these questions: Do my fingers rest safely on the handle or are they threatened by the blade? Does the knife feel solid or flimsy? Can I grip the knife firmly for some period of time without inducing discomfort? The answers to these questions are highly personal.

The Bottom Line Price does not necessarily track with quality. While we liked most of the expensive forged knives we tested, some cheap stamped knives also rated well. Since the difference in price can be vast (a paring knife can cost as little as $5 or as much as $35), it pays to shop around. Hold the knife in your hand. Our testers put a premium on hand comfort. In addition, make sure the blade has some give. A flexible paring knife is more versatile than a stiff one.

Cook's BibleThe Cook's Bible :
The Best of American Home Cooking Christopher Kimball