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.
The Cook's Illustrated Guide to Paring Knives
A kitchen's second workhorse by Jack Bishop The Choices
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.
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.
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
Test Kitchen Notes
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.
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.