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What is a Paring Knife Used For?

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Have you ever looked at the knives in your kitchen and wondered, “What is a paring knife used for?” Many people confuse paring knives with other small chef’s knives, so we are here to clear the air about that and guide you towards getting the best out of your culinary. This article will cover the best ways to use a paring knife, the best cutting techniques, and the best types of paring knives available.


What is a paring knife used for?

For those with no time to read the entire article, a paring knife, in a nutshell, is used for peeling and cutting fruits and vegetables. But, of course, they come with many other uses, such as opening packets of ingredients, among other similar precise cutting tasks. The paring knife is about 3-4 inches long, and its versatility makes it like a mini chef’s knife.


What is a paring knife?

What is a paring knife? It is a handy little tool that can be used for a variety of tasks in the kitchen, from peeling and slicing fruits and vegetables to removing seeds. Paring knives have a sharp blade that ends in a pointed tip and is usually between 2 and 4 inches long.



The paring knife obtained its name from the word “pare,” which means to cut away the outside layer of something. From this, we can immediately connect the dots and see that the paring knife is designed for peeling and precise cuts. Among the typical kitchen knife set, the paring knife is the smallest, coming in at 3-4-inches in size, just under the utility knife.



A traditional paring knife design comes with a curved blade made of stainless steel and is roughly 3 or 4-inches. Most paring knives feature thin blades and a lightweight design that is exceptional for intricate cutting and small kitchen tasks.

The bird’s beak paring knife is most common in the range, which is ideal for peeling thin-skinned fruits and vegetables due to the more flexible blade.

Regarding the handle, paring knives come in many different designs and materials, including synthetic, wooden, and all-steel handles. These handles are offered in triple rivet, double rivet, single rivet, and rivet-free, depending on the brand and product.

Furthermore, the construction style is available as a forged or stamped blade finish, giving customers options between lighter and cheaper knives or heavier and stronger knives.



The materials used for a paring knife’s blade are essentially the same as you would see in a large chef’s knife; the only difference is the size. The blade materials usually consist of high carbon stainless steel or equivalent, and the blade is generally constructed using forged or stamped methods.

Either way, the blade is exposed to extreme temperatures to heat it up, mold it into shape, and rapidly cool it down for a strong finish.

In terms of sharpness, a good paring knife features a sharp blade with a pointed tip, as these aspects of the blade allow for precise cutting tasks. Like any chef knife, the paring knife uses materials high in carbon for durability and chromium for enhanced rust and corrosion resistance.

The best paring knife is one that retains its edge for long periods but also resists chips and cracks. As one of the most versatile knives in the range, it’s no surprise the paring knife is also versatile in its selection of material choices.

Depending on the brand, some offer these knives in all-steel handles for a more modern look and a unique feel. For the most part, though, you’ll typically find paring knives using synthetic materials for the handle, such as polyoxymethylene and thermo resin.


Types of paring knives

There are many different types of paring knives, and while they all perform the same tasks, their individual designs greatly impact how these tasks are performed. As a result, many brands compete by offering their unique blade designs, materials, shapes, and handles, all to give them an edge over their competitors.

Fortunately, this has resulted in a plethora of different design choices to choose from, with the main paring knife options described below.


Bird’s beak paring knife

One of the most common types of paring knives is the bird’s beak paring knife. As its name suggests, the knife features a curved blade with an extremely sharp tip, almost like a hook shape that lets you accomplish the most precise cuts. In addition, these knives often come with more handle than blade, maximizing control and grip for empowering the user to use flexible cutting motions.

The best way to use the bird’s beak-style paring knife is to peel things like potatoes and citrus fruits, as the blade’s design is ideal for easily getting around the outer layer.

However, this knife also excels in decorative work, such as cutting out cookie dough shapes for your baked goods. Outside of food, the bird beak paring knife can be used to open up packets of ingredients such as plastic seals and cardboard boxes.

A great example of the bird beak paring knife is the Wusthof Classic paring knife which features a slightly curved blade with a synthetic handle that is triple riveted. This knife is excellent for slicing fruit with its small blade, and the sharp edges make it a handy tool for all kinds of miscellaneous tasks.

On the downside, the blade style is quite difficult to sharpen, and it may be worth handing it in to a professional for sharpening once the blade dulls.


Sheep’s foot paring knife

Differing greatly in appearance from the bird beak version is the sheep’s foot paring knife. You may have come across this term when reading up on the santoku knife, which is no coincidence. Incidentally, the sheep’s foot paring knife features the same slanted 60-degree blade edge as the santoku, encompassing a sharp pointed tip that is ideal for delicate cutting tasks.

Unlike the bird’s beak design, the sheep’s foot paring knife is easy to sharpen and maintain, and the sharp edge retains itself for a long period of time. You can typically find these blades among brands of Japanese knives, and you’d do yourself a favor to pursue those brands that emphasize on durability through super steels.

The sheep’s foot paring knife is best suited for cutting thin slices or cheese, handling meat bones of small ingredients, and peeling thick-skinned fruits.

This paring knife is available in many different handle designs, but it is recommended to go for ones with a full tang blade and handle construction. This is because stamped blades have a higher risk of breaking under pressure, particularly with tasks that involve more of the blade’s tip, such as the case of this type of paring knife.

A great example of the sheep’s foot paring knife is the Global NI Series all-metal handle paring knife, which features a hammered steel grip and full tang construction for a longer-lasting edge.


Spear point paring knife

Next is the spear point or spear tip paring knife, which features a unique bend between the handle and blade. This bolster design is great for keeping your hand well out of harm’s way as you let the blade do the talking. It has a more straight edge than the sheep’s foot blade, but still a slightly curved blade that gives you a decent balance between precision and somewhat of a rocking motion.

The spear point paring knife is perhaps most similar to the sheep’s foot paring knife, with the difference most apparent at the shape of the blade. These knives often come in a double bevel design, and its style is often seen in knives with a serrated blade.

You can also find these knives in all types of handle designs, such as all-steel, synthetic, and Pakkawood, for a wide variety of aesthetics and ergonomics.

This is perhaps the most basic type of paring knife in terms of not having any outstanding or “out of the norm” features. Of all the different types of paring knives out there, the spear point paring knife truly lives up to the concept of being a “mini chef’s knife.”

The straight blade design is great for cutting board tasks of all kinds, and the only con you could really say about this one is it may not be quite as sharp as the previously mentioned paring knives.


Western-style Japanese paring knife

I know what you’re thinking after reading that, how can a knife be Western and Japanese at the same time? This hybrid paring knife comprises a Western-style handle shape combined with the razor-sharp edge that is a trademark of Japanese-style knives.

The benefit is that rather than having a traditional rounded Japanese handle as often seen with Shun and Miyabi knives, you get a Western grip whan an emphasis on ergonomics and provides a finger safety lock.

The best way to think of the Western-style Japanese paring knife is as a combination of the spear point and the sheep’s foot paring knives. This type of paring knife features the same handle to blade interaction as the spear point knife, with the handle curving down into the blade and keeping your hand nice and distant from danger.

However, it also embraces a slanted edge like that of the sheep’s foot-paring knife, giving it the added bonus of versatility that the santoku blade is famous for.

The greatest benefit of the Western-style Japanese paring knife is the added control you get when slicing soft fruits and chopping vegetables. Unlike the larger size paring knives, this little knife is able to give you more control in your small cutting tasks as a result of the bigger handle and smaller blade.

Be careful, though, because this knife is among the most sharp paring knife on the market, so extreme caution should be used when cutting.


How to use a paring knife

That brings us to the next point, which is to ensure that you are correctly using your paring knives in the right scenarios to avoid harm to yourself and those around you (not to mention damaging the blade).

Essentially, you can use your paring knife without any additional equipment, as you would for simply peeling and cutting fruits and vegetables. The other way to use a paring knife is with a chopping board as you would a regular chef’s knife, and you can dice up small ingredients like tomatoes and onions.

For best results, you should use the paring knives with smaller blades for “off the board” cutting tasks like peeling citrus fruits. In particular, the bird’s beak paring knife is great for this job as it provides a nice curved blade for you to conquer the outer layer with a more even cut.

The spear point and the Western-style Japanese paring knives are great for chopping up fruits and vegetables into pieces as they have straight edge blades that are razor sharp for piercing through anything.

Generally, stamped paring knives are lighter in weight and thinner in blade width, making them a better choice for “off the board” cutting tasks. Forged paring knives offer greater strength and retention but are a little heavier and harder to control, making them more suited for cutting board tasks.


Which paring knife is best for home cooks?

In my opinion, stamped knives are good for everyday home cooks, while the forged design are more likely to be appreciated by professional chefs.

Of course, there are specific ways to hold your paring knife to maximize results and minimize the risk of harming yourself. Fortunately, paring knives are designed with a smaller build and can naturally fit in the palm of your hand even better than utility knives.

In addition, you can place your pointer finger or thumb (depending on the task at hand) on the handle’s spine to give you extra control when cutting ingredients.

The ergonomics of paring knives change from blade to blade, and you’ll want to ensure the one you buy is in line with your intended usage. For instance, if you’re looking for serrated paring knives, you’ll want a grip like that of the Western-style handle in order for your hand to not slip when cutting tough breads.

Another example is the bird’s beak paring knife which requires more wrist flexibility and precision for peeling fruits and vegetables, so a handle with a safety finger lock would be ideal for such uses.


Best ways to use a paring knife

Bringing us to the various uses of the paring knife, you likely have a good idea of what these little knives are used for now. However, to delve deeper into the best ways to use a paring knife, I’d recommend keeping it handy no matter what you’re cooking.

It may not be large enough to take on a thick piece of meat, but you’ll find plenty of use in cutting up small vegetables, chilis, and garlic to add to your stir-fry.

I would not recommend using the paring knife as a stand-alone tool for preparing an entire meal, but it certainly makes for a great snacking tool. For example, if you are preparing a fruit and cheese platter, paring knives are perfect for cutting thin slices of cheese, peeling fruits, and chopping them up into bite-sized pieces.

Of course, you can even cut up small amounts of bread for your platter if your paring knife has a serrated edge like the shark teeth design you often see on bread knives.


Care and maintenance of paring knives

Maintaining your paring knives is more complicated than it looks, as the small size of these knives is actually disadvantageous. In particular, the bird’s beak paring knife is among the toughest to maintain because of its rounded blade that makes sharpening more challenging.

On the other hand, for spear tip and sheep’s foot paring knives, sharpening is not a huge issue, but always take extra care to do smaller movements when sharpening, as these blades are only 3-4-inches long.

While there are some paring knives that can be cleaned using the dishwasher, it is recommended to handwash them. Fortunately, their smaller size makes it quite quick and easy to clean, though you will have to use smaller strokes when wiping down the blade.

In particular, use slower wiping speeds when cleaning the bird’s beak paring knife, because the curved blade and extra sharp pointed tip can be quite hazardous to your safety if you clean recklessly.

Finally, ensure that your paring knife is backed by a warranty, as this will cover you for any defects related to manufacturing or poor material quality. If you go with a brand like Cutco or Shun knives, then you will be given a “forever sharpness” guarantee upon purchase of your knives.

This means you can send your knives back to the manufacturer to be expertly sharpened when your blade’s edge goes dull, though you may have to pay for shipping.


Where to buy paring knives

Paring knives can be bought from just about any kitchen knife manufacturer, though the types of paring knives each brand offers can be quite distinct. For instance, Wusthof’s paring knives feature a triple riveted Western-style handle design and a bird’s beak blade that curves with a sharp pointed tip.

Comparatively, Global offer slanted sheep’s foot knives with a straighter edge that slants at a 60-degree angle while encompassing an all-steel hammered handle grip.

For Western-style Japanese paring knives, a great brand to consider is Kasumi for their 3-inch titanium paring knife. This knife is rarer to find, and the razor-sharp thin blade is a bit of an acquired taste. I recommend checking out Shun knives for their authentic selection for a more traditional paring knife with a Japanese-style Pakkawood or Tagayasan handle.


What is a paring knife used for FAQ

Do you really need a paring knife?

A paring knife can be a great addition to your knife set as it makes life a lot easier when tackling those pesky smaller tasks. Whether opening small packets of frozen goods or cutting out cookie dough shapes for your baked delights, the paring knife makes these tasks effortless.


What is the difference between a paring knife and a utility knife?

The significant difference between a paring knife and a utility knife is the size of their blades and their distinct blade shapes. The paring knife comes in at about 3-4-inches long and often features a curved blade, whereas the utility knife comes at around 4-7-inches long and a straight edge design.


Can you use a paring knife for meat?

If the pieces of meat are small enough, then you can absolutely use a paring knife to cut up very thin slices. Foods like shrimp, soft fruits, or chicken tenders are great options to use your paring knife as they are small and soft enough to enable the greater control advantages of the small blade.


How long is a paring knife?

A paring knife is typically around 3-4-inches long, and you’ll often find the handle is significantly longer than the blade, especially with Western-style Japanese paring knives. These knives are intentionally small as they are designed for miscellaneous kitchen tasks such as peeling fruits and vegetables or for decorative work.


What do you cut with a paring knife?

A paring knife can take on the qualities of a bread knife, carving knife, and even a boning knife, but on a smaller scale. Using the small blade and ergonomic handle of the paring knife, you can easily cut and peel vegetables and fruits, and you can also debone shrimps and open up packets of ingredients without ruining the whole package.

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