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What Is a Paring Knife and How to Use Is

Paring knives are small yet robust tools that can handle many everyday kitchen tasks. A paring knife joined by a chef’s knife will come in handy when preparing fruits and vegetables for meals. 

A paring knife is much easier to control than a chef’s knife. That’s why they are preferred by many to cut up fruits and vegetables as well as to peel their skin. Their size and controllability also make them perfect for cuts that require precision. Paring knives help when cutting up fruits and vegetables or any other ingredient that you need to hold in your hand.

This article will cover everything you need to know about paring knives, their uses, and tips on shopping and caring for one. 

What exactly is a paring knife?

A paring knife is a small knife mainly used for carving, slicing, and chopping fruits and vegetables. Compared to other types of kitchen knives, they have much smaller and thinner blades that make them perfect for detailed work like coring and peeling. 

A paring knife’s blade is usually between 3 and 4 inches long. In comparison to a six to twelve inches long chef’s knife blade, they are much easier to handle. 

This ease of handling comes in handy, especially when peeling and doing detailed work on fruits and vegetables. Because of the paring knife uses, they are also known as fruit or vegetable knives. 

How to use a paring knife – skills and technique

From peeling vegetables to slicing fruits for salad, here is everything you need to know about paring knife uses in the kitchen. 

Grip

The ability to hold a kitchen knife firmly and comfortably in your hands is perhaps one of the most important things. The small blade of a paring knife comes with a slim handle that you can grip tightly and control the blade as if it was an extension of your arm. 

Although there are numerous ways to hold a paring knife, here are the most basic grip techniques to get you started. 

For peeling

  1. Grip the handle of the paring knife with your thumb sticking out, a lot like the hitchhiker sign. 
  2. Hold the fruit or vegetable you’re peeling with your non-dominant hand.
  3. Secure the position of the ingredient with your thumb and rotate or move the ingredient with the other hand as you peel.

For slicing

slicing use a paring knife
  1. Pinch the blade a lot like holding a chef’s knife and start slicing.
  2. For tasks that require precision, like removing the peel of an orange or coring an apple, place your index finger on the heel (the back, dull part) of the blade. Doing this will help you guide the blade when applying force. Japanese chefs mainly prefer this grip technique, whether working with a gyuto or any other knife. 

These are the two most basic uses of paring knives you can utilize in the kitchen right away. Of course, the use of paring knives isn’t just limited to peeling and slicing fruits and vegetables. You can use paring knives to chop, dice, and mince any other ingredient that you see fit for the size of the blade. 

Uses of a paring knife

In addition to slicing and peeling off fruits and vegetables, use a paring knife to cut up veggies like Brussel sprouts, jalapenos, baby carrots, and fruits like strawberries, raspberries, and grapes. 

Due to their small blade and lightweight nature, paring knives are the ideal instruments for making delicate cuts. Here are a few examples of employing a paring knife when you need precision.

Segmenting citrus fruits

You can segment citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, pomelos, and limes to serve on a platter, making them look nicer and easier to eat by removing the chewy membrane and the bitter pith. 

Even though you can use a chef’s knife to segment citrus fruits, it’s a lot more convenient to do it with a paring knife. Here is how to segment citrus using a paring knife.

  1. Cut the bottom and top ends of the citrus to place it flat on the cutting board.
  2. Slice off the peel and pith to reveal the fruit. 
  3. Once you’re left with juicy citrus, hold it in your hand and cut in between the membranes and take out the segments. 

After segmenting any citrus fruit, don’t let the membrane go to waste. Use the leftovers to make juices as there is still plenty of fluids left in the membranes.

Deveining shrimp

Deveining shrimp

Surely, there are tools specifically designed to devein shrimp, but a paring knife handles the task just as well. You won’t need an extra tool as long as you know what to do with your paring knife. Here is how to devein shrimp with a paring knife.

  1. Start deveining shrimp by making a thin slit along the back of the shrimp to reveal the dark vein.
  2. Slip the pointed tip of the paring knife underneath the vein and pull it out.

If the shrimp isn’t pre-cleaned, peel it by getting your thumb beneath the shell and gently remove it from the meat. Once you pull the shell, squish the bottom of the tail where it joins the meat and remove the tail from the shrimp. What you’re now left with is a shrimp ready to devein. 

Peeling and deveining a shrimp is easy as that. We highly recommend doing this step yourself as cleaned shrimp tend to cost more.

Peeling apples

Though you can peel more than just apples, a paring knife can function as the perfect peeler once you get the hang of it. When peeling with a paring knife, adjust your grip slightly to secure the apple’s position and go slow. Otherwise, it may result in accidents.

  1. Hold the apple firmly in your non-dominant hand and grip the knife’s handle with your thumb up, securing the apple in place.
  2. Starting from the top to bottom, peel the skin slowly in circular motions.

The goal is to peel the skin of an apple in one take, removing the skin in a single, long piece. It’s not just apples that you can peel with a paring knife. Use it to peel any fruit and vegetable you see fit, such as peaches, pears, potatoes, onions, and more. You can even peel tiny fruits like grapes using a paring knife.

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Scoring beef

Making slits along the surface of the meat helps cook it more evenly and drain excess fat. Additionally, scoring the meat makes chewing tougher cuts of meat easier and assists in absorbing the marinades. 

  1. Make 1/8 to 1/4 slits on the surface of the meat, one inch apart. 
  2. Once one side is complete, rotate to add a crosshatch pattern.

A paring knife makes it easier to score beef as the blade isn’t thick and more comfortable in hand. Undoubtedly, you can score the meat with a chef’s knife, but the size and weight of a paring knife make handling more manageable for most cooks.

Other uses of paring knives

These were just a few examples of where you can employ a paring knife. Use a paring knife to complete any task you see fit. Not limiting the use of a paring knife just for fruits and vegetables and appropriating it in the kitchen can help you get things done quickly. 

What to look for when buying a paring knife

Slicing knife and olives

There isn’t a universal standard for what makes a knife good, as everyone has their own preferences that they want to see in a kitchen knife. It’s up to you to decide what you’re looking for in a paring knife and make your purchase accordingly. 

Nonetheless, everybody should have a few general things in mind before buying a paring knife. Here is what to consider.

A perfect paring knife should have a pointy tip with a sharp edge. The length of the blade can be anywhere between 3 and 5 inches long, with most paring knives having a 3.5 inches long blade. Some paring knives also come with a curved blade.

Ideally, you shouldn’t pay more than $20 for a paring knife, but with everything to consider, such as the materials used, how it was forged, the design of the handle, and the overall quality, you can pay a lot more than that. However, an expensive knife doesn’t necessarily mean a better knife. Make sure to purchase a knife that you’re satisfied holding that is lightweight. If possible, hold the paring knife to see if the grip is comfortable to your liking before purchasing.

How to care for a paring knife?

Caring for a paring knife is not much different than any other kitchen knife. So, standard methods of caring apply to paring knives as well. Here is how to care for your paring knife to keep it in top shape.

Cleaning

Keeping a clean paring knife is an essential part of caring due to the nature of the work you demand from it. Many fruits and vegetables have natural acids in them that can lead to oxidation. Even if you have a stainless steel paring knife, make sure to clean and dry after use to get in the way of the acid damaging the blade and the handle.

Clean a paring knife by hand washing with soapy water and use the non-abrasive side of the sponge to eliminate stubborn stains. Rinse it under running warm water and dry with a clean cloth. While this is how you should clean your knives in general, there are also a few don’ts. 

  • Don’t put your knives in the dishwasher. 
  • Don’t leave your knives soaking in water.
  • Don’t leave your knives wet after rinsing. 

Sharpening and honing

Keeping the edge of the blade sharp and honing is a must in knife care. You don’t want to sharpen your paring knife as often as a chef’s knife, mainly due to the thinner blade. If you sharpen the blade of a paring knife every other week, you will soon run out of a blade to cut as sharpening removes material from the metal, creating a brand new edge. 

Instead, hone your paring knife regularly to realign the bent edges. Learn more about how to sharpen a knife and honing techniques.

Storing

You need to employ proper storing methods not just for your paring knife but all of your kitchen tools. When kitchen knives aren’t stored properly, the edges can get damaged, requiring you to sharpen and hone them more often. Inappropriate storage methods can ruin the edge of the knives, resulting in chipping or even the blade breaking apart entirely if it’s a ceramic knife. 

We advise utilizing the proper storage tools like in-drawer knife racks or magnetic strips to keep the blades from rubbing onto each other and protect them from further damages. Read more on appropriate knife storage methods

With so many types of kitchen knives, deciding on which one to employ in the kitchen can get tricky. There are different knives built with specific purposes in mind. Go to our handmade kitchen knives collection to find the knife that will accommodate your needs.

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