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What Is a Tourné Knife?

The tourné knife, also known as the bird’s beak knife, is a short paring knife with a curved blade. You might find the way it looks a bit odd at first and ask yourself whether or not this belongs to a kitchen knife, but using a tourné knife has proven itself to save time and energy in culinary arts. 

The word tourné is French for turning or turned. That’s where these knives get their name from. When using a tourné knife to perform the unique cut it is known for, you turn the ingredients in your hand rather than slicing them on the cutting board. 

This article will detail everything you need to know about the tourné knife, including how to use it and perform a tourné cut.

Tourné knife purpose

A tourné knife is a lot like a vegetable knife. The only difference to a regular paring knife is the short, curved blade. Most cooks use this unique feature of the tourné knives to turn vegetables and fruits into tourné, a fancy, French way to garnish dishes. 

Tourné knives come in handy in many tasks, especially when coring fruits vegetables. The distinctive blade of the tourné knife isn’t only good for this purpose. 

The curved blade also makes peeling round fruits and vegetables such as easy task. If you’re looking for a knife to peel solely apples, pears, oranges, and so on, a tourné knife will be the best one you can get.

What is a tourné cut?

Tourné cut is a French way to transform vegetables and fruits into one to two-inch, seven-sided shapes. Essentially, a football but not the kind of football you would see in a soccer match. 

Tourné cuts are an excellent and unique method to garnish dishes, especially soups and stews, but you can cook tournéd veggies in any way you can imagine. 

Potatoes, carrots, and zucchinis are the most commonly used vegetables for tourné cuts as French foods require a lot of these ingredients in many recipes. Still, you can use any fruit or vegetable to turn them into a tourné. 

Transforming whole vegetables into a tourné can also help if your children aren’t keen on eating vegetables to create pieces that are pleasing to the eye.

How to perform a tourné cut?

tourné cut
Source: YouTube

Before we begin explaining how to make a tourné cut, know that the technique it isn’t really for novice home cooks. It takes a lot of control over the blade, and if you just got a tourné knife and haven’t got a feel for it yet, you may find it challenging to execute. Nevertheless, practice makes perfect. Here is how to cut vegetables into tourné. 

Holding the tourné knife

A unique knife requires a particular holding position that is different than other knives. Unlike a paring knife, you need to hold the tourné knife with your fingers, not using your whole hand. 

Take the tourné knife, wrap the handle inside your forefinger, and grip the rest of the blade with the other fingers while your thumb is sticking up – a lot like holding a paring knife for peeling a vegetable. The handle should be firmly held inside your wrapped fingers and feel comfortable. If you have small hands, make sure the handle isn’t close to your palms as you won’t be able to hold the handle as firmly.

Tourné potato

To explain how to perform a tourné cut, we’ll use potato as an example.

  1. Peel the potato and cut it vertically in half and trim off both ends.
  2. Hold the potato in your non-dominant hand with your thumb on one end and forefinger on the other. Use support from the rest of your fingers where you see necessary. As long as the potato is secured in place and you can turn it, you’re good to go. 
  3. With the mid-point of the blade on the potato, pull it towards yourself and push the potato into the knife, kind of like opening a mason jar.
  4. Once you finish the cut, follow it up with another right next to it and round the potato up until you have seven sides.

The first time you complete a tourné cut, it won’t look as smooth as you want. Go over every seven sides once again, and voila, you’ll have a perfectly tourné potato. If necessary, you can make minor cuts on the ends to even the potato, but they should also be slightly curved and look symmetrical.

We recommend going slow the first few tries. If this is your first time trying a tourné cut, we highly suggest using a potato rather than other vegetables. You can turn them into mashed potatoes if they don’t look the way you anticipated, and nothing will go to waste. Again, practice makes perfect, and the more you try, the better tournés you will have over time.

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Difference between tourné knife and paring knife

A paring knife is generally three to four inches long, whereas tourné knives are two to three inches long. Almost always, a tourné knife’s handle is lengthier than the blade. This is a great way to locate a tourné knife if you store your knives in a drawer.

While the distinction in the blade shapes is apparent, this difference creates many changes in how you cut ingredients. It’s a lot difficult to cut a vegetable or fruit on the cutting board using a tourné knife due to the curvature. The blade’s shape requires the cook to hold the ingredients to cut in hand rather than cutting on a flat surface. This is the main difference in the uses of a tourné knife compared to a paring knife.

Caring for a tourné knife

tourné knife on wooden board
Source: YouTube

General maintenance needs for a kitchen knife apply to tourné knives. After all, most kitchen knives are made using similar materials but constructed differently. 

Wash your tourné knife by hand, dry it after use, and properly store it. Although most home cooks won’t need the assistance of a tourné knife as often as other knives, regular sharpening and honing is a must to keep a sharp edge. However, sharpening a tourné knife is more challenging compared to other kitchen knives.

The curvature of the blade eliminates whetstones altogether as you would only be able to sharpen the tip and the heel when sharpened at the angle of the edge. Small India stone blocks and wet dry sandpapers with high grits are commonly used to sharpen a tourné knife. 

If you’re new to sharpening kitchen knives through these not-so-traditional sharpening methods, you might want to take it to a professional sharpener instead. Additionally, honing your tourné knife often will give you a better edge, but you’ll eventually need to sharpen it one way or another.

Undoubtedly, tourné knives are unique knives made with a specific purpose in mind. Visit our knives collection to see handmade knives made to last, and read more on the HDMD blog to learn more about other kitchen knives and kitchen tips.

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