Three Things to Consider Before Buying a Paring Knife

How to select the most useful blades in your kitchen.

Paring knives
Paring knives are small, easy to handle, and suited for dozens of kitchen tasks.Kelly Sikkema

A paring knife is best for mincing and dicing, peeling, and coring. But there’s a lot more you can do with a great paring knife. Look for a paring knife with a blade in the 3 to 3 ½ inch range. That size is still small enough for maintaining control over the edge and tip for precision cutting, but it’s stout and strong enough to help disjoint cuts of meat, remove skin, and slice cheese and salami. Find the right paring knife and you’ll likely reach for it first every time you need an edge.

Mercer Culinary Millennia 3.5-Inch Paring Knife
This blade has a textured grip and an ergonomic handle.Mercer Culinary

Make sure a paring knife fits your hand well. You’ll likely be using it in wet, slick conditions—cutting beef fat, wet veggies, or hot potatoes—so you’ll want a knife handle with an ergonomic shape. Most paring knives have fairly straight handles, but it’s nice to find one with a bit of swell in the butt of the handle, or a choil (indentation), where the handle and blade meet. These design features not only help you control the blade, but give you a tactile reference point in hand so you’re always aware of the blade’s orientation without looking at it.

Mercer Culinary Millennia 3-Inch Slim Paring Knife
The narrow handle on this model makes it easy to control the point for accurate, precise cuts.Mercer Culinary

A blade with just a bit of spring and flex is a big help when you’re peeling and paring round vegetables or boning a chicken and want to maneuver the blade tip into tight places. So, don’t think a blade with slight flex is sub-par. It may be the perfect tool for the cut.

Paring Knife
The wooden handle on this blade helps you keep your grip when your hand is wet.ALLWIN-HOUSEWARE W

Since you use a paring knife for such a wide range of kitchen tasks, a specialized blade profile (the shape of the blade’s outline) isn’t necessary. But you will need to choose between two primary paring knife shapes. A spear point has a straight edge that ends with a sharp tip. It’s designed for detailed tasks when you need to carefully control the knife tip, like when coring tomatoes. A blade with a slightly curved profile, called the “belly,” will still handle peeling and dicing chores, but it’s slightly better at slicing compared to a spear point.

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