The mighty yet small paring knife is a true multipurpose knife that we turn to daily, whether to peel fruit, crush garlic, slice cheese or even de-vein shrimp. It can handle almost anything where precision and versatility is required, unlike its big brother the chef’s knife, which although mighty in size is not well suited to detailed food preparation.With four main types of paring knife available, this review takes an in-depth look at these distinct types and what each of these can offer to your daily food preparation needs.
Our versatile best pick is the NSF certified precision forged Mercer Culinary Genesis 3½" paring knife with its durable handle and limited lifetime warranty.
The Victorinox 4" Classic paring knife offers a laser tested tapered edge and easy grip non-slip handle suitable for any kitchen budget.
Quick Comparison: Top 10 Best Paring Knife
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1. Mercer Culinary Genesis 3½" Paring Knife
The Mercer Culinary Genesis 3½" paring knife has a German, high carbon stainless steel blade precision forged for durability and strength. As it is a high carbon blade, it will need immediate washing and drying after use to help reduce the risk of rust or corrosion. The blade is a full tang blade and its edge has been taper ground for long lasting sharpness and greater cutting efficiency; although this knife will need regular honing and/or sharpening to keep it sharp.There is a limited lifetime warranty on this NSF certified knife and it has a slightly larger santoprene handle for comfort and non-slip gripping. The handle can also withstand cold and hot temperatures.
2. Victorinox 4-Inch Swiss Classic Paring Knife
The black handled, straight bladed Victorinox 4" Classic paring knife has a laser tested tapered knife edge designed to hold its sharp edge for longer. Although dishwasher safe, the manufacturer recommends hand washing this multifunction knife.Although the Swiss Classic easy grip handle is designed for easy handling when wet, some users may find that the plastic-like and lightweight feel of the handle makes it feel slightly uncomfortable when using. This knife comes with a lifetime warranty against material and workmanship defects. It is recommended that it be honed after every couple of uses to help keeps its edge sharp.
3. Victorinox 47600 VN40600 Fixed Blade, Knife
The Victorinox 3¼" paring knife is a straight edged multipurpose knife. It has an ergonomic non-slip lightweight polypropylene handle which may not suit all users. With a lifetime warranty against material and workmanship defects, this lightweight and durable knife offers a tapered knife edge that is ground in two directions (double beveled) to keep its sharpness for longer.
Although designed as a lightweight multipurpose knife, some may find that it feels a little too light when using and may need to adapt food preparation techniques while getting used to this.
4. Victorinox 3.25 Inch Paring Knife
This 3¼" Victorinox paring knife has a large and durable polypropylene handle which helps to ensure knife balance and a more comfortable grip during use. The blade is ground in two directions (double beveled) to allow it to keep its sharp edge for longer and to also make it easier to sharpen.Although the handle is longer, it is thinner than that of similar models and like other knives from this manufacturer, it is recommended that it be honed after every couple of uses.
5. Wusthof WU4066/09 CLASSIC Paring Knife
This straight edged, or spear tipped Wusthof Classic 3½" paring knife has a forged high carbon stainless steel blade which has been hand honed for sharpness. Regular honing and sharpening is necessary with this model, particularly if used daily.Made in Germany, this knife is dishwasher safe and comes with a lifetime guarantee. The handle is composite and has been triple riveted for strength, but some users may find it uncomfortable to hold for any length of time due to its shape.
6. Dalstrong Gladiator Series 3½" Paring Knife
The full tang, high carbon German steel Dalstrong Gladiator Series 3½" paring knife has a straight edged blade. Sharpened by hand, the 56+ Rockwell blade is suitable for ultra-thin slicing. The handle is triple riveted black pakkawood which has been laminated for strength, stain and water resistance and hygiene.
The handle also ensures that the knife is perfectly weighted, although some users may find it a little too heavy in comparison with similar knives. Regular honing and or sharpening is necessary to keep it sharp in daily use. The knife comes with a BPA-free sheath and a satisfaction guarantee.
7. J.A. HENCKELS INTERNATIONAL Classic 4" Paring Knife
Forged from high quality German stainless steel, the J.A. HENCKELS INTERNATIONAL Classic 4" paring knife has a satin finished blade that has been finely honed to retain its sharpness. Its more angular handle is ergonomic and triple riveted. There is a lifetime warranty against manufacturers defects.Some users may notice on purchase that quality checking of the finishing honing may not have been as effective as it could have been, so a little extra honing or sharpening may be necessary before first use. This knife is suitable for cleaning in the dishwasher.
8. Wusthof Pro Paring Knife, 3-1/2-Inch
An NSF certified knife, the Wusthof Pro 3½" paring knife is made from stainless alloyed steel for sharpness, rust resistance and minimal maintenance, although it may be more prone to rusting than similar knives. Suitable for commercial kitchen use, the handle is an ergonomic and non-slip. This lighter weight knife is suitable for cleaning in the dishwasher.
9. Wusthof - Classic 2.75 Inch Peeling Knife
The Wusthof Classic 2¾" peeling knife is a bird’s beak style knife precision forged from high carbon stainless steel and tempered to 58 Rockwell. It utilizes PEtec or Precision Edge Technology to offer a blade that is not only 20% sharper but has twice the edge retention.Complete with a lifetime limited warranty, this German-made peeling knife has a full tang blade and triple riveted synthetic handle. Although dishwasher safe, the manufacturer recommends hand washing.
10. MAC Knife Professional Paring Knife
The Japanese made 3¼" MAC Knife professional paring knife is made from high carbon stainless steel to maintain its sharp edge. Although a 58+ Rockwell hardness; as a Japanese high carbon stainless steel, it may be more prone to nicks than other paring knives, so extra care when washing and storing can help to minimize risk of damage to the blade. It has a pakkawood ergonomic handle and needs to be handwashed as it is not dishwasher safe.
Things to Consider Before Buying the Best Paring Knife
About the Paring Knife
After a chef’s knife, the paring knife is probably the most used knife in the kitchen. Suitable for tasks such as fruit and vegetable paring (peeling) and preparation, mincing shallots, peeling and crushing garlic, de-seeding chilis and peppers, de-veining shrimp, trimming meat fat, filleting small fish or slicing cheese; they will do almost any job that a chef’s knife is too big or clumsy for.
Paring knives are designed for precision, usually lightweight and have a short sturdy blade that measures between 2" and 4" in length.
The paring knife was used by bookbinders in France back in the 1500s. The couteau à parer was a wooden handled piece of steel with a very thin cutting edge used to thin the edge of a leather book binding so that when the book was bound, the cover would stick better to the board. It would also look neater.
Choosing a Paring Knife
It can be helpful to keep a couple of different sized or different types or paring knife as this will allow you to use them for a variety of kitchen tasks.
You may need to use the knife on the board or in your hands. For the cutting board, a longer bladed spear tip would be more useful, while a shorter knife with a curved blade (such as the bird’s beak) can offer more control and versatility when using in your hands such as when you are peeling an apple.
When selecting one, look for a blade that will fit into corners and a tight curve when paring and one with a comfortable handle and non-slip grip. Many chefs prefer to use a paring knife which is a full tang. This means the metal that the blade is made from runs from the tip of the knife to the end of the handle.
The weight of a paring knife is not as an important consideration for many of us than it would be if we were selecting larger knives, but it’s worth noting that the paring knife is lighter weight to improve its agility when using.
Types of Paring Knife
There are four main types of paring knife:
With its short blade and outward sweeping curve, the spear tip or straight edged is the type of paring knife that most of will use daily.
The main purpose of this knife is for coring, but most of us tend to use it as a general purpose knife and for peeling vegetables and fruit as the thin edge of the short blade slides easily under the skin, taking off only the thin outer layer. The small handle also makes it easy to control.
Named after, you guessed it, the shape of a sheep’s foot; this knife has a smooth straight edged blade, ideal for cutting cheese and julienning, or French cutting vegetables. It doesn’t have a blade tip as such, instead the dull back side of the blade curves over towards the blade and stops where it is flat, rather than moving to a point. Designed this way for safety, as when julienning vegetables, we usually need to press down on the back side of the blade which means that if our hand does slip, we are less likely to cut ourselves because of the lack of curve and point.
Bird’s beak or tourne
Similar in size to the above paring knives, the characteristic of this paring knife is its inward curved, or non-curved blade. The blade ends at an extremely sharp tip that is over the sharp side of the blade, giving a hooked or bird’s beak appearance.
Not just useful for peeling, the bird’s beak paring knife is usually used for carving fruits and vegetables and it can also be very helpful for pumpkins. The shape of the blade means that it can sit closer to the rounded shape, removing the skin in fewer slices. The tip can then be used to carve in any fancy designs.
Although almost any type of knife can come with a serrated blade, serrated can also sit in a group of its own as this type of blade is ideal for cutting through anything with a tough skin or hard crust, such as tomatoes or baguettes. The serrated blade can place more pressure on the food that you’re cutting without you having to push down hard onto the food.
If the serrated edge knife has a forked tip, then it is known as a tomato or bar knife and its tip is designed to pick up the food after cutting.
The Composition of a Paring Knife
Most paring knives are stainless steel, a mix of alloys that help to resist rusting and keep a sharp edge. The Rockwell scale is used to measure the hardness of steel and a high carbon stainless steel knife will usually have a Rockwell rating of 55 or above. This means that not only will the knife hold its sharp edge, but it will also sharpen easily.
A forged knife is one in which the blade is created from heated metal that has been individually hammered, then it is ground and honed. A stamped blade knife is made when a die or hydraulic press cuts the knife out from a sheet of steel and this ‘blank’ then goes through multi-stage grinding and honing.
Forged knives are usually thicker and heavier, better balanced and more expensive that a stamped knife. A forged knife will often have a bolster - a thick band of steel between the heel (rear portion) of the blade and the handle.
The handle of a paring knife should fit well without any visible gaps or burrs. Many handles today are plastic or plastic composites as these tend to be durable and easy to clean. Stainless steel handles are durable but may be slippery unless an extra covering, such as silicone, is added to make them non-slip. Wooden handles are not as popular nowadays as they lack durability and are not as hygienic as other types of handle.
Caring for a Paring Knife
After a good wash in hot soapy water and a drying off with a soft towel, your knife can be put away, preferably into a block or box to prevent any chipping or damage from other cutlery in the drawer.
Many paring knives are dishwasher safe, although manufacturers may recommend hand washing only. It is always worth checking the terms of any warranty though as this may be voided if dishwasher cleaning damages the knife.
The Difference Between Honing and Sharpening
When knives are in contact with harder items such as bones or even the cutting board, their edges become turned in or rolled. To straighten the edge of the knife, honing is necessary.
Honing a knife needs a rod-shaped steel or hone, which many of us think of as a sharpening steel, but its correct name is a hone or honing steel. Made from either steel or ceramic, the hone keeps a sharp knife sharp.
Honing cannot sharpen a dulled blade; it is more of a maintenance tool. Any knife should be honed on a regular basis either in line with manufacturers recommendations or if not, a weekly hone can really help keep them sharp.
After heavy use, the steel particles on the edge of a knife will become damaged, causing the blade to dull or blunt. There may also be visible nicks along the edge. Once a knife is in this condition it needs sharpening as a hone is unable to replace the sharp edge. Sharpening can be done using the traditional whetstone or a manual or electric knife grinder. Once the blade is sharp again, you can then use a hone to help keep it sharp.
Health Warnings on Paring Knifes
Some knives may carry a Proposition 65 or Prop 65 warning. This Californian regulation covers many chemicals and materials such as stainless steel which contains chromium or brass which contains lead. A Prop 65 warning applies to any product that may be bought by residents of California.
In this review we have looked at some of the bestselling paring knives available as well as an in-depth look at the paring knife itself. Whether it is on which type to select, how it is made or even how to keep it sharp, we hope that you find the information we have supplied useful.
As a multipurpose small knife, the versatility of the paring knife cannot be beaten. Whether you prefer the straight edged, the sheep’s foot or the bird’s beak paring knife - or even like quite a few of us, you like to keep at least one of each type to hand - choosing the best paring knife will not only help you pare fruit and vegetables well, but will also assist with many other types of preparation needed in the kitchen.