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Updated May 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best paring knives

A paring knife is typically one of the most-used knives in the kitchen, helping with tasks like coring strawberries and peeling fruit when a chef’s knife isn’t precise enough. You typically only need one paring knife in your kitchen, though there are different blade shapes better suited to different tasks.

While a decent paring knife can be found for a reasonably low price, paying a bit more for a forged, full-tang blade will get you a high-quality knife that feels nice in your hands and is less likely to cause accidents. Most blades are made of stainless steel, but it’s the quantity of carbon in the blade that determines its strength and hardness. Maintaining maximum sharpness is the key to both good food prep and safety, and some blades are easier to sharpen than others.

A pair of hands slice potatoes over a colander.
Your paring knife should always be kept sharp, so your cuts come out perfect every time. A good knife sharpener is easier than a sharpening rod for many home cooks to use.

What is a paring knife?

A paring knife is a small kitchen knife with a blade that’s four inches or shorter. As the name implies, paring knives are designed for peeling the skin off fruits and vegetables.

While a chef’s knife can be used for most vegetable-chopping tasks, a paring knife is often better suited to the job, especially when precision is needed. In general, any job dealing with small fruits or vegetables is best performed with a paring knife.

A paring knife is also a good go-to knife for basic tasks like opening packaging, trimming meat, or testing the doneness of brownies.

Key considerations

Choosing the best possible paring knife is all about blade quality. The shape of the blade and whether or not the knife is full-tang (with the blade extending through the handle) are major factors in determining the quality of a paring knife.

Forged vs. stamped blades

A stamped blade is mostly flat, punched out of a single piece of metal. A forged blade is tapered, with its widest point at the handle.

Less expensive knives usually have stamped blades. The thinner blade results in a flimsier feel, and the blade is far more likely to bend and even break, which may cause serious injury. However, because stamped blades are lighter, they won’t tire your wrist or arm as quickly, so a stamped blade might be your best option for longer tasks. Though they may not look or feel as nice as forged blades, stamped blades work for many and are popular in professional kitchens.

Forged blades are heavier and usually more expensive. The shape of the blade reinforces it, preventing the blade from bending and snapping as a stamped blade might. Forged blades have a bolster at the point where the blade enters or meets the handle, which prevents the blade from bending and snapping. However, the extra weight of forged blades may tire you out more quickly, which can lead to injury and make some tasks more challenging.

Expert tip
Never let go of your paring knife while washing in soapy water. Once it drops below the bubbles, fishing around for it in the water can be dangerous.
BestReviews Cooking and Baking Expert

Blade material

Paring knife blades are usually either stainless steel or high-carbon steel. Ceramic paring knives are also common, but they are less popular than their metal counterparts.

Stainless steel blades are strong and difficult to bend. They are also less expensive than most ceramic or high-carbon steel blades.

High-carbon steel blades are harder than stainless steel blades, but they are also more brittle. However, they remain a popular choice for their extreme sharpness.

Ceramic blades are often inexpensive and are extremely sharp due to the hardness of ceramic. Like high-carbon steel, however, this hardness also means ceramic is very brittle – even more so than high-carbon steel. As a result, it is best suited to slicing and is not as versatile as stainless steel or high-carbon steel.

Tang

The tang is the part of the blade that extends into the knife’s handle. A partial tang extends partway into the handle, resulting in a knife that is somewhat more prone to breakage.

A full-tang knife has a blade that extends all the way through the handle. This serves two purposes. The first is to prevent the blade from snapping. The second is to balance the knife, giving the user more control over the blade.

Full-tang knives are often more expensive and are usually preferred by professional chefs.

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Staff tip
Try different lengths and shapes of paring knives to find the one that fits your purpose. A serrated paring knife, frequently called a tomato knife, works great for slicing easily-crushed items like tomatoes and peeled boiled eggs.
STAFF
BestReviews

Features

Your paring knife should feel good in your hand and possibly complement or match the other knives in your set.

Types of paring knives

There are four common types of paring knives, though other styles do exist.        

Spear-tip paring knives have a classic knife shape with a curved blade edge and spine. These paring knives are the most common type and are known for their versatility. Spear-tip paring knives excel at both peeling and chopping. If you regularly peel, core, and chop up fruits, this is a good option.

Bird’s beak paring knives have a concave blade that is usually made of thicker metal to increase its strength. The inward curve of the blade makes this style suited to peeling or carving intricate details.

Sheep’s foot paring knives stand out for their completely flat blade edges. The rounded tip of these knives makes them the best option for julienning and thin slicing, as you can safely apply pressure to the knife tip with your other hand.

Serrated paring knives come in all three blade shapes and are used for cutting through tougher fruits and vegetables. Though you usually only need one paring knife, it can be helpful to also have a serrated paring knife in your knife set.

Handle shape and material

In general, a thicker handle increases the surface area of the handle and is less likely to slip from your hand. The handle should be oval-shaped rather than round, as this makes the handle less likely to spin. Square-shaped handles are even less likely to spin but may be uncomfortable to hold.

Plastic handles are inexpensive and can provide decent grip. In addition, they are lighter than other materials, allowing you to work longer without becoming fatigued. Wood handles have a classic look and feel good against your skin. They provide some grip, but they are not as grippy as plastic and are less likely to have an ergonomic shape. Metal handles are sleek and easy to clean, but they do not provide very good grip and are far heavier than wood or plastic handles.

Balance

The balance of a knife is one of the biggest factors in the overall feel of the knife. There’s no “correct” balance for a knife. Some people prefer the center of mass to be in the handles, while others like it in the bolster of the blade. It may take some experimenting to find your preference, but the knife should feel comfortable and easy to control.

Expert Tip
Always keep your paring knives sharp. An accidental finger cut with a sharp knife heals faster than a cut with a ragged blade.
BestReviews Cooking and Baking Expert

Paring knife prices

Inexpensive

Paring knives that retail for $5 to $20 typically have stamped blades and plastic handles. The blades are typically made of stainless steel, but some knives may have ceramic blades. Cheap and lightweight, the paring knives in this range are good for occasional use and basic tasks in the kitchen.

Mid-range

For $20 to $40, you’ll find more reliable paring knives that may have forged, full-tang blades. Plastic and wooden handles are common in this range.

High-end

Paring knives that cost $40 to $100 often have forged, full-tang blades made of high-carbon steel or stainless steel. Some higher-end knives have metal handles, but plastic and wood are also popular for their superior grip.

Tips

  • Sharper equals safer – particularly when it comes to paring knives, which are often used close to your fingertips for precise chopping and dicing. The sharper the blade, the less likely it is to slip.
  • Use your non-dominant hand to steady the food you are working with.
  • When peeling fruits or vegetables, most people cut toward themselves, which can take some practice. If you are worried about accidentally injuring yourself, you can peel away, but you may find that you have less control using this method.
  • When chopping or dicing, you should curl the fingers of your non-dominant hand so the fingertips are roughly parallel to the blade.
  • The tip of a paring knife can be used for delicate jobs like removing seeds.
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Paring knives generally range in length from two to four inches, making them well-suited to chopping work that requires precision.

FAQ

Q. How often should I sharpen my paring knife?

A. That depends on how often you use it, but the simple answer is that your paring knife should be sharpened whenever you notice it slipping or struggling to cut properly. This may be every few weeks or every few months.

Q. Can a paring knife be cleaned in the dishwasher?

A. In general, a dishwasher is a good way to damage the blade of your knife and possibly the handle as well. Your paring knife should be hand-washed and hand-dried to keep the blade sharp and rust-free.

Q. Can rust be removed from a knife?

A. Yes, and you may not need special products to do it. Soaking your knife in vinegar or a mixture of lemon juice and water can loosen the rust enough to be scrubbed off.

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