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For part two of my knife series, we will talk about the small, but mighty paring knife. I have probably cut myself more with a paring knife than any other knife. To be honest, I haven’t used the paring knife much because of our bad history together. But, part of becoming a better home cook is making sure you know how to use all the tools available to you.
The paring knife is the second most essential knife for home chefs, according to my research. If you use a Chef’s knife for 80% of the cuts you make, then you will probably use the paring knife for 10 to 15% of the other cuts you make. Use your paring knife for peeling, slicing, and coring fruits and vegetables and other fine cuts.
How to Hold your Paring Knife
You want to be in complete control of the knife as you make your cuts. Make sure that you grip the handle close to the blade and that the knife is comfortable in your hand. Your fingers should be wrapped around the handle in a firm comfortable grip with your thumb and forefinger gripping either side of the blade. Place your pointer finger along the top (unsharpened) edge of the blade for more control control.
Go at your own pace when making your cuts. As you get more comfortable with your grip and the type of cuts you’re making, you will naturally start to move faster, but take it slow at first.
Uses of the Paring Knife
Use the middle of the blade for slicing. Place the food against your cutting board. Lay the knife across the food and push down.
Or use your paring knife for peeling. Hold the food in your free hand. Place the blade against the fruit so that you are only cutting away the skin. For fruits with thicker skin, like an orange, you may want to place the fruit on a cutting board and peel the skin away by slicing down.
Use the tip for coring. Hold the food in your free hand. Place the tip of the knife into the fruit and twist until you release the core. As long as you are working with a sharp knife, you should not have to work hard to make your cuts. Let the knife do the work.
Other uses: deveining shrimp, slicing small foods, like garlic, segmenting citrus fruits, removing stems and seeds from peppers, and more!
Care of your Paring Knife
Hand wash your knives with soap and water after use. Never put them in the dishwasher. Washing in the dishwasher will cause the blade to dull faster.
Get your knives professionally sharpened once per year.
Hone them on a honing steel regularly. Honing does not sharpen the knife, but prolongs the life of the blade and helps your professionally sharpened blades last longer.
The paring knife is a versatile tool for home chefs as long as you know how to use it and how to care for it. Remember, keep those knives sharp to avoid cutting yourself! Learning how to use your knives can make cooking at home more enjoyable and more convenient.
If you do not have a paring knife, consider purchasing one. Look for one with a 3 to 3-1/2″ straight blade. You should plan to invest about $30-50 for a high quality paring knife, like this one from Wusthof. There are also reasonably priced sets with more than 1 type of blade. A serrated blade grips soft fruit, like tomatoes and strawberries easier, but a straight blade peels better. If you want even more versatility, check out a paring knife set, like this one.
For more on the Knife Knowledge series see my previous post on the Chef’s Knife.