What Is a Paring Knife Used For? The Technical Application of Cutlery

bell pepper, seasonings and a kitchen knife

Picking the right knives for your kitchen can be intimidating. Chef knife, boning knife, or tomato knife? And, what is a paring knife used for, anyway?

Stealthy and underestimated, paring knives can almost do it all! If, that is, you know how to use them.

What Is A Paring Knife Used For?

While some knives have a specific and fairly obvious function (think: a cheese knife), some are multi-function workhorses that every chef should have in their kitchen. But just like Batman with his utility belt, a paring knife is the "bat tool" you need for your own kitchen gadget collection.

A paring knife is used to prep food. This prep work can include dicing or chopping ingredients for a recipe. Or, you can use a paring knife to prep garnishes (like creating a radish rose for a salad or even chopping a simple lemon slice to top off some fish).

Often, the answer to, "What is a paring knife used for?" is things that we just do with our hands, like peeling an apple. This is opposed to tasks that require getting out a chopping board, like dicing an onion.

While you generally use a chef knife to slice and dice, sometimes grapes, herbs, and other small items are better chopped with a paring knife. It’s easier to move the small paring knife with precision. This means cleaner cuts and prettier food.

Also, because you have more control over a paring knife, you’re less likely to lose control of small items (like said grapes).

What Is A Paring Knife Used For? Yes,
There's More!

Sure. A paring knsife is small, which makes it the perfect choice for smaller jobs (like slicing grapes). However, just because it’s small, doesn’t mean paring knives aren’t versatile.

Paring knives are fantastic, all-purpose kitchen tools that do more than chop grapes. So, what else is a paring knife used for?

Ditching The peeler

I find vegetable peelers a pain. I angle the blade right and still destroy whatever I’m peeling. Plus, I always end up with a giant pile of tiny scraps at the bottom of my sink.

When asking what is a paring knife used for, peeling vegetables is one of the top answers!

Paring knives are an excellent alternative to traditional peelers, especially if you want to control the length and thickness of your peel. For example, if you want to create one long lemon ribbon, grab a paring knife instead of your peeler.

With the paring knife, you’re able to loop around the lemon in one continuous stroke. There’s no way to do that with a vegetable peeler. You’re stuck making short, scraping motions to get the peel off.

As a bonus, if you’re short on space, you can ditch the peeler entirely for the paring knife, making the paring knife a two-in-one tool.

Delicate Maneuvers

Sometimes you need to do something delicate on a small piece of fruit. For example, if you want to hull a strawberry (meaning, get the green part off), you should use a paring knife for this tender task.

So, what is a paring knife used for, you ask? Well, paring knives are small and easy to handle, allowing you to grasp the food in one hand and strike with surgical precision with the other.

While you could take any knife and make a straight chop across the top of the strawberry, you’ll end up creating more waste (and enjoy fewer strawberries!). Instead, use the sharp tip of the paring knife to “dig out” the stem.

Take the knife tip and slide it into the berry, close to the stem.

Cut around the stem then pop it out. Viola! More strawberry to enjoy.

Keeping score

Dividing and conquering

And much more

Picking The Perfect Paring Knife

vegetables chopped by a pairing knife

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Now that you’re convinced you need to have a paring knife (or maybe three or four!) in your kitchen, you want to know how to pick the perfect paring knife.

Unlike many kitchen tools, when it comes to paring knives, there are only two things you need to worry about.

Check the blade

Check the feel

What About A Santoku Paring Knife?

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Santoku vs. chef knife debate and are wondering if there is a Santoku knife vs. paring knife debate. Well, maybe.

A Santoku knife is all about the blade. A Santoku knife edge is scalloped, which lets air in between the food and the knife blade. Some people feel this makes it easier to cut the food.

Also, because you have more control over a paring knife, you’re less likely to lose control of small items (like said grapes).

However, on Santoku-style paring knives, you won't find the scalloped edge. You may find that the cutting edge of the blade is thinner than the rest of the blade, but it’s one solid line. Does this solid line make it easier to cut things? Maybe.

In the end, picking the perfect paring knife is a matter of what style of paring knife works best for you. Pick the one that gives you the most comfort, control, and flexibility. That is what makes for the perfect paring knife.

What Is A Paring Knife Used For?
Practically Everything!

Couple are cooking and the man is chopping vegetables using the pairing knife

Image by Werner Heiber from Pixabay

Maybe asking, "What is a paring knife used for?" is the wrong question. Perhaps asking, “What is a paring knife not used for?” is the better one.

Clearly, this tiny knife can do the lion’s share of work in the kitchen. From slicing and dicing to creating delicate ribbons and curls, the paring knife can do it all.

What do you think? Are Santoku paring knives better than traditional paring knives? What cool things have you done with a paring knife? Sound off in the comments below!


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