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Paring Knives and Selecting the Right Ones for You

Paring knives are one of the greatest utility kitchen tools out there, but do you know how to select the best one for you?

The Importance of a Paring Knife

There are three essential kitchen knives every cook needs in their kitchen: a chef’s knife, a serrated knife, and a paring knife. Paring knives are best for slicing and mincing items that are too small for an 8 - 10 inch blade, so a paring knife picks up where a chef’s knife leaves off. An average blade length is about 3 ½ inches long, making it a great tool for any foods that require attention to detail when cutting. Mincing garlic, hulling strawberries, peeling oranges and apples, deveining shrimp and other delicate tasks are made possible with a paring knife.

 

Here are all the useful things a paring knife can do:

Vegetables

  • Peeling
  • Slicing
  • Coring
  • Removing seeds
  • Testing tenderness
  • Mincing herbs
  • Eyeing potatoes
  • Skinning Mushrooms
  • Crushing garlic

Fruit

  • Peeling
  • Slicing
  • Coring
  • Segmenting citrus
  • Hulling strawberries

Meat and Seafood

  • De-veining prawns
  • Shucking oysters
  • Fileting small fish
  • Scoring meat
  • Trimming fat
  • Carving poultry carcasses
  • Testing tenderness

 

Do I Want a Rigid or Flexible Blade?

When buying a paring knife there are 3 main considerations, the blade’s shape/size/construction, comfort and grip, and price. Since paring knives will be, and likely are, one of the most used in your arsenal, it’s important to find a brand that is lightweight, comfortable to grip, and very sharp.

If you’re cutting fruits and soft vegetables, a flexible blade will suffice for your purposes. It’s great for handling curved objects and being used off a cutting board. However, if you want to cut harder vegetables, root vegetables like carrots, you will prefer a rigid knife with less give and a heavy enough blade to perform the task. If you need a chopping board, the thicker your knife’s spine the better.

Bear Country Kitchen carries paring knives from Wusthof, Cuisinart, and Victorinox. The Wusthof and Cuisinart blades are both rigid, while the Victorinox brand makes a blade that is lighter-weight and more flexible.

Imagine you are hulling strawberries. You’re holding the fruits in one hand, while hulling it with your knife in the other. In this case, using a paring knife requires you to cut in different directions on different planes. A heavier paring knife or one with a larger handle is likely to lead to your hands becoming tired and taking off a little more fruit than its flexible counterpart. If your blade is light enough - fatigue won’t be an issue. Usually when you’re cutting fruit, you’ll want some flex in the blade so it can worm its way into tight spaces and conform to curves for cleaner cuts. If you have a utility knife, you likely don’t need a rigid paring knife.

Which Length Is Ideal for my Needs?

Paring knives range from 2.5 inches to 4.5 inches in length, but the majority of brands sell a 3.5 inch blade as the standard length. There are three main situations where knife length will make a difference. 

  1. The shorter the blade, the more accurate the cutting; therefore, if you’re going to be using the knife to carve designs for decorative purposes, the smaller the better. 
  2. Larger knives have larger handles, so opting for one 4 inches or longer is best if you want a long handle. If you have large hands, you’ll probably feel better with a larger handle.
  3. The larger the size of the food you cut, the larger you want your blade to be.

Unless you’re situation fits one of these three descriptions, the standard 3 - 4 inch length will achieve everything you need it to do. Try a few out when you’re shopping around, and you’ll be able to get the best fit for your hands and personal coordination. 

Is a Serrated or Straight Blade Better?

Serrated blades are ideal for cutting certain fruits and vegetables like ginger or tomato. The sawing motion of the serrated knife makes it easier to slice through tough skin and delicate flesh without squishing or deforming it. Other tasks that work better with a serrated blade are slicing citrus, cutting chilled cookie dough, removing orange pith, cutting bread, Use a serrated blade for cutting anything that is hard on the outside and soft on the inside.

Do I Need an Expensive Paring Knife?

Among the three essential kitchen knives, a high quality paring knife is the easiest to purchase at a good value. When it comes to getting an effective paring knife for an exceptional value, we recommend the Victorinox’ Swiss paring knife, which will stand out in your knife drawer for its bright colour and utility. Cook’s Illustrated and Good Housekeeping both selected the Victorinox paring knife as a top pick, and it’s a favourite of culinary professionals throughout the industry for it’s high quality sharp blade.

These paring knives are ultimately the exception to the rule - “You get what you pay for.” Ranging from $9 - 20 - there’s nothing to hate about their price tag. These knives perform extremely well for their value. They make quick work of hulling strawberries and peeling apples without any snags because their sharp blades rival all of the competitors. The ultra-lightweight design even makes them easy to use off the cutting board. Bear Country Kitchen stocks two sizes of paring knives from the Victorinox brand; small (8cm) and large (10cm) in both classic and serrated blade styles as well as its foldable version.

 

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