Laminated or forged high-carbon stainless steel blades hold sharp and durable edges.
Full tang construction ensures strength, rigidity, and balance.
Molded rubber and impregnated wood handles are durable, sanitary, and easy to grip.
Match the size of the knife to your hand, as little knives frustrate big hands.
Consider your needs in choosing a knife. Standard paring knives are best for everyday uses.
Paring knives are small and compact, designed for close-up hand work like peeling apples, eyeing a potatoes, deveining shrimp or stemming green beans. The paring knife is the second most important tool a chef keeps in his tool box and is invaluable for those jobs too delicate to be handled by a larger knives.
Because a paring knife is used so close to your hands, it is especially important that the knife be of the highest possible quality. Most accidents in the kitchen occur when someone tries to forcefully cut with a dull knife and the knife either slips or cuts too far. A sharp knife with a heavy handle will keep you in control. Although inexpensive stamped paring knives can be effective, we recommend you avoid them as they are top heavy, dull easily, and will ultimately cost you more as you will find yourself continually replacing them.
Paring and peeling knives range in lengths between 5 and 11 cm; anything longer is considered a utility knife and will not deliver the precision and control of a paring knife in delicate situations. Paring knives are manufactured in a variety of styles, different shape suited to particular tasks:
Standard or Spearpoint Paring Knives – with the same shape as a chef’s knife in miniature, these are designed as all purpose paring knives. They easily handle a wide variety of tasks.
Sheep’s Foot or Straight Paring Knives – with a flat edge and a spine that curves suddenly to a point, these are ideally suited for peeling fruits and vegetables. Because they do not have a sharp tip, they are make ineffective garnishing and coring tools.
Clip Point Paring Knife – with the same curved edge as the standard paring knife and a spine that angles to a fine point from the middle of the blade, these are designed to make small deep cuts with ease.
Fluting Knife – shaped like an isosceles triangle, these feature a straight spine and a very fine tip. They are particularly useful for delicate and intricate garnishing and decorating.
Bird’s Beak Paring Knife – with its scythe-like curved blade, these knives are ideal for peeling round fruits or for carving tournes and other geometrical French cuts. Although they end in a sharp tip, the shape sometimes makes them too clumsy for garnishing.
Some of the best paring knives are forged from a single piece of high-carbon stainless steel. High carbon stainless-steel blades will sharpen easily, hold and retain a better edge, and will not rust, pit, or react with acidic foods.
Laminated blades combine the virtues of different metals in a single blade, usually by sandwiching a core of hard high-carbon steel between layers of softer stainless steel. Laminated blades are usually sharper, though more brittle, than knives forged from solid steel.
Stamped steel blades are cut from sheets of rolled steel and are generally softer that forged knives. Most do not sharpen as easily and tend to dull more quickly than forged knives, but there are exceptions to the rule. Manufacturers such as Global use stamped blades that are specially treated to attain a hardness rivaling that of most forged knives.
Ceramic blades are extremely hard, extremely sharp, and will hold an edge for months or years. The disadvantage to ceramic knives is that they very brittle and can be quite expensive. Ceramic knives will chip or crack if misused or dropped, and they must be sent back to the manufacturer to be sharpened.
The bolster serves as the transition point between a knife’s blade and its handle. Bolsters on western knives include a finger guard that drops from the handle down to the heel of the blade to help provide a more stable and secure grip. The bolster on Japanese knives has no finger guard and primarily serves as an extension of the handle. Japanese knives are generally designed to be held with a pinch grip (where the spine of the blade is pinched between the thumb and the forefinger). The absence of a bolster means the blade was probably made from stamped steel.
The first thing to look for in a handle is a full tang. The tang is the part of the blade that serves as the core of the handle. A full tang can often be seen running down the center of the handle all the way to the hilt, though they are sometimes fully encased in molded rubber or altogether replaced with precisely weighted stainless steel handles. Full tang knives are strong, durable, and well balanced. Avoid partial tang knives entirely as they are top heavy will crack or break in time.
In our opinion, the best handles are made from molded rubbers and woods impregnated with hard resins (such as Pakkawood and Staminawood) as they are durable, sanitary, and provide excellent grip. Plastic and stainless steel handles are also acceptable, but many chefs find them slippery, especially when wet. Some manufacturers like Global compensate for this with uniquely shaped and textured handles. Traditional rosewood handles are still considered ideal in some circles, but they require careful attention and regular maintenance otherwise they will warp and crack.
Because paring knives are smaller than other knives, they usually have smaller handles. The handles on the smallest paring knives are generally so tiny that those with large hands will find them difficult to use. The best rule for finding a suitable handle is to pick a knife that matches the size of your hand.