In most residential and commercial kitchens, the paring knife is actually used more times than the chef’s knife. While the go-to knife for most food preparations is the chef’s knife, the paring knife is the next knife down the line. Hence, two questions are commonly asked, and they are: “What is a paring knife?” and “What is a paring knife used for in a kitchen?”
If you are a budding chef or want to become one or someone who just loves to cook but wants to make sure that you get the job done more efficiently and present food better, we will provide you with the right information about paring knives. This way, you would know when to use the tool and why you should own one.
What Is a Paring Knife?
A paring knife usually has a total length ranging from eight to eleven inches and installed with a three- to a four-inch blade. The blade also usually has a pointed tip and a very sharp edge.
The paring knife got its name from a tool used in 16th-century French bookbinding. The tool was called a “conteau a parer” or simply translated in the English language as a paring knife.
Paring means to peel or cut away, so the knife was used to thin the edges of leather bindings of books. This was done to prepare a cover of a book to make sure it was cleaner and stuck better to the board. The term was eventually adopted by chefs who used a similar but smaller type of knife to peel or cut away smaller food items in the kitchen.
The knife was traditionally made with a large piece of steel with a very thin cutting edge and a wooden handle. It was custom made at first, but as the culinary world evolved, they were considered to be an important part of a chef’s arsenal.
Soon, most knife makers started to create smaller paring knives to go along with the chef knives. Now, most knife sets and chef sets will feature at least one kind of paring knife.
Qualities of a Good Paring Knife
Many qualities make a good paring knife. Like all knives used in the kitchen, the paring knife has to be durable.
As mentioned, a paring knife usually features a blade that is not longer than four inches, but not shorter than three inches. It is designed that way since it needs to be very thin so that it can peel away skins of fruits but still has to be durable enough to cut through meat products.
The blade has to be sharp at all times, and it has to be made with quality materials. Stainless steel and other hard-wearing materials are preferred. A good paring knife should also be capable of retaining a sharp edge despite being used daily.
The handle of a good paring knife will allow the user to move around certain foods, but it still has to be stable enough for chopping and slicing. The tip of a paring knife has to be sharp and fine for detailing work and intricate knife work.
What Is a Paring Knife Used For?
A paring knife is aptly described as a utility knife that can be used on almost anything in the kitchen. That means there is no one specific use for a paring knife. However, some preparation techniques can only be done by a good paring knife.
The paring knife also takes over when the chef’s knife is too big or too heavy. Here are the most common uses of the paring knife in any kitchen.
- Slicing: A paring knife is used for slicing small food items. While a chef’s knife can also be used for this, when thinner slices are required, the paring knife is preferred since it can produce thinly sliced pieces.
- Peeling: A paring knife is also used to peel small fruits such as apples and oranges since the small blade is ideal for making precise peels on the thin layers of these fruits. With its smaller blade, it makes it easier to use when maneuvering around a small rounded piece of fruit or food.
- Skinning: Skinning is a term used when small garnishes are cut or sliced. This is done for cooking purposes, but it can also be done for design. A good example of skinning is when you remove the top of the strawberry for meal preparation or a garnish.
- De-seeding: The small sharp blade of a paring knife makes it the ideal tool for de-seeding. It is a process when you carefully remove the seeds of certain kinds of food without damaging the outer surface or the skin. A good example of de-seeding is removing the seeds of chili and tomato.
- De-veining: This is a process of removing the vein of the shrimp prior to cooking it. This needs to be done delicately so that the flesh of the shrimp remains intact, and the paring knife has all the right features to achieve such.
- Scoring: This is the process of creating small uniform slits on the surface of food items, most commonly large pieces of meat such as steak. This is done to expose a greater surface area to the heat while it cooks. This method is also ideal for pieces of bread to let the steam escape.
What is a paring knife used for in the kitchen? Put simply a paring knife is used for fine tuning knife work. It is used for smaller slicing and cutting, as well as to make intricate cuts on food items and removing small parts of an ingredient that is of no use. Likewise, when you think the chef’s knife can damage the ingredient because of its big size, the paring knife should be your go-to tool.
As such, there are no restrictions when it comes to using a paring knife in any kitchen. In fact, it is considered to be an all-purpose knife, much like a chef’s knife, but smaller.