Paring knives might be the smallest knife in the kitchen, (I’ve seen smaller), but that doesn’t mean they’re the least important. In fact, far from it. While I use my chef’s knife the most in the kitchen, my paring knife is a close second. From peeling an apple to mincing garlic and shallots, paring knives have an array of uses that you just can’t accomplish with a hefty chef’s knife (and sorry, but the viral garlic trick is not one of those tasks).
There can be a lot of nuances to sift through when picking a paring knife. I tested several out to get hands-on experience with each one, and picked a favorite. But first, here are some important things to think about when paring down your options (OK, I’ll leave now).
DOES SIZE MATTER?
Most of the paring knives I tested ranged from 3.5 to 4 inches. The benefit of the longer knives is that, in theory, you can cut larger things with them, like an orange, or even a grapefruit if you’re feeling ambitious. If you’re not an aspiring Hibachi chef, I’d recommend a smaller knife. You can cut just about anything with the smaller size, and besides, most of the functionality requires precision, not brute force. For paring undertakings, I prefer the Wusthof Classic Ikon because of the way it slips into the crevices of my palm and can peel, slice, dice, and occasionally chop, always with pin-point accuracy.
STEEL THE SHOW
So here’s the deal with material: carbon steel is stronger than stainless steel and you’ll have to sharpen it less and less often. With that being said, carbon steel blades are more rigid, and can snap faster than stainless steel. They’re also typically more expensive. At the end of the day, the decision to go carbon or stainless steel is a personal one, dependent on what you’re using your knife for and whether you’d rather sharpen your knives or replace them.
I tried these out while making Pico De Gallo because it requires a lot from a paring knife: dicing a tomato (which is always weirdly difficult), testing its slice through citrus, and peeling and dicing an onion. Here’s what I learned.
Victorinox Swiss Army Cutlery Straight Paring Knife
While you might think the pricier the better for a paring knife, you’d be mistaken. Chef David Chang of Momofuku says “Victorinox is [his] brand of choice,” and I tested the knife to understand why—”Your paring knife is meant to be used, not looked at. It’s the one doing the dirty work—it’s meant to be roughed up, and replaced every now and again. This is the paring knife you should purchase—save your money for a fancy Chef’s knife.”
Wusthof Classic Ikon 3 ½ Inch Paring Knife
I didn’t know a knife could make me feel this way. Made with Stainless Steel, it’s a 3.5 inch knife that’s ergonomically designed to fit perfectly in the palm. Slicing through a lime was like swimming with fins, exponentially easier than you’d ever expect it to be. It felt like an extension of my hand, which is the exact right way it should feel.
Global 3.5 Inch Paring Knife
Despite having a super-unique handle, the Wusthof fit just a little bit better in my hand than the Global. Don’t sleep on the Global at all, though. Made with their trademark blend of steel, this is an excellent, steadfast option. Here, it just came down to personal preference.
Material The Almost 4 Inch Knife
Don’t be mislead by the name, this paring knife is 3.5 inches of beauty. The handle substitutes grip over ergonomics—finished with matte, the grip won’t slip, but did feel a little bulkier than other options. Still, it makes up for this with well balanced Japanese Steel and elegant attention-to-detail on the blade, as well as a lower price-point than most.
Five Two Essential 3.5 Inch Paring Knife
Food 52’s line of knives is not to be missed. Made with stainless steel, the paring knife is an excellent option for a beginner, who isn’t looking to do off-the-board work, and wants precision for a little less of the cost. These knives are the cutest ones of the five.
Made In Cookware Paring + Utility Knife
The benefit here is that Made In only sells their paring knife in conjunction with their utility knife. I didn’t love it as much as I like their other knives, but it’s definitely not a bad option, and it comes in really fun, poppy colors.
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