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Explained: What To Cut & NOT To Cut With A Paring Knife

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A paring knife is one of the most useful knives in the kitchen, and while it is a multi-purpose knife, it is not an all-purpose knife. There are items you can cut with a paring knife and some that you should not cut with this knife. We will give you some guidance on how and how not to use your paring knife!

Paring knives are short, versatile knives. They can be used to peel, slice, dice, and mince fruit, vegetables, and herbs. Paring knives can be used on small fish, scoring and trimming meat, and carving small game birds. Do not use a paring knife on large hard-skin vegetables and large meat cuts.

Paring knives are agile knives that are comfortable in hand and easy to use, making it tempting to use them for purposes they were not intended. Using your paring knife in the right way will extend its lifespan and keep it sharp.

What To Cut & NOT To Cut With A Paring Knife
What To Cut & NOT To Cut With A Paring Knife

If you are interested in checking out the best paring knife we recommend buying a knife made by the Wüsthof company. You can find it by clicking here (Amazon link).

What Can You Cut With A Paring Knife?

The primary purpose of a paring knife comes directly from its name. Paring means to cut away a thin slice from the outer surface of an item.

This definition can be to slice or peel slivers from an item’s outer surface, making peeling one of the main tasks for a paring knife.

A paring knife is typically a small knife of about 2.5 to 4-inches or 6cm to 10cm long. The cutting edge is usually straight, only curving slightly towards the sharp tip of the knife. The blade’s spine is usually straight as well, with a slight downward curve at the end towards the tip.

A paring knife is not a tall blade, typically not more than 0.98-inch or 2.5cm tall. This slender blade characteristic makes the knife easy to wield and suitable for precise and delicate work.

Even though a paring knife feels good to work with because it is fast and agile, you should only use it for its designed purpose. This means there are some tasks where a paring knife is not the right choice. 

Can You Cut Vegetables With Paring Knife?

Processing vegetables and fruit are where the paring knife really shines in the kitchen. The slender, sharp blade makes this knife suitable for performing many tasks on fresh produce.

  • Peeling fruit and vegetables. Peeling fruit and vegetable is one of the primary functions of the paring knife, and it excels in this task, allowing you to make quick work of the task. The hard-skinned fruit and vegetables such as pumpkin, squashes, and melons are the only vegetables that are difficult to peel or process with a paring knife.
  • Slicing vegetables and fruit. The thin blade of a paring knife makes it easy to cut vegetables into thin slices for food preparation or for the decorative presentation of the ingredients.
  • Vegetable carving for garnishes. The agile blade and sharp point make a paring knife ideal for carving shapes and patterns into vegetables for elaborate food presentation techniques.
  • Vegetable and herb preparation. Intricate work such as opening and removing seeds from chilies or scraping seeds from vanilla pods are all made easier with a paring knife.

Paring knives are not only for peeling and slicing fruit and vegetables but can also be used for minor chopping tasks such as mincing leafy herbs, removing stalks from strawberries, and dicing garlic.

TIP: If you are looking for Japanese kitchen knives to chop and process vegetables, then you have many you can choose from. Check out the best Japanese knives for cutting vegetables in the article below:
The 8 Best Japanese Knives For Chopping Vegetables

Can You Use a Paring Knife to Cut Meat?

Even though a paring knife’s primary task in the kitchen is related to vegetables, fruit, and herb processing, it also has some usefulness in the meat department.

The paring knife’s small size means it is not suitable for processing large pieces of meat, but its size has some advantages for meat, poultry, and fish-related tasks.

The following are some of the meat tasks that you can perform with a paring knife.

  • De-veining shrimp and prawns. The small blade and sharp point of a paring knife are ideally suited to slicing open these shellfish and removing the unpalatable vein that runs down the middle.
  • Filleting small fish. Smaller fish can be difficult to clean and fillet with a large knife. Using a large knife for this task can pose a danger for the operator should the knife slip. The small profile of the paring knife makes it suitable for this job on small fish.
  • Scoring meat. Scoring meat to increase cooking speed, fill the scored areas with herbs and spices, or scoring fat on large roast meat cuts are ideal tasks for paring knives.
  • Dicing or cubing meat. Cubing meat for making stew or curry can be a job requiring finesse beyond that of a large knife. The light paring knife is a suitable alternative to dice or cube boneless meat cuts.
  • Trimming fat from meat. Trimming excess fat or removing silver skin from large cuts of meat often requires a deft, agile blade that can be used quickly and accurately. A paring knife is better for this task than a large chef’s knife.
  • Processing and carving small game birds. Quail, pigeons, and other small game birds are too small to use a large knife to prepare for cooking or to carve after cooking. The narrow, shorter paring knife is a better knife choice for working on these birds.

TIP: What Japanese knives would be best suited to cutting meat, bones, and fish? Check out the complete guide with an explanation in the article below:
Best Japanese Knives For Cutting Meat, Bones & Fishes

If you are interested in checking out the best paring knife we recommend buying a knife made by the Wüsthof company. You can find it by clicking here (Amazon link).

What Should You Not Cut With a Paring Knife

As with any other knife in your kitchen, certain tasks are not suitable for paring knives, and you should not cut certain items with a paring knife.

You should not cut large vegetables with thick skins, such as pumpkin, butternut squash, and similar vegetables, with a paring knife. The skin is too hard and the vegetables too large for the small blade of a paring knife.

In these instances, it can be dangerous to use a small blade on large vegetables. The knife can easily slip and cause injury. The hard skin of these vegetables can bend the knife blade when you try to force it through the skin, ruining your paring knife.

Large cuts of meat should not be cut with a paring knife. If the meat is too large to be cut with a single pass of the paring knife, you should use a larger knife.

A paring knife is not the right choice for deboning meat or portioning chicken or other larger poultry carcasses. The paring knife is not made to cut through joints, cartilage, and tendons, so you will damage and dull the paring knife using it for these tasks.

BTW: If you want to know more about Japanese and other types of knives and their sharpening check out the books listed above. These books are recommended by professional sharpeners and knife makers (Amazon links):

Conclusion

A paring knife is not only useful in the kitchen, but it is versatile and easy to use. This knife will quickly become one of your favorite go-to knives in the kitchen for a variety of tasks for which other knives are too large.

Choose a good quality paring knife, and use it for its intended purpose, and you will have a useful tool in your kitchen for many years.

TIP: Buying knives for the kitchen can be an addictive and expensive habit, especially if you purchase kitchen knives without a plan! Find out all knives you need in your kitchen in the article below:
You Need Exactly This Number Of Knives In The Kitchen + Why

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