Hardly anyone can deny the versatility of a chef’s knife, but its struggle with small items isn’t the best-kept secret. On the other hand, a paring knife is a more appropriate choice for slicing and carving delicate ingredients with precision.
Follow us as we go through the in-depth selection process and examine the best paring knives on the market. By the end of this entry, you should be able to make the most informed purchase for yourself.
What Makes the Best Paring Knife
A paring knife can become a powerful tool for cooks if they can utilize it in the right situation. But before we delve in any further, new cooks need to familiarize themselves with the anatomy of a knife. Otherwise, you’ll have a tough time identifying the parts we’re referring to as we go into details.
Types of Paring Knives
Though paring knives may vary in different sizes and styles, it’s their blades that make all the difference. With this approach, we can classify these paring knives into three types: spear point, sheepsfoot, and bird’s beak. Each blade has its own set of distinct characteristics, as well as strengths and shortcomings in certain situations.
- Spear point (a.k.a spear tip or classic): This blade curves outward and forms a pointy tip that resembles a spearhead, thus explaining the name. And given its near-universal prominence and versatility, this is the most common blade chosen for different sorts of knives.
- Sheepsfoot: This smooth and flat blade rounds itself as the edge approaches the end of its length. Instead of forming a tip, the spine gradually curves downward and joins the rest of the blade. Many cooks often relate it to a mini santoku knife but with a smaller and shorter blade.
- Bird’s beak: As the name suggests, this concave blade resembles the beak of a bird. The sickle-like tip curves inward and is razor-sharp, which should be perfect for high-precision cuts and decorative garnishes. With each cut, this blade makes little to no mistake without wasting too much ingredient.
Size, Length, and Balance
From the get-go, paring knives fall well on the short end of the spectrum. For the most part, their blades range from two to four inches in length and somewhere in between. They are much shorter than the standard 7-inch santoku knives or the 8-inch chef’s knives you’re well familiar with. If anything, they’re more related to utility knives and steak knives.
But a small blade has lots of perks in return. It feels less intimidating while offering more maneuverability for cooks when they make paper-thin cuts. Even with a full tang, a paring knife doesn’t put as much strain on the wrist as other knives would.
While agility and flexibility are critical qualifications for a paring knife, weight distribution is just as important nonetheless. A handle equipped with a bolster and rivets would provide better balance to the whole assembly without adding too much weight.
But in the end, there’s no clear-cut answer to the optimal knife size or length. After all, what matters most is your comfort and personal preferences. And as long as you feel right holding the knife between your fingers, that’s all that matters.
As general workmanship improves over time, so does the overall quality of these paring knives. The blade comes from numerous materials, the most popular of which are carbon steel, stainless steel, Damascus steel, and ceramic. And in case you didn’t know, those are the same material chosen for santoku knives as well.
Considering their properties, each material possesses strong suits and glaring flaws when dealing with different tasks and items. You can refer to the Rockwell Hardness Scale as a more definite measurement of the blade’s hardness and toughness. Most blades fall somewhere between 56 and 66 HRC on the measuring scale.
In addition, knife makers also use high-precision lasers to eliminate defects and further recalibrate the blade. And for good measure, several in-house hardening processes are applied later to strengthen the blade’s durability as well.
But whichever material you choose, all of them are fine picks on their own and entirely up to your liking. For the majority of cooks, these materials make little to no discernible difference in any way whatsoever. Regardless of your stance, you can never go wrong with any of these choices here.
Similar to kitchen knives of Asian origin, a paring knife equips itself with a razor-sharp edge measuring 10° to 15°. It also explains how the blade can maneuver its way around easily while the same doesn’t apply to other knives. But the sharper the edge, the sooner you’ll likely lose it, and the more frequent you have to resharpen.
If edge retention is your top priority when fine-tuning the blade, whetstones are more appropriate than commercial-grade sharpeners. And it goes without saying that electric sharpeners are understandably out of the question.
Furthermore, you may want to consider serrated edges over flat ones. Although a straight edge should cut it in most cases, a set of zigzagging saw teeth offers an extra bite. That way, each cut is smoother and sweeter, much to everyone’s convenience.
More often than not, cooks often have slippery hands from cooking with high temperature or rinsing food. A firm handle makes sure that the knife won’t slip off your hand, even for cooks with sweaty palms. To secure the blade in place, a full combo of bolsters and rivets prevents it from swaying or coming loose.
While the majority of cooks prefer a full-tang handle for its balance and steadiness, others beg to differ. On the other hand, a partial tang puts less stress on your wrists and knuckles. But either way, there’s no wrong answer here, so just go with whichever you’re most comfortable with.
In case you’re wondering, a serviceable commercial-grade paring knife shouldn’t set you back too much. The average cost can go as low as $10 up to $40. And unless you’re a pro chef running a high-end restaurant, this is as much as you should pay.
Even with proper care and maintenance, commercial-grade knives aren’t exactly built to last. With the daily wear-and-tear taking a heavy toll, it’s only a matter of time before these knives lose their edges. Other than that, their blades can take damages from corrosion and fractures that go beyond repair.
Quality- and durability-wise, these paring knives should cut well and last long enough for most cooks with sufficient knife-wielding skills. But as the blade dulls beyond repair, don’t bother or feel guilty if your attempt to fix it proves futile. Instead, it’ll be easier to discard the knife and replace it with a brand-new one.
But high-end paring knives can last for years and decades, provided with proper care and maintenance down the road. They can go from $60 to north of $100, often accompanied by a lifetime warranty to sweeten the deal. And with superior craftsmanship using top-grade materials, these premium paring knives are far sharper and more durable than regular ones.
Reviews of the Best Paring Knives in 2021
We’ve identified and picked out a collection of paring knives that could serve you well within the kitchen.
- J.A. Henckels Classic Paring Knife – Best To Buy In 2021
- Victorinox Classic – Best Value Paring Knife
- Shun Premier Limited Edition – Best Japanese Paring Knife
- Zyliss Serrated Paring Knife – Best Serrated Paring Knife
- Kuhn Rikon Straight Paring Knives – Best Paring Knives Set
- Wusthof Classic – Best Wusthof Paring Knife
Read on for our in-depth analysis.
1. J.A. Henckels Classic Paring Knife – Best To Buy In 2021
The J. A. Henckels Classic makes our first pick of the batch for all the right reasons. For starters, its durable and keen blade makes kitchen prep work a breeze from start to finish. In addition, this versatile paring knife has lots of perks to offer, much to everyone’s delight and convenience.
- Precision forged
- German stainless steel
- Seamless blade-to-handle transition
- Triple rivets with bolster
- Dishwasher-safe (not recommended)
- Time-consuming sharpening
To get things going, let’s talk numbers. Per the official listing, the whole assembly measures 8 inches long, including the standard 4-inch blade. Even with a bolster, this mere 0.15-pound paring knife doesn’t impose itself on your hand in any way whatsoever. The lightweight assembly makes things easier for cooks to mince and slice continuously without tiring their wrists.
When it comes to craftsmanship, bladesmiths at J. A. Henckels don’t cut corners or make half-hearted attempts. The German stainless steel blade boasts tremendous resilience and sharpness, as indicated by its hardness rating of 55-58 HRC.
While the material itself is already tough, it’s further reinforced with the Friodur ice-hardening technique and laser-calibrated for extra endurance. For good measure, the satin finish adds a finishing touch on the blade, giving it a shiny and healthy sheen.
On further examination, the V-shaped edge is fine-honed to an optimal degree of 15° per side with a flat belly. That means you can’t rock the knife back and forth as you’d with a santoku knife or chef’s knife. However, you can still use these razor-like edges to devein shrimps and pawn and pry away any blemish with ease.
But a good blade makes only half of a well-made paring knife: the handle also deserves its due recognition. The ABS thermoplastic polymer handle encases the tang while giving cooks a firm grip. Even if your hands are wet, this handle makes sure the knife doesn’t slip off your grasp accidentally.
Furthermore, the bolster adds balance while joining the blade and handle into one seamless piece at the same time. It’s also the knife’s pressure point where you can assert more force as needed. To prevent the parts from dislodging, a triplet of rivets secures the whole assembly in place. That way, the blade won’t sway or wobble from side to side when you attempt to cut.
However, the bolster makes it difficult to sharpen the entire blade lengthwise, with the heel being a particularly tough spot. Be that as it may, it shouldn’t be too much of a serious demerit to deter buyers.
When cleaning o’clock strikes, the manufacturer claims this knife is safe for dishwasher use. That said, we strongly advise against this practice if you want to preserve the knife’s integrity in the long run.
The J. A. Henckels Classic has the makings of a well-rounded paring knife with much to offer. The blade is a harmonious balance of sharpness and durability tailored for intricate tasks. But don’t just take our word for it. The amount of positive feedback from previous cooks should speak plenty of volumes.
2. Victorinox Classic – Best Value Paring Knife
It makes little sense to purchase a top-tier knife if you fail to make the best use out of it. For novices working on their knife-wielding skills, the low-budget Victorinox Classic makes a suitable purchase for the time being. It does a decent job on veggies and fruits like other paring knives but for a fraction of their prices.
- Easy to replace
- Rough handle-to-blade transition
- Dulls easily
Given the cost, don’t get your hopes up too much because this is as good as things get. The stainless steel blade measures 4 inches long and has the company logo printed on one facet. As for the edge, the standard spear point tip is similar to other paring knives. But without the official listing of the blade’s hardness or edge angle, it doesn’t send a good vibe to buyers.
Moving on to the bottom half, the polypropylene handle encases the whole tang into one solid piece. Even without any rivet, the transition from the blade to handle feels secure, though a bit abrupt. You can rest your finger or exert cutting force on the nape of the knife, also known as the bolster.
As the blade dulls and loses its edges, you can toss the knife in the trash without feeling remorseful. There’s no point in deburring or extending the blade’s life span, which shouldn’t last more than a few months. But since this paring knife requires little to no commitment or upkeep, that’s the point.
And while you’re at it, might as well give the Swiss Classic and the Swiss Army Cutlery a closer look. Though their 3.25-inch blades are slightly shorter, they should cut just as fine as the Classic. Save for a few small changes around the handle, these two paring knives share similar features and performance.
It’s a good thing that the Victorinox Classic makes an affordable purchase without much commitment or hassle in the long run. New cooks can practice on this paring knife for a while and work their way up to something more advanced. And once you’re ready to move on to something better, you won’t feel guilty discarding this paring knife at all.
3. Shun Premier Limited Edition – Best Japanese Paring Knife
You can tell that the handcrafted Shun Premier Limited Edition means serious business from the get-go. The cutting core consists of nearly seventy layers of cladding hand-forged into one piece, which is nothing short of impressive. And it’s not just a functional knife, this knife also makes a compelling case as a high-value collectible for display.
- VG-Max steel cutting core
- Sharp and durable
- Damascus forging technique
- Tsuchime nonstick coating
- Pakkawood handle with bolster
- Balanced weight distribution
Knife masters at Shun spare no expense to handcraft this paring knife from start to finish with Damascus forging technique. The ultra-durable VG-Max steel acts as the steady core from which 68 micro-layers of cladding are stacked together. That way, the 3.5-inch blade possesses immense durability and toughness, registering 61 HRC on the hardness scale.
Upon closer examination, the smooth edge is fine-honed to 16° per side. Even without serrated teeth, it should be ideal for making paper-thin slices like decorative zests and garnishes. But the sharper the edges, the faster they dull, so you’ll have to hone and sharpen them regularly using whetstones.
To further complicate matters, the blade is prone to discoloration from high heat and damages from tough ingredients. Unless you’re willing to allocate a considerable amount of time and effort on maintenance, you should consider something less demanding.
As expected from Shun, this paring knife qualifies as a functional kitchen tool and a valuable showcase item alike. To protect the water patent on the blade, a hammered Tsuchime finish keeps the blade stick-free from the food. That way, each cut is sweeter and precisely just as the way you intended it to be.
In addition, the laminated Pakkawood handle encases the full tang and offers a comfortable grip. For good measure, the bolster balances and joins the pieces into one continuous piece from top to bottom. Even with no rivet, the whole assembly feels solid and secure. That way, cooks can wield this knife confidently without worrying it would slip away or come loose.
You’ll also notice this paring knife bears strong resemblances to the Shun Premier 4-inch, whose near-identical appearance often confuses buyers. It’s longer by half an inch and includes an end cap for better balance. But other than those minor tweaks, take it from us when we say it isn’t worth the extra buck.
Price notwithstanding, the stylish Shun Premier Limited Edition has the qualities of a top-tier paring knife in the making. It’s a strong candidate that worths serious consideration for cooks who prefer lifetime use over instant convenience.
4. Zyliss Serrated Paring Knife – Best Serrated Paring Knife
While you can make do with a plain-edged paring knife nine times out of ten, a little extra sharpness wouldn’t hurt. As the name suggests, the rugged Zyliss Serrated paring knife comes with razor-sharp teeth for effortless peeling and slicing. To an extent, it should pass as a decent makeshift utility knife when you go camping or picnicking.
- Serrated edge
- Grippy handle
- Protective sheath
- Dishwasher-safe (not recommended)
- Rounded tip
- Unfit for large hands
Per the official product description, the high-carbon stainless steel blade measures 3.75 inches long. As for the edge, the sheepsfoot tip resembles that of a santoku knife. It also explains how the tip manages to pierce and penetrate thick-skinned fruits without squashing their soft flesh inside.
Unlike other paring knives featured in this entry, this is the only one with serrated teeth on the edge. Similar to those of a handsaw, these zigzagging teeth help the blade make its way around fruit cores and seeds. However, you may have a hard time maneuvering around tight spots and corners.
To prevent accidents and injuries, the slip-proof rubber handle makes it difficult for the knife to escape your grasp. Thanks to the friction from the criss-cross patterns, cooks won’t have to tighten their knuckles for too long. In addition, the bolster makes it easier for cooks with weak hands when dealing with tough items.
Taking a knife outside its kitchen domain is never a good idea. But with a protective sheath, it should be okay to pack this knife inside your jean pocket or traveling backpack.
Dishwasher-friendly as this knife may be, manual cleaning remains the best course of action to preserve its pristine condition. The roughness and moisture from dishwashers can bend the blade and deform the serrated teeth, rendering the knife useless.
The travel-sized Zyliss Serrated paring knife makes a useful tool both in the kitchen and out in the open. While there’s room for improvement in certain departments, it should pass as a quick purchase without much hassle nonetheless.
5. Kuhn Rikon Straight Paring Knives – Best Paring Knives Set
Not all people are willing to allocate their effort to keep their knives in tip-top condition, often a time-consuming task. Which is why buying knives in bulk is the right call in this situation here. The Kuhn Rikon paring knife set comes in three pieces that will provide instant replacement right at your convenience.
- Japanese stainless steel
- Protective sheath
- Multiple coloring options
- Dishwasher-safe (not recommended)
- No bolster and rivet
- Flimsy handle
Right off the bat, the Japanese stainless steel blade measures 4 inches long. While impervious to rust, this blade can still succumb from chips and nicks upon hard collisions and tough items. That said, this flexible blade should maneuver its way into fruit cores just fine while leaving the juicy meat untouched.
In addition, the straight edge does a great job peeling fruit skins and slicing veggies and greens with ease. When dealing with wet and soft ingredients, the food-safe silicone coating makes it easy for the blade to cut through. That way, the blade lowers friction with the food and thus prevents sticking on the facets.
However, the handle has several glaring issues that need to be addressed. The juncture point between the handle and the blade feels rather poorly-made, which can spell troubles down the road. And to make matters worse, the fingerguard doesn’t make much of a difference. If anything, you can risk cutting your finger if you overexert yourself.
While Kuhn Rikon claims each of these three knives is dishwasher-safe, manual cleaning is preferable. However, a little bit of leeway every once in a while wouldn’t hurt either.
The three-for-the-price-of-one Kuhn Rikon paring knife set simplifies things for busy cooks with limited time for cooking. These expendable paring knives will save a considerable amount of time and effort spent on honing and sharpening.
6. Wusthof Classic – Best Wusthof Paring Knife
The Wusthof Classic makes our list as a late entry that nearly missed the cut altogether. This sleek-looking paring knife is a harmonious blend of sharpness and strength, which makes it versatile for various ingredients.
- Reasonable price
- Precision forged
- Seamless blade-handle transition
- Full tang with bolster
- Triple rivets
For the blade, knife masters at Wusthof forge it out of high-carbon stainless steel, combining the best of both materials. Thus, this 4-inch blade enjoys immense poise to maneuver tough spots but also with enough resilience to tackle thick-skinned items. It also explains how the blade manages to yield a respectable 58 HRC on the hardness scale.
Similar to other paring knives, the spear point tip and straight edge are part of the package. As for the bottom half, the synthetic handle encases the full tang snuggly and offers cooks a stable grip. A set of three rivets secures the tang while the bolster joins the blade and handle into one seamless piece.
The Wusthof Classic excels at various tasks that demand high precision. From snipping the leafy stem of a strawberry to making carrot flowers, this paring knife can handle them all.
Comparison Table of the Top-Performing Paring Knives
|Model||Blade Length (inches)||Edge Angle||Material & Hardness||Warranty|
|J.A. Henckels Classic||4”||Straight, 15° per side||German stainless steel (55-58 HRC)||Limited lifetime|
|Victorinox Classic||4”||Straight||Stainless steel||Limited lifetime|
|Shun Premier Limited Edition||3.5”||Straight, 16° per side||VG-Max steel (61 HRC)||Limited lifetime|
|Zyliss Serrated Paring Knife||3.75”||Serrated||High-carbon stainless steel||5 years|
|Kuhn Rikon Straight Paring Knives||4”||Straight||Japanese stainless steel||2 years|
|Wusthof Classic||4”||Straight, 15° per side||High-carbon stainless steel (58 HRC)||10 years|
What is a Paring Knife Used For
Given its delicate nature, a paring knife’s expertise is cut out for detailed and high-precision slicing to improve visual aesthetics. Their workload often includes a variety of ingredients, the majority of which are fruits and veggies. In a nutshell, the best uses for a paring knife include, but not strictly limited to:
- Peeling fruit skin and removing seeds
- Carving citrus zest into twists and wedges for cocktails (orange, lemon, lime, tangerine)
- Snipping roots and hulling leafy stems
- Trimming fat and membranes off brisket and rib
- Fine-slicing garnishes (cucumber, cherry, radish) for decorative purposes
- Julienne cutting veggies into strips or matchsticks (carrot and bell pepper)
- Light chopping on common herbs like garlic and shallot
How to Use a Paring Knife
With a curve-free blade, a paring knife doesn’t rock back and forth on the chopping block like chef’s knives would. Instead of making decisive strokes, a paring knife requires little wrist movement but a lot of patience. If you don’t feel confident just yet, go at your own pace at first. With enough practice, you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
- Stabilize the item, either using the chopping board or your non-dominant hand
- Palm the knife and grip on the handle, with your thumb resting on the bolster
- Firmly press the blade into the item. With each cut, inch your way forward until the final result is just as you intended it to be.
A paring knife has little trouble making intricate cuts while other knives would struggle with the same task. As an essential part of any knife set, it makes a great addition to your kitchen arsenal. Hopefully, our buying guide and reviews for the best paring knives have been informative.