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Shalmanese

Is the paring knife truly essential?

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I haven't owned a pairing knife or other small blade for about 5 years now and I don't really find myself missing it. Is it really an essential knife in the chef's arsenal? What do you really do with one? I haven't ever fluted a mushroom in my life and that's about the only thing which it seems like a pairing knife is completely necessary.


PS: I am a guy.

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I could get by without my paring knife, but I'd hate to. It's my go-to blade for dicing onions, slicing herbs, halving potatoes and olives, cutting up peppers and much other prep work. The shorter, super-sharp blade works better for me in small situations.


Margaret McArthur

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I probably use my paring knife more than any other knife in my arsenal. I trim, chop, slice, pick things out of jars, undo pesky little screws - and just about everything else with it.

A bread knife, a chef's knife and about half a dozen paring knives are all I really need. Though I do like my cake knife for chopping nuts.

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A quality boning knife is also really good to have.


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When I moved, I somehow lost/misplaced/threw away my only paring knife. I thought I'd miss it, but I lived without it for at least 6 months. Then I got one for free, so it's back in my block. I use it occasionally, but could live without it again, I'm sure. My utility knife gets easily ten times the use my paring knife gets.

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Like Kerry I have lots of paring knives and use them daily but I would not like to live without my (too many) chef's knives, my boning knife and my fish filet knife which has never yet been used on a fish!


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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Depends on what you do. If you're chopping, slicing, etc. with a paring knife, then you don't need one ... you'd be much better served by a chef's knife / gyuto. It will do all these tasks many times better and more efficiently.

If you do things like hull strawberries, core pears, tourne anything, or do any of the cuts that require hand-holding the food (not counting Japanese usuba cuts), then a paring knife is borderline essential. You can do these things with a boning / utility / petty knife, but a paring knife makes the tasks much easier.

I don't see much reason besides knife fetishism to spend big bucks on a paring knife. Mine cost $40. Some cooks I know who cut better than I do won't use anything besides the $5 Forschner.


Notes from the underbelly

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Right now my pairing knife is essential because it is the only sharp knife in the kitchen!!!

I'm slowly regrinding my blunt knives into hair shaving monsters and spent a few minutes this morning amusing myself at how thin a slice of tomato I could actually cut.

All of the above aside, I like the pairing knife because I find it takes the least effort to control and use, so for those days when I'm spending lots of time in the kitchen, it's gets a lot of use.

Cheers

Luke

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A couple of years ago I would have said yes, but as my choice of knives has increased I find myself using it less and less. It would still be my #2 knife if I could only have two knives, but a lot of the things I used it for are now done with other, more specialized tools.

I'm slowly regrinding my blunt knives into hair shaving monsters and spent a few minutes this morning amusing myself at how thin a slice of tomato I could actually cut.

Isn't it fun?! I was able to whittle hair for the first time a few weeks ago. Can't do it consistently, though.


This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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It depends for me. At work, I use mine quite a lot for small stuff - garnishes, really small brunoise, etc. But for other stuff, and just all around cooking at home, I barely, if ever, do.


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I have other small knives that I use more than a paring knife, but I'll agree with paulraphael that for those handheld trimming, coring, peeling, and garnishing tasks, a paring knife is often the right knife for the job.

Some of those tasks have specialized tools like an apple corer or vegetable peeler, but I think there's some virtue in cultivating those knife skills as a way of gaining better knife control in general.

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Paring knife, chef's knife, bread knife are the three most used knives in my arsenal. I use my paring knife on a daily basis.


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Could NOT live without it. I'm way too clumsy to be trying to trim produce with my chef's knife. I personally like having 10 fingers and opposable thumbs. They sorta come in handy....

Hulling, coring, cutting the ends off carrots, scallions, celery, getting the ribs out of bell peppers, all that kind of stuff. If I had better hand/eye coordination, maybe I would feel that way, but like I said, I'm sorta attached to my fingers.

4 knives for me...3&1/2" paring, 8" chef's, 10" bread and 6" boning/filet knife. I have others, but those are the ones I use. Chef's & paring daily, at least.


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Could NOT live without it. I'm way too clumsy to be trying to trim produce with my chef's knife. I personally like having 10 fingers and opposable thumbs. They sorta come in handy....

Hulling, coring, cutting the ends off carrots, scallions, celery, getting the ribs out of bell peppers, all that kind of stuff. If I had better hand/eye coordination, maybe I would feel that way, but like I said, I'm sorta attached to my fingers.

4 knives for me...3&1/2" paring, 8" chef's, 10" bread and 6" boning/filet knife. I have others, but those are the ones I use. Chef's & paring daily, at least.

What they said. :D

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Some of these are questions of technique as much as which knife to choose. If you like to cut the top of a carrot off in your hand, drawing the knife toward your thumb, then a paring knife is easier to handle than a chef's knife. If you stack the carrots up on the board and cut the tops off all at once, then a chef's knife makes more sense, particularly, if you're then going to slice or otherwise chop the carrots with the same knife. So for carrots, I use a chef's knife, and for strawberries I use a paring knife.

Bell peppers--it depends. If I'm making stuffed peppers and need to keep them whole, then I like a paring knife to get inside the pepper. If I'm slicing or dicing the pepper, then I usually set it on the board vertically, and cut it down in three or four sections, separating the outer part from the ribs and seeds, or if I'm slicing a lot of peppers that aren't too irregular in shape, I'll set the pepper down horizontally and slice down on the right side (doing this right handed), then turn the knife so it's parallel to the board with the blade facing toward the left, and run the knife along the inside of the pepper, rolling the pepper to the left, separating the ribs and seeds as I go, leaving a flat sheet of pepper, and then I can stack the pepper sheets (or cut in half to make a taller stack) and slice or julienne them with the same knife. The rolling technique works with any kind of flat knife, like a chef's knife or a santuko.

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Japan was not a paring-knife friendly country when I moved here. I did without and didn't miss it...until I got a ceramic paring knife. I use it a lot now, especially for fruit or soft herbs etc., because the whole blade is light and quite thin, not just the edge.

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Considering that I hull about 50 pounds of strawberries a year, a paring knife is essential to me!

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Absolutely essential for most fruit, coring tomatoes, digging eyes out of spuds. I tend to peel onions with a chef's knife, but need a paring knife for garlic. For bell peppers I use Marin Yan's (Wok with Yan) method: Stand the pepper on it's bottom, cut in half about 3/4 of the way down, then break the pepper in half. The stem will remain on one half, which can be removed with a paring knife, ribs are removed either with a paring knife or chef's.

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There is always an exception (or two) to the rule, but I find that the majority of people I talk to agree with me. You can't have too many small knives. In fact the row of slots in my knife block designated for steak knives (not really a kitchen tool, in my view) is filled with extra paring knives. Included is a bird's beak parer, which is my wife's favorite for peeling.


Edited by Tony Boulton (log)

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I never use my paring knife. When I moved into my flat last summer, I bought one (from Ikea) without even thinking about it. But I can't recall using it this year. I never peel fruit; or do any fancy knife work. I use a vegetable peeler to peel potatoes on the very rare occasions I eat a potato.

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I only use my paring knife once every month or 2. My 10" and 8" chef's knives are my go-to knives.

edited to fix a typo.


Edited by Porthos (log)

Porthos Potwatcher
The Once and Future Cook

;

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Some of those tasks have specialized tools like an apple corer or vegetable peeler, but I think there's some virtue in cultivating those knife skills as a way of gaining better knife control in general.

I use peelers a lot, but find that things like corers and mellon ballers are just too dull to give a clean cut. If I core an apple or pear with one of those it will turn brown in just a few minutes. It will also leave a a mealy texture. A sharp knife leaves a glass-smooth finish that feels better in the mouth and that won't turn brown for hours.


Notes from the underbelly

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Some of these are questions of technique as much as which knife to choose.

Exactly. Anyone using a paring knife in place of a chef's knife, either because they feel safer or more efficient, should think about getting some chef knife skills. The wee knife is both many times less efficient and many times more likely to bloody your prep!


Notes from the underbelly

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In the past I used a paring knife for many of the tasks that have been referenced above. But for the past 3 months, living in temporary quarters with only one sharp knife, I've done pretty much everything with a Forschner 10" chef's knife. There are a few tasks where I thought the chef's knife was a little bit clumsy and unwieldy, but that could be my lack of a steady hand as much as anything else. And for the small quantities of stuff used in most home cooking it probably takes more time to switch knives than you lose by just powering through everything with the big chef's knife.

For home cooking I'd never tourne a carrot or anything like that. For strawberries I use a straw poked up through the center, but ever since I got a high-power blender I've stopped hulling them for smoothies which are my primary use for strawberries (though most of the year frozen are better).


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Some of these are questions of technique as much as which knife to choose.

Exactly. Anyone using a paring knife in place of a chef's knife, either because they feel safer or more efficient, should think about getting some chef knife skills. The wee knife is both many times less efficient and many times more likely to bloody your prep!

Iunno. For the vast majority of us I think that's definitely true. I'm a bit proud of my knife skills (such as they are) and I've taught a few people the very basics but some people just find bigger knives intimidating. Not talking about people who are just used to using steak knives or paring knives for all prep or those who can't be bothered to learn the "proper" way of doing things, but people who are scared of "big" knives.

Come to think of it these seem to be the same people who can say a knife is "too sharp." Maybe some kind of phobia of big sharp objects?


This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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