Tips & Tricks

The Essentials: Every Chef Needs A Good Paring Knife

In the roster of must-have kitchen equipment, paring knives are right at the top of the list. Here are five reasons you’ll reach for this essential knife time and time again.

In the roster of must-have kitchen equipment, paring knives are right at the top of the list. These little knives look just like miniature versions of the omnipresent chef’s knife, but their 2 to 4-inch blades can accomplish all sorts of kitchen tasks that a bigger instrument is just too clunky to master. So, here are five of the reasons you’ll reach for that essential paring knife time and time again.

Peeling To peel potatoes, get ribbons of zest from your lemons, or remove the skin from an apple, grab your sharp little knife. Hold the fruit or vegetable that needs peeling in one hand, then use your other (dominant) hand, to unwrap the skin. Because of the tool’s small stature, you’ll be able to handle two things—the food and the knife—at once, making cleaner cuts and wasting less than if you were using a peeler. And, if you’re really tight on space, you can forego a peeler and use a multi-purpose paring knife exclusively.

Trimming, Hulling & Cleaning When you’re prepping fruits, vegetables and fish for your sautés and salads, you’ll often need to do carefully calibrated movements to remove stems, scrape off soft bits or get rid of inedible ends. Use your paring knife to hull spring’s strawberries, clean off the eyes from baking potatoes or extract the vein and tails from your shrimp. Because the paring knife is small and precise, you can pick up the food item that needs attention with your other hand, bringing it up to get a closer look—without any fear of pricking a finger. Segmenting Supreming is a fancy name for the technique that provides you with intact sections of citrus fruit for use in salads or desserts. Unsurprisingly perhaps, supreming is best accomplished with a paring knife. To do this, first remove the skin and pith from the outside of the fruit (chef’s knife is good for that!), then hold the fruit in one hand and make cuts alongside each section with that beloved paring knife of yours.

Scoring When you plan to sear meat that’s capped by a layer of fat—like a pork belly or a duck breast—you might see an instruction telling you to score, or make shallow cuts, or scores, in the surface of the meat. You can also score pastries, like the top of a pie, to leave room for the filling to expand. To score, you’ll want your new favorite gadget, the paring knife, which offers just the right control as you draw criss-cross lines (or pretty shapes) on the surface of whatever needs scoring. Mincing Miniatures When you’re looking at a shallot instead of an onion, chopping a few herb leaves, or endeavoring to cut grapes into slices for a particular salad (or for a kid), you’ll want a knife that’s similar in size to the ingredients on your cutting board to avoid the risk of slipping away from the tiny thing in front of you. Instead, you’ll be able to work faster and more accurately if you’re not lifting an 8-inch blade with every move you make.

Look for a paring knife that fits well in your hand–that’s the only important criteria here. Once you’ve put the knife into everyday use, be sure to sharpen the blade regularly, as paring knives are infamous for getting dull.

(Images: Cupcake ProjectA Thought For FoodFood 52,)

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