What Is a Paring Knife Used For?

Last Updated on April 21, 2023 | 0 Comments
what is a paring knife used for
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As you’re staring down at a table full of ingredients, you might turn to your knife block and wonder, “What is a paring knife used for in cooking?” If you have a large collection, you might also ask, “What is a curved paring knife used for?” or “What is a serrated paring knife used for?” It may seem like a small tool, but a paring knife is absolutely essential to have in your culinary arsenal. 

This versatile little blade can cut, slice, dice, peel and so much more. Check out our handy knife guide to learn what a paring knife is used for and explore some of our recommendations for the best paring knives


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1. Peeling

A paring knife is undoubtedly one of the best kitchen knives for peeling fruits and vegetables. This is actually where it gets its name. To “pare” means to peel! Because they’re small and light, paring knives are easy to maneuver around curved edges. To peel with a paring knife, hold the handle tightly and slide the blade under the skin of the produce as you slowly rotate. 

What is a paring knife used for in terms of food? Some common foods you might peel with a paring knife include kiwis, honeydew melons, lychees and mangoes, as the skin of these is generally considered inedible. 

peeling a parsnip with a paring knife
via Canva

2. Hulling

If peeling seems like an obvious answer, you’re probably thinking, “What is a paring knife used for in the kitchen besides peeling?” Another very common use for paring knives is hulling. Hulling is a fancy term for removing the stems, leaves or undesirable tops on produce. The top of a strawberry is called a hull, and while strawberry tops are technically edible and can be used in cooking, they’re typically removed or “hulled.” 

What is a paring knife used for when hulling? Some other common foods you might hull with a paring knife include strawberries, jalapeños and tomatoes. To hull with a paring knife, dig the tip into the produce just beside the stem, and spiral around until the hull breaks free. 

hulling strawberries with a paring knife
via Canva

3. Coring

Coring is the removal of a center portion of a fruit or vegetable. Paring knives are ideal for this because they allow you to work around tricky angles and avoid wasting food or injuring yourself. 

What is a paring knife used for when it comes to coring? Some ingredients that should be cored include apples, mangoes, pineapples and corn cobs. Coring can be done after slicing, as with an apple, or by removing the flesh from the core, as with a corn cob. 

coring an apple with a paring knife
via Canva

4. Trimming

It seems obvious that a paring knife is ideal for preparing fruits and vegetables, but what is a paring knife used for in cooking with meat? A paring knife’s small stature makes it perfect for skinning, trimming and deboning. Its sharp tip will allow you to easily dig in beside bones, tendons and fatty tissues and nimbly slice them away before cooking. 

Some foods that you may want to trim with a paring knife include poultry, steak and seafood. Typically, this trimming is done before any chopping or slicing with a steak knife or butcher’s knife. 

pork tenderloin
via Canva

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5. Deveining

What is a paring knife used for with shrimp? Most often, paring knives are used to devein shrimp. Shrimp have a black line down their backs called a vein, but this “vein” is actually the shrimp’s digestive tract. It’s not necessary to devein shrimp before eating them, but many people find deveined shrimp to be more aesthetically pleasing. 

If you’ve ever wondered, “What is a curved paring knife used for?” this is its ideal purpose. A standard paring knife is fine to use for deveining, but curved paring knives or “bird’s beak” knives get a better hook on the vein. 

deveining shrimp
via Canva

6. Deseeding

What else is a paring knife used for with fruits? Paring knives are great for picking out any undesirable bits like seeds and overripe spots.

Similarly to deveining, paring knives and bird’s beak knives work well for plucking seeds from apple cores, carving out eyes from potatoes and pineapples, and scraping seeds from melons like papayas and cantaloupes. Paring knives can also remove pits from foods like olives, apricots and cherries, but this should be done very carefully to avoid injury. 

various color squash sliced in half
via Canva

6. Segmenting

Another answer to the question “What is a paring knife used for?” is segmenting. Segmenting is most often done with citrus fruits, where the peel, pith and membranes are cut away to reveal a perfect wedge. This action is also referred to as supreming because, in the culinary world, citrus segments are called suprêmes.

You might ask, what is a serrated paring knife used for? Serrated paring knives are ideal for cutting through fruits and vegetables with tough skin and delicate insides, like a lemon. An ordinary paring knife might apply too much pressure and squish the lemon’s juice vesicles, but a serrated knife will slice through without any issues.  

use a paring knife to segment an orange
via Canva

7. Scoring

What else is a paring knife used for? Paring knives are also great for scoring, a process where shallow cuts are made to aid in cooking and steam release. Many dishes like steak or roast are scored before cooking to help oils, herbs and spices infuse into the meat. 

Eggplants are also frequently scored before baking, and scoring can be done to aid in fruit flesh removal, as with an avocado. Similar to scoring, a paring knife can also be used to carve small holes in the top of pie crusts, allowing steam to escape while baking. 

avocados on cutting board
via Canva

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8. Mincing

Other types of kitchen knives may be more popular for this, but technically one answer to “What is a paring knife used for?” is mincing. To mince with a paring knife, tightly pinch the ingredients in your non-dominant hand and slowly slice against a cutting board. Paring knives work well for dicing small fruits and vegetables like garlic, green onions and shallots, which might slip away from a larger blade. 

mincing chives
via Canva

9. Slicing

Finally, slicing is another possible answer to the question “What is a paring knife used for?” Like dicing and mincing, slicing is often done with larger, heavier knives, but that doesn’t mean your paring knife can’t handle them with ease.  

What is a paring knife best used for when it comes to slicing? Small ingredients like jalapeños can be sliced with a paring knife, as can cherry tomatoes or strawberries before tossing into a fresh salad.

sliced jalapenos
via Canva

Our Favorite Paring Knives

Below, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite paring knives loved and recommended by chefs:

If you’re still wondering what a paring knife is used for, the answer is nearly anything! There are some distinct purposes for paring knives, but they are extremely versatile kitchen tools. Next time you’re preparing ingredients, try practicing some of these techniques with your handy paring knife.  

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