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While it may not be an essential knife in the kitchen, paring knives are perfect for making tiny, precise cuts or peeling fruits and vegetables. They also work well for deveining shrimp, and they're great to have on hand for your home bar since you can cut tiny wedges and citrus peel for cocktails.
The full-tang Wüsthof Ikon Classic Paring Knife has an ergonomic handle and durable high-carbon steel blade—that's why it's our top pick for balanced, comfortable, and super-sharp slicing. The Zyliss Paring Knife, on the other hand, features a high-carbon steel blade, soft rubber non-slip handle, and protective sheath at a reasonable price.
Paring knives are small with a short blade, so they travel easily whether you want to take one along on a picnic or to work and use it for slicing up fruit at lunchtime. Plus, they're often inexpensive, so you don't have to worry that they aren't the most versatile of kitchen knives.
With tons of options on store shelves today, we researched top brands to help find the best paring knives.
Best Overall: Wusthof Classic Ikon Paring Knife
Ergonomic non-slip handle
Full tang blade
Durable high-carbon steel blade
More expensive option
Doesn't come with a blade cover
Made in Germany, this knife is built for cutting performance, no matter what grip you’re using. You’ll feel confident with it in your hand, whether you’re peeling an apple for a snack or slicing a lemon for a garnish. The handle is a synthetic material that’s designed for kitchen use and is easy to hold even when your hands are wet.
Three rivets and a full tang give the knife great balance, while the sharp 3.5-inch blade slices easily through fruits and vegetables. The bolster is designed to allow you to sharpen the full length of the blade when necessary. Like all fine knives, this should be washed by hand.
Blade Material: High-carbon stainless steel | Handle Material: Polyoxymethylene | Blade Style: Spear point | Tang: Full | Blade Length: 3.5 inches | Total Length: 6 inches | Weight: 2.6 ounces
Best Budget: Zyliss 3.5-Inch Paring Knife with Sheath Cover
Comes with protective blade sheath
Comfortable soft rubber non-slip handle
High-carbon stainless steel blade
Green handle may not match knife collection
Rubber may turn brittle in dishwasher
This budget paring knife comes with its own sheath, so it’s perfect for tossing into the picnic basket, tucking into the tackle box with fishing gear, or taking to work with your lunch. While it’s a fine knife for the price, it’s inexpensive enough that if you lose it, you can replace it without too much angst.
Even though you won’t spend a lot on this knife, it still has features you’ll appreciate. The 3.5-inch carbon steel blade retains its edge well and is easy to re-sharpen when needed. The handle has soft rubber inserts, so it’s easy to hang onto even if you’re peeling under running water. It provides a comfortable grip as well.
The sheath protects the knife from bumps and nicks, no matter where you store it, and it protects your hands from accidental jabs when you reach into the drawer. While this knife is dishwasher safe, hand washing is recommended.
Blade Material: High-carbon stainless steel | Handle Material: Rubber | Blade Style: Spear point | Tang: Undetermined | Blade Length: 3.5 inches | Total Length: 11.25 inches | Weight: 1.9 ounces
Best Ceramic: Kyocera Advanced Ceramic 3-Inch Paring Knife
Ceramic blade stays sharper longer
Great for smaller hands
Brittle blade not for heavy duty chopping
When it comes to ceramic knives, Kyocera is one of the prominent brands, thanks to its long history with all sorts of ceramic products. This Kyocera paring knife is very affordable and very, very sharp. Rather than a more typical point tip, this blade has a rounded tip that is less likely to break. It has a molded black handle (although similar knives from this company are available in other colors) that is comfortable to hold.
The 3-inch blade is a pristine white color and is made from a proprietary zirconia material in Japan that’s extremely hard, which keeps the knife sharp for a long time. The ceramic blade can’t be affected by acids, oils, or salts and will never rust, corrode, or stain.
When sharpening is necessary, the knife can be sent to Kyocera or sharpened with a tool specifically made for ceramic blades. While they are hard, ceramic blades aren't as durable as steel and should not be used with frozen foods or prying around bones. According to the manufacturer, this knife is dishwasher-safe; however, washing by hand is recommended.
Blade Material: Ceramic | Handle Material: Ceramic | Blade Style: Spear point, but rounded tip | Tang: Undetermined | Blade Length: 3 inches | Total Length: 7.2 inches | Weight: 1.4 ounces
Best Japanese: Tojiro DP Paring Knife
Rust and corrosion resistant
Full tang steel blade
Slight learning curve with blade shape
Japanese knives are known for their sharpness and precision, and this paring knife is a good example of why. The blade has three layers of metal with stainless steel on the outside to resist rust and corrosion. The angle and shape of the 3.5-inch long blade (called a sheepsfoot-style blade) are not the same as what you’ll find on typical paring knives, but users found that it was easy to get used to and was very comfortable to use when slicing. This knife comes in a box that can be used for storage. Hand-washing is recommended.
Blade Material: 3-layer clad stainless steel | Handle Material: Unknown | Blade Style: Sheep’s foot | Tang: Undetermined | Blade Length: 3.5 inches | Total Length: 14.5 | Weight: 2.2 ounces
Best Set: Wüsthof Gourmet Three-Piece Paring Knife Set
Nice variety for different projects
Full tang stainless steel blades
Limited lifetime warranty
No protective sheaths or storage case
Slight learning curve with blade styles
This affordable set includes a drop-point paring knife with a 3-inch blade that will come in handy for slicing cheese, a sharp-point paring knife with a 3-inch long blade, and a bird’s beak paring knife with a 2.25-inch blade that’s great for peeling fruits and vegetables. All three have full tangs, riveted composite handles, and stamped stainless steel blades. Hand-washing is recommended.
Blade Material: High-carbon stainless steel | Handle Material: Polypropylene | Blade Style: Bird’s beak, flat, clip point | Tang: Full | Blade Length: 2.25, 3, or 3 inches | Total Length: 7 inches | Weight: 1.6 ounces
Best for a New Kitchen: Farberware EdgeKeeper Paring Knife
Self-sharpening blade sheath
High-carbon stainless steel blade
Likely has a shorter lifespan
Great for new kitchens that don’t have a lot of extra gear, this paring knife comes with a self-sharpening sheath that automatically gives the blade a little sharpening swipe each time it’s inserted into or taken out. The sheath also makes it great for tucking into the picnic basket or taking to work for lunch, and it means you can store the knife just about anywhere without worrying about nicking the blade or stabbing yourself when you reach into a drawer. The 3.5-inch blade is made from rust-resistant high carbon steel but should be hand-washed and dried immediately for the longest life.
Blade Material: High carbon stainless steel | Handle Material: Plastic | Blade Style: Spear point | Tang: Undetermined | Blade Length: 3.5 inches | Total Length: 7 inches | Weight: 0.32 ounces
Best Splurge: Shun Premier Paring Knife
Hand-hammered blade finish reduces sticking and drag
Incredibly sharp out of the box
Thinner and lighter blade
Straight handle may be uncomfortable for some
Shun is known for premium knives—and this 4-inch paring knife is no exception. It has a layered Damascus steel blade with a hand-hammered finish that reduces drag when you're cutting and helps prevent food from sticking to the blade. The handle is made from PakkaWood and is shaped to provide a comfortable grip. Hand-washing and air drying are recommended.
Blade Material: Layered stainless steel | Handle Material: Pakkawood | Blade Style: Spear point | Tang: Full | Blade Length: 4 inches | Total Length: 8.25 inches | Weight: 4.5 ounces
Best Serrated: Victorinox 3.25-Inch Rosewood Paring Knife with Serrated Edge
Serrated blade stays sharper longer
Shorter blade makes more accurate cuts
Do not soak wooden handle in water
Does not come with blade sheath
You might be familiar with the Victorinox name from its very popular Swiss army knives, but the company makes kitchen knives, too. This one has a 3.25-inch long serrated blade made from European stainless steel that’s perfect for cutting through fruits and vegetables with tough skin and delicate flesh, like tomatoes or plums. The short blade and longer handle give you accurate cuts no matter how you grip it. The handle is made from rosewood, which is heavy and crack-resistant. This knife should be washed by hand.
Blade Material: Stainless steel | Handle Material: Rosewood | Blade Style: Spear point serrated | Tang: Undetermined | Blade Length: 3.25 inches | Total Length: 13.75 inches | Weight: 0.64 ounces
Best for the Picnic Basket: Kuhn Rikon Straight Paring Knife with Safety Sheath, 4", Set of 3
Includes blade sheaths
Fun colorful options
Reliable inexpensive knife
Colorful finish may wear off with use
These cheerfully colored knives will be at home in the picnic basket, a drawer at home, or the RV. They’re inexpensive enough—and an even better bargain when buying three—that losing one won’t break the bank, but they’re sharp enough to handle kitchen tasks with ease. The sturdy sheaths keep the knives guarded for travel or storage, keeping the blade free from nicks and hands-free from accidental pokes. The nonstick surface makes cleaning easy, and they can be wiped off easily with no need for serious scrubbing. These knives are also available as a single purchase in a wide variety of colors.
Blade Material: Carbon-coated stainless steel | Handle Material: Plastic | Blade Style: Spear point | Tang: Undetermined | Blade Length: 4 inches | Total Length: 11 inches | Weight: 3 ounces
Best Basic: Misen Paring Knife
Full tang AUS-10 steel blade
Very sharp out of the box
Test-drive for 60 days
Straighter handle may not be as comfortable
Misen made its name on Kickstarter, selling a chef’s knife that earned praise from both websites and average customers, and since then, it's expanded the product line. While the original Misen knives came with a blue handle, now they’re also available in black, gray, or red to blend in with any kitchen décor. The sloped bolster is designed to encourage a proper pinch grip when cutting and also makes sharpening easier. The blade is made from AUS-10 steel, which offers lasting sharpness, and the knife has a full tang for good balance and two rivets for security. Like the original chef’s knife, this blade earns praise from users for its balance, grip, and sharpness out of the box.
Blade Material: AUS-10 steel | Handle Material: Composite | Blade Style: Spear point | Tang: Full | Blade Length: 3 inches | Total Length: 7.75 inches | Weight: Undetermined
What to Look for in a Paring Knife
If a knife isn’t comfortable to handle, the chances of using it will go way down, especially if you struggle with hand strength. So take a look at the different types of handles available. Handles that are ergonomically shaped will be easier to grip. Take the handle material into consideration and whether you’d like it to have a non-slip rubber or textured surface. Larger hands may benefit from a knife with a longer handle, where smaller hands will feel more secure over a shorter handle. Finally, handles come in a wide variety of materials, finishes, and colors. Choose one that’s attractive to you, that you’ll enjoy picking up and using often.
Of course, the primary use of a paring knife is for slicing up smaller ingredients. With that in mind, you want a sharp blade that can easily cut through fruit and vegetable skins, as well as cheeses and even small portions of meat and fish. Look for a knife that comes sharp and stays sharp. If you can sharpen it along the way, that’s a great bonus. Also, a full tang style blade that extends the length of the handle will be a better-balanced knife with sturdier construction that will potentially last you longer than other options. Aim for a blade constructed with high-carbon stainless steel for the most reliability. Other options include ceramic blades that stay sharp for longer but are more brittle and regular stainless steel blades that are sturdy but not as strong as their high-carbon relatives.
Additionally, paring knives come in different shapes. The traditional curved European blade shape is what most people are familiar with and is a great place to start if you’re just starting to build your knife collection. There are also “bird’s beak” style blades where the tip of the knife curves down towards what you’re cutting. This style knife is ideal for delicate and decorative cuts, especially when making pastry, but is also well-suited for slicing fruit and vegetables and their skins. You may also notice a style called “sheepsfoot” with a straight angled blade instead of a curved blade. This style is designed to only come in contact with the cutting board at the blade’s tip and create long, smooth cuts. The more creative you get in the kitchen, the more we’d encourage you to test out different styles of blades to see which work best for your cooking needs.
Price and Warranty
High-quality knives almost always come with a manufacturer’s warranty, which can range from a few years to a limited lifetime guarantee. When picking out a knife, it’s worth it to check the product’s warranty to ensure the protection and maintenance of your investment. More expensive knives occasionally include free or low-cost sharpening by the manufacturer or vendor, which is an excellent addition to the purchase if you aren’t comfortable sharpening your knives.
With that said, low-cost/low commitment knives are handy tools to have in the drawer and can be great for quick everyday use. If you don’t have the budget or interest in maintaining a more expensive knife, look for a low-maintenance knife that suits your needs. Many of these knives are still constructed with high-carbon stainless steel blades and offer a wide range of handles that are occasionally even more comfortable than the more expensive choices. Many of them also come with a manufacturer’s warranty of one to five years. And if they don’t, you won’t take a significant hit when buying a new knife down the road.
What is the function of a paring knife?
Paring knives come in different blade styles—spear point, bird’s beak, sheep’s foot, clipped, and more—but one thing they all have in common is that they are relatively small, both blade and overall, and their blades can often be lighter and more flexible than larger knives. Each style is ideal for certain tasks, and it might be worth owning and exploring the advantages of more than one style.
In general, a paring knife’s most useful functions are with those smaller, more delicate cutting tasks, such as peeling and cutting fruit, edging pastry, mincing herbs, etc., with which precision and flexibility make the work easier. For people who are less skilled with larger knives or simply more comfortable with a smaller blade and handle, a good, long-ish, spear-pointed paring knife can be quite useful.
What is a serrated paring knife for?
Serrations on a paring knife serve the same function as serrations do on a lager knife: They pierce the skin or surface of the food and create a pathway into the softer insides—that’s what makes a serrated paring knife especially useful for slicing tomatoes, splitting an avocado, or wedging citrus. The serrations help get through the outside to the inside.
What is a curved paring knife for?
Curved paring knives—called a bird’s beak blade—are what you turn to when you need the ability to pierce and obtain the greatest precision in cutting. The downturned point of the blade is perfect for incising pastry or rolled cookie dough, halving small fruits and berries, and if you're in a pinch, you can even score a loaf of bread before baking (though a bread lame is a better tool).
How do you sharpen a paring knife?
If you have the option and the manufacturer offers the service, go ahead and send your paring knife back for routine sharpening or you can have it professionally sharped. To sharpen a paring knife at home, for those with a more or less straight blade edge, you can sharpen as you would any other kitchen knife: in a sharpener designed of the purpose or on a whetstone. A bird’s beak paring knife is a bit trickier, but if you get the hang of using a whetstone, that can be sharpened, too. For a serrated paring knife, it’s best to leave the sharpening to professionals. and if your serrated paring knife isn’t one of the more expensive blades, then the best thing to do when it’s dulled is to simply replace it.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie has been testing kitchen tools and appliances for The Spruce and The Spruce Eats since July 2016. She is a freelance food writer, recipe developer, and published cookbook author. With an affinity for gadgets, Donna is always on the lookout for new helpful tools to make your cooking projects more exciting and efficient.
This article was updated by Jenny Kellerhals, a food writer and professional pastry chef of over 10 years in NYC. Jenny likes to strike a balance between affordable and long-lasting knives in her kitchen. Her daily go-to paring knife is her Kuhn Rikon straight paring knife, printed with colorful strawberries.
Catherine Russell also updated this roundup. Growing up, her grandmother's kitchen was one of her favorite places to be. Warmed by the oven and redolent of spices, she learned to bake, roast, broil, and cook most anything from scratch, and often with only the recipes as grandma remembered them.