A few weeks ago, after I had put on my coat and was about to leave for work, I went back into the kitchen, opened the silverware drawer, put a paring knife in my pocket, and went on my merry way to the train. I’m not proud of commuting to work with a three-inch blade in my coat, but the one I usually keep in my desk had gone missing and I simply cannot get through a day of eating without one. Without that paring knife, I’m lost.
There are only three knives you need to turn your kitchen into a fully functioning, meal-prepping operation: a chef’s knife, a serrated knife, and a paring knife. The chef’s knife takes care of all the big messy jobs, like chopping onions and root vegetables, while the serrated knife is called upon for very specific tasks, like cutting bread and slicing tomatoes. The paring knife is meant for detail work like hulling strawberries or marking pastry dough, but between you and me, it’s the real MVP—and good for so much more than people give it credit for.
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I use my paring knife more than any other knife. At work, I bring it out to cut up a banana for oatmeal, slice an apple, halve an avocado, or segment an orange. It’s essential for tasks that require you to hold the object in one hand and the knife in the other, or, put another way, for things that can be easily cut without a cutting board. I keep one at work because it’s small and sharp enough for anything that I eat at my desk, even the occasional sweet potato that I stick in the microwave and slice right when it comes out.
Photo by Ted Cavanaugh, Styling by Sue Li
At home, I use it for all of the above, plus the occasional recipe step that requires a small blade, like deveining shrimp and getting the seeds out of a pepper. More often, I use it when I just need something convenient and sharp—like when I want no more than a single slice of cheddar from the block in my refrigerator, or if I’m only slicing a single garlic clove. It’s kind of like an extension of your hand—and unlike a chef’s knife, it isn’t hefty enough to chop off a whole finger. A huge win for a risk-averse cook like myself.
Though you can get by with just one paring knife, they tend to be so cheap that I like to buy a few at a time. I could, of course, give them the care and attention that I’m supposed to give the other knives in my arsenal, but realistically I…don’t. I just throw in them in the dishwasher, knowing that when the blade dulls, all I have to do is buy a new one.
Now, maybe some chocolate cake?
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