Paring knives are a cook's best friend when it comes to peeling, pitting, halving and coring fruit as well as small tasks such as slicing mushrooms and chopping herbs. The best paring knives are sharp and well-balanced. They should feel comfortable in your hand; not too long or too short -- experts say a 3-1/4 to 3-1/2 inch paring knife is perfect for most people; if you have very large hands, you may prefer a 4-inch knife. Elsewhere in this report, we also discuss the other two knives that experts say are must-haves, a great chef's knife and a serrated bread knife. If you like a matched set with a variety of knives -- and some find them to be a very attractive option since they come with storage -- see our section on knife sets.
As it does in the chef's knife category, Victorinox comes out on top here, too. Experts, professional testers and owners say the Victorinox 3-1/4-Inch Paring Knife (Est. $9) is a crazy good deal. It performs as well as knives costing three or four times as much, and lasts for years before it needs sharpening. At the price, many say that when it dulls, they just toss the knife and buy another one.
We read a number of reviews from professional cooks and dedicated canners (who do a lot of fine prep of fruits) who say this knife can be used for hours to peel, core, pit and cut without fatigue. They also like it for finely chopping herbs or for cutting grapes in half to make them safe for small children to eat. The Victorinox is well-balanced with a sturdy, comfortable handle that doesn't easily get slippery. It features stamped, stainless steel construction. One professional source says it seems too light and flimsy, but many say they like a lighter knife. The 4-inch version of the Victorinox Paring Knife (Est. $10) is a highly-rated choice on Amazon.com, but most experts agree that 4-inches is a bit too long for most people's hands. If you have larger hands, though, or are looking for something that is more like a utility knife, we do recommend the 4-inch model.
As with our report on chef's knives, Wusthof was such a close runner up in this category that the only deciding factor turned on price. The Wusthof Classic 3-1/2-Inch Paring Knife (Est. $50) is one of the highest-rated paring knives on Amazon.com, and it either comes in a very close second or beats the Victorinox in expert round ups and professional tests. Of course, it costs quite a bit more as well.
Reviewers say the Wusthof paring knife has a sturdier feel than the Victorinox; comfortable and well-proportioned. It gets top ratings for cutting, peeling and precision, but slightly lower marks for edge retention. Users back that up, saying it needs sharpening more often, but that's not unusual for forged steel knives -- they're softer than stamped knives. But forged knives are also a bit heavier and some say they seem sharper when their edge is maintained. They also last for many years.
Another paring knife that gets top reviews from experts and owners is the Rada Cutlery Regular Paring Knife (Est. $6). Made in America, it's another very affordable option that gets raves not only for performance, but also for its attractive styling. It has a high-carbon, stainless steel blade and two handle options: silver brushed aluminum and black resin. This knife isn't as heavy in the hand as the Wusthof, but many reviewers say they prefer a lighter knife. Rada knives also sharpen well, users say.
Any of these knives would be a worthy addition to any kitchen, but for price, quality and value, we highly recommend the Victorinox. Considering that many people may need more than one paring knife to alternate between jobs, to have on hand when they have someone helping in the kitchen, or to have as a backup, it's a plus that some of these knives are affordable enough to buy two.