The Henckels Four Star paring knife does well in professional tests. One consumer magazine awards it top marks for cutting performance and handle comfort, with very good scores for balance. In a second professional test, the Henckels knife excels at paring fruit and at precision tasks such as cutting the stems out of strawberries. When it comes to actual cutting, the knife's performance is still good, but its shorter length puts it at a disadvantage compared to the top-rated Wüsthof Classic 3½-inch Paring Knife (*Est. $35). On the plus side, it holds its edge slightly better than the Wüsthof, and testers tend to prefer its handle, which they feel gives them a more secure grip.
User reviews at Amazon.com are generally consistent with these findings. Most owners find the edge sharp, the balance ideal and the handle comfortable (although a few say it's awkward for larger hands). We did not see any complaints about the knife being too short, but we also didn't see any of the praise for its versatility -- as is common with the slightly longer Wüsthof Classic. Also, although most users say this knife holds its edge well, we read one or two complaints that it needs frequent sharpening.
Like all Henckels Four Star knives, this paring knife is forged, hammered from a single piece of steel. Tests have disproved the once common assumption that forged blades invariably outperform stamped ones, which are cut from a steel sheet, but forged knives are still widely viewed as more durable. Another feature that enhances this knife's durability is the full tang, which extends the metal of the blade to the end of the handle. We did not see any durability complaints about these knives
The handle is made of molded polypropylene, which is bonded to the blade. Users like its shape; several reviews say it "feels great in my hand." One in particular cites the curved end of the handle, which provides a handy brace for the little finger. Although these handles are dishwasher-safe, Henckels recommends hand washing.
The Henckels Four Star paring knife is nothing special to look at. It has a plain steel blade marked with the Henckels logo and simple, rivet-free plastic handles. Users have little to say about this knife's appearance, either pro or con; it's seen as more functional than snazzy looking.
It was a close call between this knife and the Wüsthof Classic 3½-inch Paring Knife (*Est. $35) as to which was worthy of a best buy pick. Both knives are great performers, although the Wüsthof is slightly better at cutting and the Henckels holds its edge a bit better. They're both well-made knives as well, and comfortable to hold. Ultimately, the Wüsthof took the top slot because of the greater versatility offered by its slightly longer blade. However, if you want a paring knife mainly for just that -- paring -- then you can't go far wrong with the Henckels Four Star.
1. Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Report Credibility: Excellent Cook's Illustrated magazine puts 10 paring knives to the test. Each knife is used in a variety of tasks, including peeling apples and coring strawberries, and its edge is tested on sheets of paper after use. Editors find 3½ inches the ideal length for a paring blade, and they prefer a heavier handle that balances out the weight of the blade. Along with the J.A. Henckels Four Star 3-inch Paring Knife, tested knives include pricey models from the Shun Classic and Wüsthof Classic lines, as well as less expensive Victorinox Fibrox and Chicago Cutlery knives.
Review: Paring Knives, Editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine, Jan. 1, 2011
Report Credibility: Very Good ConsumerReports.org rates knife sets rather than individual knives. The main knives in each set, including the paring knife, are evaluated on their cutting performance, handle comfort and balance. Each set's overall score also accounts for features such as sharpness and corrosion resistance. ConsumerReports.org currently lists results for 55 knife sets on its website, including the J.A. Henckels Four Star 7-piece set, which includes the 3-inch paring knife. Other tested knife sets include high-end brands like Wüsthof and Shun and budget brands like Ginsu and Chicago Cutlery.
Review: Kitchen Knives, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated
Report Credibility: Good The J.A. Henckels Four Star 3-inch Paring Knife receives nearly 40 reviews from owners at Amazon.com. Overall, it earns 4.7 stars out of 5 from users. Owners love this knife's size, which they say is ideal for paring, and its handle, which users say feels good in the hand. They also say it cuts cleanly, is well balanced and has a good factory edge. The few negative reviews we found say that this knife could hold its edge better, is flimsy or lacking in heft and isn't good for users with large hands.
Review: Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Four Star 4-Inch High-Carbon Stainless-Steel Paring Knife, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of October 2012