Which knife do you pick up first when you start cooking? Probably it’s the paring knife, because you start with the basic things like trimming the bad spot out of the potato. What’s the worst knife most people own? The same one. Paring knives are cheap and many people don’t think about upgrading.
A good paring knife makes the prep go so much easier and faster that buying a good paring knife should be basic. Look for a blade with a common sense shape — the spear point with a straight plain edge is already familiar to most hands and for everyday tasks does the best work. Straight edges peel accurately and the plain edge — without serrations — is easily controlled and leaves a smooth surface behind.
Large handles help. The fingers wrapped around the handle orient the blade to follow tricky curves — closing the grip moves the knife through the work. If the knife has enough handle to provide torque, your hand doesn’t get nearly so tired.
Most of the time the cutting edge of the knife faces your thumb — this is one instance when serrated edges and magically sharp ceramic blades aren’t the best choice. An old-fashioned taper ground bevel won’t be so likely to split your thumb open if you squeeze a little harder than usual.
Since many of us use paring knives wherever we need a short blade and lots of leverage, strength helps. Ceramic blades aren’t good for that, but stamped or forged blades can take the stress.
One of the best for the budget conscious cook is the Victorinox 3″ Paring Knife by R.H. Forschner.
A good choice that’s heavier and almost bullet-proof (for those who use paring knives for nearly everything) is the Wusthof Classic 3.5 inch Paring Knife.
And for those who dream of good knives there’s our choice for “Best Paring Knife” — the Shun Classic 3 inch Knife. Expensive, but the best of both worlds — the sharpness of high end modern steel combined with the strength of traditional damascus layering. The handle hasn’t been ergonomically redesigned (it was already right).