Paring knives are shaped most similar to chef's knives. They have a spear-like tip and a straight edge. However, they're kitchen utility knives used more than chef knives due to their size. They're less than half the size of a chef knife. The blade of a paring knife is usually 2-4 inches long. It's almost used as often as the chef's knife but for work that's less cooking intensive (more like side jobs). It's quite the useful skill to know how to get your paring knife back into cutting shape.
With that said, you really should know how to sharpen a paring knife. It's almost used as often as the chef knife if not more so.
What Is a Paring Knife?
The paring knife named as such because it's usually used to pare or peel fruits. The blade is short. It's at least 2 inches and at most 4 inches but never longer. It's also useful when it comes to doing intricate or small cuts, such as cutting small garnishes, making banana slices skinning garnishes, removing jalapeño or chili pepper seeds, and de-veining shrimp. This versatility is what earned it the reputation of being an all-purpose knife.
The knife has a very thin cutting edge but a spine that's thick and large. It also usually came with a wooden handle although those with plastic handles also exist. Only the chef knife is as versatile as this knife with a plain edge. It also got its name and use as a paring knife from 16th Century French bookbinders that used a tool known as couteau à parer or paring knife to thin out the leather binding edges as the book is being prepped for getting covered. Doing so made the binding results neater and stick better.
- Paring Knife
- Faucet or water source
- Whetstone (fine, medium, and coarse)
How Do You Sharpen a Paring Knife?
You should learn how to sharpen a paring knife because poorly cut food doesn't cook properly and you could have it slip from your grasp and hurt yourself and others. Here's how you go about sharpening a paring knife.
1. Use a Whetstone:
The best way to sharpen a paring knife is by using a whetstone, also known as a sharpening stone and wetstone. These blocks of pure grit come in all shapes, sizes, and grit grades. When shopping for them, most will arrive with generalized fine and rough grit options.
You'll need to search more thoroughly for professional brands that offer numbered grits. Anything below 1,000 grit is course for knife repair. 1,000 to 3,000 is medium grit for sharpening. 4,000 to 8,000 grit is fine grit that's mostly used for fine detail polishing a knife after it's been sharpened.
2. Whetstones Need to Be Soaked:
Before using a whetstone, you need to soak it in water first for about 10 minutes. From there, place it on a slip-free surface with a good grip despite its wetness to avoid slippage when you're sharpening your paring knife on it. One slip up can lead to an accident that injures you or others as well as the snapping or breaking of the blade itself. You can put a towel under the whetstone to keep it from slipping actually. Any water-absorbent material will do the trick.
3. Keep Things Slightly Wet and Grinding Instructions:
Don't forget to dribble some water on the whetstone from time to time to keep it wet as you grind your knife on it. It works best when wet and when it dries up and you force yourself to use it that's when damage and accidents can occur.
As for grinding instructions, keep the knife flat against the whetstone. The cutting edge should be facing way instead of in front of you. Raise the blade while the edge is still on the stone at a 12° to 18° blade angle.
4. The Blade or Sharpening Angle Is The Key:
Raising the blade to a 12° to 18° blade angle is the key to your paring knife sharpening success. This angle is specifically for paring knives and other smaller knives because larger knives typically go for the 15° to 20° blade angle instead to accommodate their largeness.
The lower angle produces sharper edges that are prone to chipping, which is fine for a smaller knife and other utility tools. A chef's knife that chips easily is no good.
5. How to Make The Angle Consistent Throughout Blade Sharpening:
To make sure you have a constant angle as you sharpen the blade, place your fingers on the blade. This will guide it down the whetstone in a sweep that's diagonal and smooth from the heel to the tip of the knife. The pressure applied should be gentle. Don't press or bear down the blade on the block.
Do 10 to 15 passes on the left and right side of the knife. To add polish, you can do the process for another round on either side or use a second finer grit whetstone.
6. Electric Sharpeners and Pro Sharpeners:
The paring knife is most commonly the knife of choice for cutting small fruits and vegetables up while the chef's knife or cleaver is the more appropriate option for bigger jobs. It's characterized by its plain edge, which made it an all-purpose knife.
When sharpening it, electric sharpeners aren't enough because their spinning wheels merely sharpen the tips and edges. Manually sharpening is still required. You can send them to a professional, but a paring knife can easily be sharpened by the average homeowner.
Even if it's for less rigorous work, constant peeling and cutting will dull the edge of the paring knife over time, usually in a quick fashion depending on the vigorousness and rate of usage. Learn how to sharpen them in order to get them back into cutting shape in no time flat.
Doing so will ensuring the paring knife is able to do what it does best, which is to pare pears and other fruits, among other jobs. Dull knives tend to result in slippage and accidents at worst. At best, you might end up tearing apart and bruising your food, making them unappetizing. It's dangerous to handle a dull blade because you have to exert more force to do the job, leading to you missing the mark or slipping on the blade.