Can You Use a Paring Knife to Cut Meat?

A paring knife can be used to cut anything, including meat. Made primarily for slicing fruits, vegetables, and fresh herbs, you can do nearly anything with it as long as it is properly sharpened.

Often people will mistake it for Chef’s knife due to its shape being similar. But it is much smaller and better suited for delicate work than the larger blade it is compared to.

In this article, we will learn more about using a paring knife to cut meat. We will also explore the different uses for a pairing knife, how to properly care for one, and what you should know before you buy your own.

A young male chef cutting the meat in a professional kitchen

Can You Use a Paring Knife to Cut Meat When It Isn’t Cooked?

There is a difference in texture when meat is cooked versus when it is raw. When heat is applied to meat, the proteins will begin to vibrate. The more it cooks, the less those molecules will bind, causing the cut of meat to lose its shape and resistance.

You may have noticed that slicing a chicken breast when it is raw can be difficult. The thicker parts require more force. When you prepare a cutlet, as an example, it is better to start from the thickest end and follow it to the thinner side to use that force to propel the blade through the breast.

However, even a butter knife can often make it through the flesh without much effort when you have cooked it. That is because the proteins have broken apart, causing less elasticity. This is why it is more tender.

A paring knife can cut through meat whether it has gone through the cooking process or not. It can slide through easily thanks to the shape of the blade and the ability to handle it with more control. This is with or without the resistance caused by the proteins binding it together.

It can also slide through tendons, fat, and gristle as it is encountered in your meat.

How Can I Keep My Pairing Knife Sharp?

Of course, it doesn’t matter what you are trying to cut if your paring knife doesn’t have a nice, sharp edge. Because it is such a useful tool, it is also one of the most common types of blades to become dull over time, worn down by use. A dulled blade is useless as a kitchen implement and a safety hazard to the chef.

The good news is that keeping your pairing knife in tip-top condition is easy:

  • Sharpen your knife every month or two. If you are using your paring knife regularly, it is going to become dull regardless of what you are cutting with it. Buy a sharpener and use it every one to two months to keep the edge well maintained.
  • Get your knives professionally sharpened once a year. Even sharpening your knives monthly isn’t enough for long-term care. A professional can perfectly rejuvenate the blade to the point where it operates like new. Some chefs keep the same knife for decades and credit their longevity to Cutlers and their unique skills.
  • Hand-wash your pairing knife. The last place you ever want to put your knives is a dishwasher. The heat is asking for warping, which can affect both the blade and the strength of the handle. Over time, the adhesive holding the blade in place will begin to break down. Plus, the damp environment is a breeding ground for bacteria, making it a health risk.
  • Clean it as soon as you are done using it. The longer a substance sits on your paring knife, the worst it is for the metal or ceramic it is made of. You should, at the least, wipe your blade with a kitchen towel after every use, especially if you are cutting anything acidic, such as citrus.
  • Don’t use a knife block. Knife blocks require you to slide your knives into a narrow opening, usually made from wood, to keep them jutting outward. Rubbing against lumber is a quick way to dull the edge. Plus, it can also lead to bacteria, mold, and rot from inside of the holder, where moisture gathers in the center. There have even been instances of insects breeding in knife blocks!
  • Don’t use a wooden cutting board. A wooden cutting board comes with the same risks as a block, with the blade striking the board when you slice or chop. Sometimes this is done with enough force that the knife will stick in the wood, thanks to it being a softer material. Plastic is less likely to allow this, and it is known to hold fewer bacteria.

What To Know When Buying a Pairing Knife

Finding the right paring knife requires more than just choosing one on Amazon. The right knife is worth its weight in gold and will become a must-have for any kitchen. But you want to make sure you buy one that has everything you are looking for, as it will be a daily-used tool.

The brand isn’t as important as style. Some people prefer a metal blade, and sterling silver is the most commonly sold. Others like ceramic, which has an unfair reputation for being less sturdy.

They may not be quite as tough as steel, but as long as they are hand washed and properly stored, the chances of chipping them are low.

Serrated versus non-serrated is another factor to consider. A serrated blade is used for cutting thicker exteriors and softer interiors but can be used for anything. A straight edge is nearly as versatile, though straight paring knives may not be as handy for cutting bread.

However, they are easier to sharpen since they don’t have the serrated “teeth” that can lead to an uneven edge.

Finally, you have the price. Believe it or not, expensive does not mean better. If you look at reviews on popular products, you will notice that paring knives that cost $100 or more garner complaints. On the other end of the spectrum, you can find blades for $10 that have cooking enthusiasts raving.

Take note of what others have to say about the product and let that be your guide,

Final Thoughts

You can use a paring knife to cut meat or anything else you need sliced. Great for delicate or basic work, it is a versatile tool that should be in regular rotation in your kitchen.

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