How to Use a Paring Knife

Keep your kitchen on the cutting edge with this simple essential.

What It Is A small utility knife is typically used in what pro chefs call the mise en place, or cooking prep, in which onions, tomatoes, and other small ingredients are peeled and diced.

Use It for It's perfect for peeling and turning (trimming and sculpting) fruits and veggies. You'll also find it useful for chopping small foods like shallots; the smaller size and shape of the knife give you more control. Avoid: outsize jobs; don't use it for cutting steak or sawing away at a watermelon.

Picking One Plain and simple, a knife needs to feel good in your hand, and the blade needs to be forged from high-carbon steel to ensure durability. The type of handle—plastic or wood—is a matter of personal preference, but keep in mind that wood needs a bit more care.

Stay Sharp You're actually more likely to hurt yourself with a dull knife than with a sharp one. The better the edge, the better the control you'll have, and the less likely you are to force a cut and accidentally nick yourself. If the blade dulls, take it to a shop or just buy a new one…. Do you really want to sharpen it yourself? Didn't think so.

Playing It Safe Don't just drop the knife into a sink full of soapy water and forget about it; your fingers could get a rude awakening the following morning. Instead, clean and dry it right away, slip the blade into an edge guard, and put it back in the drawer.

ART: feel free to make this a burst a favorite tool or whatever…

Tip [An MIU France Stainless-Steel Magnetic Knife Holder ($37, Amazon.com) is an easy way to keep your growing knife collection organized.]

Squaring Things Off When slicing fruits or vegetables on a cutting board, first lop off the curvy ends to create a solid cutting base.

Gripping It Good To peel thin-skinned foods such as apples or potatoes, hold the food with your index and middle fingers on one tip and secure it with your thumb on the bottom. With three fingers holding the knife handle and your index finger's knuckle on the blunt side of the blade, cut downwards toward your thumb. (Tip: Potatoes peel more easily when wet.)

Going Deep To peel a thick-skinned fruit like an orange, grip the handle with four fingers and position your thumb along the blade. Slowly slice into the orange to cut right under the skin and pith, and then keep the knife under the skin while you rotate the fruit. (Tip: Oranges with a thicker skin, like navel oranges, are easier to peel.)

Nestpert: Chef Nils Noren, Vice President of Culinary Arts at the French Culinary Institute in New York, and former Aquavit head chef.