Kitchn Love Letters

The Wacky-Looking Knife That Makes Prep Work a Million Times Easier

published Feb 24, 2021
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Most experts will say you really only need three knives: a chef’s knife, bread knife, and paring knife. A chef’s knife is an all-purpose all-star — here to help you slice, dice, and mince with precision and ease. A bread knife (aka, a serrated knife) is great for slicing loaves of bread without squishing or tearing, getting perfect slices of tomatoes, and even carving big cuts of meat, like brisket. And a paring knife is ideal for prep tasks, like peeling potatoes, coring tomatoes, cutting a lime into wedges, and segmenting citrus.

However, I’d vouch for a fourth knife, and it’s something you might not have heard of: a bird’s beak paring knife. These little knives — which have curved blades that, you guess it, are shaped like bird’s beaks — are well-known within the French culinary world. They’re also called tourné knives, because they’re used to “turn” vegetables like potatoes or carrots into uniform, football-esque shapes, with the idea being that this helps them both cook evenly and is aesthetically pleasing.

Because of its curved blade, a bird’s beak paring knife can’t make straight cuts or be used to slice things on a cutting board, so it’s not a replacement for a paring knife (which is totally fine, because my favorite “regular” paring knife costs just $10!). However, a bird’s beak knife is shorter than a paring knife, so it’s easier to control. Its curved blade also makes it more agile, and it’s able to precisely hug the curves of a ginger root or an orange. And its pointed, super-sharp tip shines in certain prep tasks.

Credit: Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm

Here’s what I love to use my bird’s beak paring knife for.

  • Hulling strawberries
  • Removing the eyes from pineapple and potatoes
  • Peeling potatoes
  • Coring and peeling tomatoes
  • Peeling citrus, like lemons and oranges
  • Peeling ginger
  • Deveining shrimp
  • Trimming artichokes
  • Trimming whole Brussels sprouts
  • Removing halves of stone fruits, like peaches and nectarines, from their pits

The curved part of the blade is best at peeling, while the sharp tip is excellent for coring and deveining. To do the latter, be sure to choke up on the knife’s blade for added control (Cook’s Illustrated has an excellent explainer on this).

And as for which one you should get, I actually have two bird’s beak paring knives: this one by Mercer Culinary, which costs about $21, and one by Lamson, which costs about $65. I’m consistently impressed with their ease and agility, and I think you will be, too.

Do you have a bird’s beak paring knife? Tell us about it in the comments!