Recent bought a chef's knive and a paring knife, both are high carbon stainless steel. The chef's knife is quite sharp and can cut a piece of butcher's twine just by touching it, with little or no pressure. The paring knife cannot. In fact, I can even grip the blade quite hard and it doesn't cut me. Should I have it sharpened?

  • I also have both types of knives. I use the paring knife a lot to peel fruits and vegetable and, while I like my knives sharp, I don't like the paring knife too sharp. The reason is, if it is too sharp, after peeling potatoes or apples, I get a bunch of little cuts on my thumb. Aug 29, 2016 at 9:20
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    @user3653831 : there are different ways of using a paring knife. If you're slicing in your hand, you generally bring it to your thumb, and you may need to develop a bit of a callous to use it both safely and quickly ... but for peeling (aka 'paring') you bring it around the side of the food item, and don't tend to bring it in contact with your thumb. For decorative work, you don't go all the way through, and typically want it sharp enough so you don't have to push so hard that you damage the item being carved or accidentally go further than you planned.
    – Joe
    Aug 29, 2016 at 14:00
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    "In fact, I can even grip the blade quite hard and it doesn't cut me" - that was a really dumb test to perform. For your own safety, please don't do that again. Aug 29, 2016 at 17:23
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    Some people might have a terrible habit of using relatively blunt paring knives straight against their hand or thumb, these should obviously not be using a level of sharpness they are uncomfortable with :) Aug 30, 2016 at 8:16

4 Answers 4


All cutting (slicing, chopping) knives should be as sharp as you can get them, really. A dull knife is much more likely to cause an accident and cut you. Dull knives are more difficult to use properly and any knife used improperly is likely to lead to accidents. The duller the knife the more pressure you need to apply in order to cut your food, leading to a higher chance of slipping and hurting yourself

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    Also, a dull knife is just plain awful to work with.
    – J...
    Aug 28, 2016 at 22:45
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    While this should probably be obvious for halfway experienced cooks, I think it would be a good idea to rewrite this to something like “a dull knife is much harder to use in a safe way”. Because any knife is likely to cause accidents if handled improperly; in that case a sharp knife is not going to help. And indeed, unsurprisingly, with the same force a sharp knife is going to cut you deeper; just with the proper technique a sharp knife can relieve you from ever needing to apply as much force as you would with a dull one. Aug 28, 2016 at 23:18
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    A "dull" knife doesn't stop being dangerous, so there's really no benefit to even having a dull knife. Heck you can stab yourself with a pen if you're stupid.
    – Nelson
    Aug 29, 2016 at 1:21
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    Even an extremely sharp knife will not cut skin if hitting it straight on unless there is some force - otherwise no one could use razors. Compare tomatoes, it will take either force (smacking the knife into it and/or the infamous "tomato drop test") or just a slight amount of slicing motion (a few mm can suffice!) to break through the skin even with something scary sharp. By contrast, an axe will make unclean but short work of the fruit - and so will a dull knife, used with momentum/force, of your fingers. If you hit your fingers with a slicing motion - tough luck in both cases. Aug 29, 2016 at 8:00
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    All knives is possibly an overreach, a spreading knife probably should not be razor sharp and is certainly just useful for cooking when blunt, and I am sure there are more examples like that. However yes, cutting knives are usually best sharp.
    – Vality
    Aug 29, 2016 at 19:35

It needs to be sharp enough to cut easily and cleanly. A sharp knife grips the food, cuts better, and is easier to control. Food also has a nicer presentation with a clean cut. A sharp knife is safer because it is easier to control. It does not need to be razor sharp and cut hair. Cut paper is plenty sharp for meat, fruits, and vegetables.

You can also buy a sharpening kit to do it yourself. Many options where you get cooking supplies. Or pay to have it professional sharpened.

A knife does not hold an edge very long. A honing steel will re-align the microscopic teeth and can be used frequently- even after each use. You will get one with most knife sets. I hone before each use. You will feel when the knife does not bite. Something like a cucumber will bite easily. A tomato takes a sharp edge. When it does not easily penetrate the skin then hone.

wusthof.com care-and-sharpening using-a-steel

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    I have a ceramic knife that keeps it's edge much longer (maybe 5, 10 times?) than my steel knives. The downside is you need a special sharpener but it's great for cutting fruits and vegetables. For some reason, steel seems to be better for meats. It's nice if you aren't big on sharpening frequently. Note, these are actually ceramic blades, not enamel over steel or anything. Don't try to use them to pry things open.
    – JimmyJames
    Aug 29, 2016 at 18:56
  • Only do that with a knife that is designed to work well with a honing steel, some harder edges can be damaged by it. What works on every steel edge, though, is stropping on paper, balsa or leather. BTW, the problem with ceramics is that with a steel knife, it won't take long until you will have honed/stropped/done-something-to-improve-edge 10 times. So 10 times as long until you need to do something about the edge is NOT long. Sure, there are upmarket ceramics, but at prices that will afford you a decent VG10 or SG2 based steel knife (which keeps sharp quite long once sharpened right!). Aug 30, 2016 at 8:24
  • @rackandboneman Stated question is "high carbon stainless steel"
    – paparazzo
    Aug 30, 2016 at 9:00
  • Yes. But since others started suggesting alternatives (ceramic of all sorts), let's constructively hijack this :) Aug 30, 2016 at 9:24
  • @rackandboneman Not how SE is supposed to work
    – paparazzo
    Aug 30, 2016 at 9:54

We had an axiom when I worked in a kitchen:

A sharp knife is a safe knife.

That applies to all types, in my opinion. You want to maximize your control while cutting. If you are slicing an apple or a tomato with a dull paring knife, your chance of injuring yourself will be elevated.

Using a dull knife also makes it more difficult to make something beautiful. In order to fan out most fruits/vegetables, you need sharp, precise cuts.

Apple Fan

See also Why Dull Knives are More Dangerous in the Kitchen


I laughed out loud when I read the question and some of the answers. I am notorious, at least in my family, for not sharpening my knives regularly (or very fully even when I do). Every time my brother visits me, he complains about my knives and sharpens them, and as as result I invariably cut myself while I'm washing dishes or actually paring. As a result of this result, he is now barred from my kitchen.

I think you should have a paring knife with a cutting blade you're comfortable with. If you're comfortable with a sharp one, use it. If you like them a bit dull and know how to maneuver them properly, do that.

I really don't think this is one of those questions that has a right answer. Each cook needs to decide what s/he likes and use it accordingly in this case. The point, after all, is simply to be able to pare things!

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    It sounds like you have picked up some unfortunate habits over the years. If you know how to handle a knife safely, you should not be at risk of cutting yourself while paring, and definitely not while washing. If you're depending on the blade being too dull to cut you when you accidentally press against it, you're already doing something dangerous, and on top of that you're risking injury from the blade slipping instead of slicing cleanly. I get that this ends up working out for you, but for others, I would strongly suggest avoiding developing similar habits.
    – Cascabel
    Oct 13, 2016 at 22:30
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    BTW; there is no common way (unless you sharpen, then wear down the knife - or choose an intentionally very obtuse edge angle, but that would still be fully sharpening ;) ) to sharpen a knife "not very fully" - either a new apex is established or it isn't. In the first case, you end up with something that would be too sharp for your habits even if doing it on a very coarse stone but but properly. The second case is not "not fully sharpened" but "incorrectly sharpened" Nov 30, 2016 at 10:38
  • it sounds like you have developed the wrong skills so that trying to start over the right way is difficult. This is bad advice and not dissimilar to saying "i drive my automatic car with both of my feet, and when I tried to use one foot the other day i missed the break and got into an accident." the proper technique can sometimes be harder to learn at first, but that doesn't mean it isn't the better way to do things
    – Sdarb
    Sep 26, 2018 at 16:09

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