What Is A Bird’s Beak Knife Used For?

By Ryan Leavitt •  Updated: 03/14/21 •  6 min read

As the name implies, the Bird’s Beak is a type of paring knife that is shaped like a bird’s beak – curved downwards to a sharp point. Called the Tourne by professional chefs, this is used to peel and slice round fruits and vegetables into oblong pieces for aesthetics and to ensure even cooking.

There are nearly a dozen kinds of paring knives, most of which are used for very specific tasks in the kitchen. The Bird’s Beak is one of those.

Shaped like the beak of a bird (more of the toucan’s or a flamingo’s), this is used to peel and slice fruits and vegetables into the same oblong size. In French, this method is called Tourne, which means to turn in English.

Professional cooks working in top restaurants do this so that the food they serve looks nice.

But don’t assume that this is only for top chefs. Many home cooks who tried using this say that it is even better than the regular pare-r.

What is it?

A bird’s beak knife (also called a tourné knife) is a piece of history from the French culinary roots.

It looks like a small paring knife with a blade that is slightly curved and extremely sharp at the end.

It has a shorter blade of about 2 to 3 inches, compared to a paring knife that is 4 to 7 inches long.

It is very small – perfect for those who have limited kitchen storage.

It can be the best replacement for your paring knife with an additional benefit!

The way it peels fruits and vegetables can be compared to a peeler, as its bird’s beaked-shaped end helps the user to make thinner peels even on the edges.

It is perfect to use with curved or irregular-shaped items, or those fruits and vegetables with hard-to-peel skins that a peeler can’t.

Less waste with every peel means more fruits and vegetables to eat!

It is also the perfect companion in decorative garnishing with attention to the details.

The ‘beak’ allows the user to make finer details in slicing.

This is one of the few knives that are recommended to be used without the chopping board.

Its small size and unique blade shape make it convenient to hold the knife in one hand and hold the item in place on the other.

How to use

In peeling fruits and vegetables, use the bottom half of the blade as an ordinary knife.

Continue to slice away the skin.

It is also good at peeling small stuff like garlic, shallots, onion, and even getting into the edges of the ginger.

Aside from peeling, it also trims vegetables like asparagus stalks, Brussel sprouts, and artichoke stems.

It is also a helpful tool for removing the pineapple eyes.

Use the curved edge to trace a circular shape while going deeper, creating a reverse circular pyramid shape on each eye.

Pull it away by using the same sharp tip.

You may also do the same with strawberry and tomato stems, including sprouts and black holes of potatoes.

It can also be used for different kinds of seafood, showing how versatile this knife is.

The tip can be used in making a slit and removing the veins in a shrimp.

It can also be used in deboning some fish with soft bones, or those with bones that can be easily pulled away.

In garnishing, it makes beautiful flowers by peeling tomatoes with total control (that should also come in time with practice) of the thinness and thickness.

It goes the same in using citrus peels.

What to check before buying

The first thing to consider is the grip.

Since this knife does not require a chopping board, make sure that it has a non-slippery handle.

The material should be comfortable enough for the user to hold it properly.

Just like any other knives, the most important part is the blade.

It should have a sharp and narrow edge, with enough blade thinness and a smooth body surface.

The best model should have a modestly curved ‘beak’, as other manufacturers create a more sharply curved arc.

It should also have a spine thick enough to be comfortable even when used for a long period of time.

Some chefs and reviewers have tested a number of these knives, and found that there is no specific requirement to its most distinguishing characteristic – the curved tip or the ‘beak’.

However, buyers still have to make sure to get one from known knife manufacturers to ensure quality.

Some would offer a lifetime warranty to prove how confident they are in terms of craftsmanship.

Knives made with lower standards or from cheap materials may cause cuts or worst, serious accidents.

How to make it last

This cutter may need extra care in terms of sharpening, due to its shaped blade.

The majority of electric knife sharpeners may not assist in sharpening the curved part, but a whetstone can (note to proceed with extreme caution).

A knife like this may require careful handling because of its shape.

Using it for the first time, some knives need to be sharpened before using them.

Most consumers would throw away user guides or instruction manuals.

However, this contains information on what is the best way to take care of your new item.

Since knife manufacturers use different materials, the manual will tell you what to do and what you shouldn’t.

Keep product guides as you may need it in the future, or to know if it is compatible on other kitchen items such as a dishwasher.

Some may see this knife as an unnecessary addition to a normal household kitchen.

It may also be seen as a waste of money, but this one is worth trying.

If you like making fine artworks out of your food and simply looking for a multifunctional substitute for a peeler, a bird’s beak knife is the perfect option.

Instead of having many small knives with different functions, choose this one instead.

It will change the way you think about petite knives.

Ryan Leavitt

Hi my name is Ryan Leavitt a Marine Corps Veteran and currently an over the road trucker (Long Haul). I am no expert chef but am enjoying preparing my own meals on the road and testing all the different knives.