How to Slice and Pare Fruits and Vegetables

By Marie Rama, Bryan Miller

Recipes that feature fruits and vegetables often ask for you to slice or pare them. For example, to create a the all-American apple pie, you need to first pare and then slice the apples.

Slicing fruits and vegetables

Slicing is the most common — and most important — knife task. There are really only two things to keep in mind:

  • If you’re slicing a hard, round vegetable, like an onion or a winter squash, trim one side flat first so it doesn’t roll around on the cutting board.

  • Take your time to assure evenly thick pieces, whether you’re slicing an onion or a pineapple. Doing so makes the food look better and cook more evenly.

The figure shows how to slice a scallion. As you can see, you can slice with the knife straight in front of you or at a slight angle with the blade moving away from you.

[Credit: Illustration by Elizabeth Kurtzman]

Credit: Illustration by Elizabeth Kurtzman

Paring fruits and vegetables

Paring is one of the only cutting tasks you perform while holding the ingredient in your hand. Don’t worry — you don’t need the first-aid kit nearby! Your hands are designed for this kind of work. Paring means to remove skin from fruits and vegetables as well as to sculpt them into decorative shapes.

They can be small items, like shallots and garlic, or larger ones, like apples and tomatoes. Above all, a paring knife must be razor sharp to perform well.

To pare an apple, for example, hold it in one hand, barely pressing it into your palm, with fingers bracing the surface (outside of where the cutting proceeds). Pierce the skin of the apple with the paring knife and carefully peel it toward you, slowly turning the apple with your thumb. Spiral all the way to the bottom.

[Credit: Illustration by Elizabeth Kurtzman]

Credit: Illustration by Elizabeth Kurtzman

Although fruits and vegetables come in different shapes, this technique of holding food and slicing toward you is the same. Need a visual to help you figure out the best way to pare? Check out this video on how to use a paring knife.