The $12 French Knife Ever Kitchen Should Have, According to a Food Editor

The knife I have a total crush on right now costs less than ordering two Blizzards at Dairy Queen.

The $12 French Knife Ever Kitchen Should Have, According to a Food Editor
French knife with a blue and yellow illustrated background
Simply Recipes / Photo Illustration by Wanda Abraham / Getty Images

I am probably more protective of my kitchen knives than any other object in the house. Mess with my kitchen knives and it’s knives out! My favorite one is a Japanese seven-inch santoku that cost about $240 in 2008. 

However, the knife I have a total crush on right now costs less than ordering two Blizzards at Dairy Queen. It’s small and understated, yet feels so natural in my hand. I use it all the time. I even look for excuses to use it!

The Little Knife That Brightens My Day

It’s the Opinel Vegetable Prep Knife, which retails for $11.50. Its three-inch blade is curved inward, like a bird’s beak. In fact, that’s one common name for this type of knife. The other common name is tournée knife.

I reach for it when I’m peeling apples or pears, scoring the skin of a pomegranate, or trimming Brussels sprouts—fiddly detail work. Its curved blade hugs rounded surfaces…and I can’t think of many fruits and vegetables that don’t have a rounded surface.

I only recently acquired this petite beauty. Opinel is a French knife maker, and their knives are affordable yet made well. They sell a folding mushroom foraging knife that would make a great gift to me (ahem, Santa). My vegetable prep knife has a natural wood handle, but there are five other colors to choose from: blue, pink, purple, green, and yellow. I want one of each! 

So yes, they are cute. Which is important. Utility matters, but so do looks. It’s totally OK to be shallow. I spend hours in the kitchen and I prefer to handle objects that make me smile. As opposed to what I’d call my legacy knives—the German and Japanese blades with proprietary alloys and hefty price tags—a humble little knife feels low stakes. I love it, but I wouldn’t be heartbroken if the tip got broken off because my daughter used it as a screwdriver. I’d have a reason to buy another one. I think I’ll go for purple next time.

The Best Use for This Knife

Some cooks do all of their prep work on a cutting board, while others use a technique where you hold up the fruit or vegetable in one hand and manipulate your knife with the other. Peeling apples is a good example. If you do a lot of such prep work, you will adore this knife. Get a few and slip them into the stockings of other cooks you love.

Interestingly enough, my introduction to this type of knife was years ago, when I was a young doofus in cooking school. The curriculum back then skewed heavily toward classical French traditions, and we learned a lot of conceptually interesting but outdated skills. One of those was making tournéed vegetables. “Tournée” means “to turn” in French, and it’s a cut where you make carrots, parsnips, potatoes, or other such vegetables into demure football shapes.

Carving a carrot into miniature footballs is harder than it sounds, especially with a standard paring knife. With a small, inwardly curved tournée knife like the Opinel vegetable prep knife, it’s by far easier. Of course, I did not invest in a vegetable prep knife and wound up slicing into my thumb a few times while grappling with my tournéed vegetables. And when do you serve tournéed vegetables? In theory, they garnish stews or go alongside a medallion of beef on a fancy plate. In practice, never. You will never tournée a vegetable in the real world unless you are stuck in a kitchen with nothing but a pile of turnips and a few hours to kill. 

Every time I use my little Opinel knife, I feel a burst of thankfulness that I get to use it for something practical, like quartering mushrooms. I am forever free of making tournées. Such moments of joy are what we all need more of.  

BUY IT NOW: Opinel Vegetable Prep Knife