What is a Bird's Beak Knife?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A bird's beak knife is a knife with a specialized curved blade that is well suited to things like carving fruit and producing the “tournee cut,” which is often used in food presentation. While this type of knife is not a vital necessity for most kitchens, it can be a very handy tool. A number of companies produce bird's beak knives, made from an assortment of materials for cooks of different needs. Most kitchen supply stores carry at least a small assortment.

A bird's beak knife should never be run through a dishwasher.
A bird's beak knife should never be run through a dishwasher.

Viewed from the side, the blade of a bird's beak knife really does resemble the curved beak of a bird. The blade is usually shorter than that of a paring knife, although it can perform many of the same functions. The curved blade can also make it a very useful utility knife around the kitchen, since it can perform a number of kitchen tasks.

Knives should be kept out of the reach of children.
Knives should be kept out of the reach of children.

An alternate name for the knife is a “tournee knife,” in a reference to the tournee cut that can be accomplished with a bird's beak knife. A tournee cut is any sort of shaped cut in food that results in a sculpted piece of fruit or vegetable. Such cuts can be relatively mundane or extremely complex, as in the case of Thai fruit carving, which turns whole fruits into elaborate displays of knife work. Many people find that a bird's beak knife is the ideal tool for this job, since the short curved blade can get into places where other blades cannot.

When selecting a knife, look for one that feels right in your hand. As a general rule, try to avoid purchasing knives in a set, since you will often acquire those that you do not need. The knife should fit in your hand comfortably, and it should have solid, strong construction. Blades are usually metal, although ceramic is also available. You can usually find solid molded knives or knives with plastic or wooden handles. A solid molded knife will hold up longer, and is generally the best choice.

Care directions for a bird's beak knife vary, depending on what type of handle it has. As a general rule, never run kitchen knives through a dishwasher, as the blades can become damaged. Wash the knife in soap and warm water, and dry it thoroughly to avoid spotting or pitting the blade. Store knives in a safe location out of the reach of children and curious pets.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@giraffeears- Garnish cutting and Thai fruit cutting are very different from making a tourne cut. They take a certain level of skill and practice to make them look good. You are essentially turning food into a sculpture. Thai fruit sculptures are meticulously planned, and can take hours to complete, but the finished product is incredibly appealing.

Watermelons and squash are favorites for this type of decorative food preparation because the skin, rind, and fruit all have different colors that show up when the fruit is carved. You can carve bouquets of pink and white flowers, with white and green leaves out of a watermelon, or a bouquet of white and yellow roses with green leaves out of a squash. A simple online search will yield a number of impressive fruit sculptures.

If you are looking to learn to garnish cut, you should start with easy garnishes like radish roses and fruit and vegetable fans. You can find guides on how to cut fruits and vegetables into these simple patterns online.


@GiraffeEars- Technically, a tournee cut is a specific cut used to make certain types of vegetable and tubers uniform for serving. It is most often used with carrots, turnips, beets, and potatoes. To make a tournee cut; you cut your vegetable of choice into two-inch lengths. Once you have your vegetable cut into two-inch lengths, you use a bird's beak knife to peel the vegetable from end to end. You do this seven times. When completed, your vegetable will be a two-inch long, seven-sided oblique that resembles a football in shape. In my opinion, the cut wastes a lot of food and it does not look that special, but it serves its purpose in certain dishes.


How can I learn to do the different tournee cuts with a bird’s beak knife? About the only thing that I can do is a zigzag cut in a citrus. I would love to learn how to cut other garnishes for sprucing up my holiday dinners.

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