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Boning Knife vs. Fillet Knife – Which is Better?

This is a common question we get from fishermen after they’ve caught their catch, “should I use a boning blade or a fillet blade to prepare my fish?”

The answer is that you should use a fillet knife, but in a bind, you can use both.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the fillet knife vs boning knife debate!

What are the Differences Between Boning vs Fillet Knives?

Boning Knife

The purpose of a well crafted boning knife is to separate meat from the various bones found in a cut of beef. You can imagine grabbing a bone-in steak and needing nimble blades to work the tight spaces the different bones call for.

Comparing a flexible boning knife to a kitchen blade or a chef’s knife, you’ll notices that that between the two knives, the boning knife will have a thinner delicate blade and a slightly curved, sharp tip. However, when looking at a fillet knife vs boning knife, the fillet knife will be even smaller yet.

Boning knives need to be made of quality steel since the bones are dense, and the blade can dull or become damaged if not careful. It doesn’t need to be as flexible as fillet knives, but they do come in handy if you are fish boning a large fish. But it does need to have a sharp tip and thin blade for easier penetration.

Fillet Knife

The purpose of a flexible fillet knife is to remove the flesh from the delicate meat – cutting through connective tissue and ligaments. The fillet knife’s blade needs to be sharp with a bend in it so you can get the right angle to put enough pressure in separating meat from the skin.

Filleting knives have an upward curve that maximizes the knife’s cutting belly size. Compared to boning knives, it has a sharp curved tip. It’s what makes it great for filleting fish, especially delicate meats.

You might be wondering why people use fillet knives to cut the fish fillets off the fish itself. Most of the time, the fillet knife acts as the boning knife since the fish filleting knife can work around the softer fish bones without worrying about damaging the fish fillet knife blades.

Also, remember that the meat of a larger fish is generally less dense than that of a land animal, and therefore the thinner blade of fillet knives will be all that’s required to cut through while navigating the smaller and less dense bones.

And compared to meat and bones, fish scales don’t present any challenge or obstacle to filleting knives.

How to Choose the Right Boning and Fillet Knives

tsukiji fish market sword tuna boning fillet knife
When in doubt you can always cut fish with a sword. Source: Catherine Mak

Paring knives and utility knives are easy to choose, but fillet knives and boning knives are a different issue. Let’s dive further into the boning knife vs fillet knife conversation with a closer look at what determines the quality of the gear.

Materials

When selecting a boning knife, make sure you get one that’s made of super-hard steel. Look for one that’s around 60 on the hardness scale. The higher quality boning knives will have multiple layers of stainless steel wrapped around the high-carbon steel, which will help with corrosion-resistance. A firm bladed boning knife is a great choice.

When it comes to a fillet knife, you’ll want a flexible blade, which likely means it’ll be stamped while made. This is fine; however, that means the hardness factor will be around 54, which means it’ll dull faster and need to be resharpened more often.

Handles

Make sure you pick a grip for your boning knife and fillet knife that fits with your hand size and overall feels good. You’ll be wielding a sharp edge and tip around some pretty challenging obstacles, so if it doesn’t feel comfortable, it could lead to serious injury.

Length

When it comes to selecting your length, there are a bunch of options. 6 and 9 inches are pretty standard sizes, but there is a range that you can pick from.

Sharpening

If you don’t know how to sharpen your blades for optimal cutting, then you’ll be required to visit a professional. This can be expensive, so make sure you factor this into the cost. Sometimes you can get a brand that will offer free sharpening for life…take it, even if you have to pay a bit more upfront.

Storage

It’s always smart to keep your knives in a safe place. We like a magnetic knife holder like the one below.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a boning knife used for?

A flexible boning knife is used to remove tissue from the bones of an animal. They usually have a thinner blade than kitchen knives, but not as flat as fillet knives.

What are the best boning knives?

The best boning knife is the ZWILLING J.A. Henckels flexible boning knives. These butchers boning knife rock a 5.5-inch blade and will last you a long time of cutting. If you’re looking for the best budget knife, then you should look at the Victorinox Swiss Army Cutlery Fibrox Pro 6 inch blade length. We also like the Shun boning knife if you forced us to pick one more.

What is the best knife for filleting fish?

Fillet knives is a topic all in itself. Everyone has a favorite blade length, but if we had to choose one for you to try then we recommend the Gerber Controller Saltwater Fillet Knife. Another option would be to look at one of the electric fish fillet knives out there.

What is a bone knife?

A bone knife is a blade made from a bone. It’s a primitive type of knife that still has appeal to certain people today. You can use it for any application that doesn’t need steel to cut the material.

What is the best steel for a fillet knife?

The best steel for a fillet blade is stainless steel. You want an edge that will resist corrosion with minimal upkeep. If you are professional, then you might want to look at some high-carbon steel blades, but just remember to keep them properly maintained, so they don’t degrade over time.

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing enthusiast. He has over 25 years of fishing experience, and 6 years of spearfishing experience, and is currently learning how to boat. Jon has his Open Water PADI Certification and FII Freediver Level 1 Certification. Jon has traveled the world to fish and dive, most notably in the Great Barrier Reef, Baja Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. More Articles
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Articles » Gear Reviews » Boning Knife vs. Fillet Knife – Which is Better?