Boning Knife VS Fillet Knife: Which One Is the Best for You?
If you are planning to build up your kitchen with a decent, basic set of knives, you need to know the difference between a chef’s knife aka boning knife and a fillet knife.
What would you rather do? Debone using a fillet knife or fillet using a boning knife? Most of us confuse these knives because they look almost the same and there are some brands out there that actually make hybrid knives claiming to do both with one knife.
If you want to work with fish and poultry, you could either get a fillet knife which can break down a chicken and easily fillet a fish, but it’s better to go with a more specialized tool to break down chicken meat and debone them.
At the same time, if you fish a lot and process 20 – 24-inch trout, it’s probably a good idea to pick a filleting knife. Because the filleting process is more specialized while a cheap knife with kitchen shears can take care of your poultry work.
While it’s a good idea to get both of them, if you are on a tight budget, you could try out one of those hybrid knives that I talked about earlier.
But I wouldn’t recommend them for professional work because there is a significant amount of difference between a knife made for filleting and a knife made for deboning.
Boning Knife VS Fillet Knife
Most of the western knife brands have a specific category of knives called boning/fillet knives. They are sold as hybrids and have flexible persuasion. They can easily debone a chicken but not ideal for filleting.
It’s because fillet knives are longer with sufficient flex along the whole length and boning knives have some flex on the tip but very little along the blade. Let’s dig down to more key differences between these two knives.
Characteristics of A Boning Knife
You can easily distinguish a boning knife from the rest of your knives in your kitchen. The thin and long shaped knife allows you to maneuver into the bone easily. This helps to remove the bone from the meat easily.
The tip is very sharp and is more flexible than regular knives. The tip is extra sharp so that you can pierce the meat with ease.
If you want to debone thicker meats like beef, the stiffness of the knife will make sure that you can easily apply force without worrying about bending the blade.
These knives are usually about 5 to 6-inches long but some knife maker has extended blade length that goes up to 9-inches or more.
Characteristics of A Fillet Knife
Thinner and longer than their boning counterpart, these knives are often synonymous with fish. They are better at deboning fish because a normal knife isn’t effective or safe when dealing with fish bones.
Fish have tender skin and meat and that’s why a thick knife isn’t very effective in deboning them. And for that reason, fillet knives are made thinner and flexible that helps you maneuver inside of the fish and puncture the skin with ease.
There are some extremely sharp blades that have a fine point for piercing the skin. These thin blades range from 4 to 9 inches long.
For larger fish, you need a longer blade. The ideal length will depend on the fish, but I’ve found the 7.5-inch blades work best in most cases. If you are working with smaller fish, you can also use smaller blades to precisely fillet them.
You should be careful when working with a fillet knife because of the thin blade size. If you attempt to cut thicker meat, there is a chance that you might bend it.
Now that I have covered the basic characteristics difference out of the way, let’s look at a more detailed comparison.
Difference in Functions
Both of these knives have their own purposes. If you want to separate the meat from the skin, go with a fillet knife, and if you want to detach the meat from bones, a boning knife is your best bet.
If you don’t care about the quality of cuts or precision, you can use these two knives interchangeably. But it will affect the cut quality and will be more difficult than you think.
You won’t be able to easily remove the spine of a fish along with other small bones and skin with a boning knife because of the thick nature of the blade.
Especially to inexperienced hands, you will find it very hard to do so. Even if it works, it will only work on smaller fish. Because of the rigid blade, you won’t be able to easily bend it closer to the skin for filleting.
And that’s why, if you want to ensure cleaner cuts and maintain precision, use the ideal blade for the right job.
Difference in Design
There isn’t that much difference in design between these two knives. Both are comparatively narrower and have a thin profile than other kitchen knives. This change in design makes them ideal for intricate and accurate cuts.
When it comes to blade depth, a filler knife is thinner and has less stiffness. On the other hand, boning knives are thicker and stiffer. And that’s why a boning knife can be worked on hard bones and chunks of meat.
On the other hand, the fillet counterpart has a thin nature with more flex to it. These changes in design allow them to easily work on fish large or small.
Another obvious difference you will notice apart from blade thickness is the curve. Much like a regular kitchen knife, a boning knife is typically straight but much thinner. This helps to pierce the meat and also to remove meat from the bone.
Fillet knives are curvier and longer and allow you to easily execute steady cuts. The curved blade is only good for filleting but not appropriate for other cutting needs.
Difference in Material
Most high-end knives will have corrosion-resistant material for durability. The blade material will be high-carbon stainless steel because it is better than regular steel. When it comes to blade material, this is the best choice.
There is also a handle part which is equally important. Regardless of which type of blade material your knife has, always go with quality and durable handle material.
Some common handle materials are plastic, steel, and hardwood. You will also find Polypropylene handles, but I tend to avoid them. I prefer wooden handles on my knives because they are durable and give a natural look.
Those with Rosewood and other hardwoods on the handle are commonly found on more expensive models. If you want a stronger grip, go with steel handles. If you want a knife suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, plastic handles are ideal.
The only reason I avoid using Polypropylene made handle is that they make my knives look cheap, but this handle material is hard-wearing and water-resistant.
When it comes to the movement of the blade, the fillet knife takes the crown. Thanks to its pronounced curve and thin blade, this is the go-to knife and a reliable choice when you need ease of control.
From filleting to scaling, you won’t find a better blade and the efficiency is unmatched. But fillet knives don’t do well on tough meat and there is a good chance that you might damage it.
This is where the boning knife comes in. It doesn’t have any delicate movement and because they are only meant to be used on raw, tough meat.
Obviously, fillet knives are more delicate because of their flexible and thinner profile. It is because the job of filleting requires thin and flexible blades to get underneath tender skin and safely remove the spine of a fish.
However, it also means that you can easily snap a fillet knife if you apply excessive force.
But it isn’t a problem for the boning counterpart. Because they have stiffer structures and the blades are usually thicker. These knives can tolerate more force and you won’t have any risk of accidental snapping.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Who makes the best boning knives?
It’s a debatable question but judging on the number of positive reviews by chefs all over the world, Victorinox is still a favorite among them.
2. Is a fillet knife better than a boning knife?
It depends on your usage. Don’t expect a boning knife to perform as well as a fillet knife when you work on filleting a fish. The same goes for fillet knives when deboning tough meat.
3. Is a boning knife necessary?
If your work involves more on cutting around bones and cut through bones, a good boning knife is necessary. They have the thickness and flexibility to slice through cartilage and joints and neatly separate meat.
4. When to use a fillet knife?
Filleting knives are used to filet and prepare fish. They have 6 to 11 inches long blade that allows you to move easily under the skin and along the backbone.
In a nutshell, both of these knives have a different purpose and they are also made differently. And it is not ideal to use one of them to do both of their work. It might be troublesome to interchange them, but the end result is worth it.
Hopefully, now you know the difference between a fillet knife and a boning knife. Make sure to keep them sharp, use them properly and respect them and in return, they will give you excellent service.