What to look for when buying Boning and Fillet Knives
- Laminated or forged high-carbon stainless steel blades hold sharp and durable edges, but the flexibility of stamped steel makes suitable blades for fillet knives.
- Full tang construction ensures strength, rigidity, and balance.
- Molded rubber and impregnated wood handles are durable, sanitary, and easy to grip.
- Choose a stiff boning knives for butchering meat, flexible boning knives for poultry or fish.
Boning knives are essential tools for all people who butcher or trim their own meat. Boning knives can be divided into two categories: stiff boning knives and flexible boning or fillet knives. Stiff boning knives are used to separate bones from meat and poultry as well as remove fat, tendons, and other connective tissue.
Flexible boning knives are meant primarily for butchering fish. The blade should flexible enough to efficiently separating the meat of the fish from the skin along a flat surface and sturdy enough to cut through gills and bones. Fillet knives are also ideal for slicing paper thin sheets of tomatoes, peppers, and other soft fleshed fruits and vegetables.
Popular Boning & Filleting Knives
The blade of a stiff boning knife is generally between 15 and 20 cm long, quite thin and very rigid. The straight edge of a stiff boning knife allows for clean muscle separation in larger cuts of beef and pork, it curves toward the point to help scrape meat from around bones in poultry, and it ends in a sharp tip that lets the knife slide easily beneath sheets of fat and silver skin.
If you intend to butcher your own meat, it is imperative that you invest in the highest quality stiff boning knife possible, preferably one forged from high-carbon stainless steel. The knife must not only be sharp, but it must hold an edge extremely well as butchery will wear down an edge faster than any other task. The most frustrating thing for a chef in a kitchen is a boning knife that grows dull halfway through segmenting a chicken or dressing a tenderloin of beef. It will tear the meat instead of cutting it and leave strips of tendon all along the belly of the muscle.
Fillet knives are also long and thin, but are very flexible, have slightly angled edges, and end in sharp, rather than rounded tips. Flexible boning knives are essential for cleaning fish, and some chefs prefer them for butchering poultry. Because fillet knives must remain sharp enough to slice thin sheets of skin from wide sides of fish and strong enough to cut through bone, knives forged from high-carbon stainless steel are ideal, especially for heavy use. Stamped steel knives, being softer and therefore more flexible, are suitable, though they may require constant sharpening.
The bolster serves as the transition point between a knife's blade and its handle. Bolsters on western knives include a finger guard that drops from the handle down to the heel of the blade to help provide a more stable and secure grip. The bolster on Japanese knives has no finger guard and primarily serves as an extension of the handle. Japanese knives are generally designed to be held with a pinch grip (where the spine of the blade is pinched between the thumb and the forefinger). The absence of a bolster means the blade was probably made from stamped steel.
The first thing to look for in a handle is a full tang. The tang is the part of the blade that serves as the core of the handle. A full tang can often be seen running down the center of the handle all the way to the hilt, though they are sometimes fully encased in molded rubber or altogether replaced with precisely weighted stainless steel handles. Full tang knives are strong, durable, and well balanced. Avoid partial tang knives entirely as they are top heavy will crack or break in time.
In our opinion, the best handles are made from molded rubbers and woods impregnated with hard resins (such as Pakkawood and Staminawood) as they are durable, sanitary, and provide excellent grip. Plastic and stainless steel handles are also acceptable, but many chefs find them slippery, especially when wet. Some manufacturers like Global compensate for this with uniquely shaped and textured handles. Traditional rosewood handles are still considered ideal in some circles, but they require careful attention and regular maintenance otherwise they will warp and crack.