The boning knife vs fillet knife debate has been an ongoing discussion in thousands of kitchens worldwide. Many people have both kinds of knives in their kitchens, but how many amateur chefs actually know the difference?
Both of these knives are vital if you want to prepare a high-quality meal. But it doesn’t help that they are easily confused with each other.
Even though you can use the two interchangeably, knowing what knife is best suited for what kind of job will greatly increase your experience.
This guide will cover what each knife is and will explain how the two knives are different. We will also tell you how to use both a boning knife and a fillet knife and give you a few tips.
Let’s get started.
Boning Knife Features
Boning knives are kitchen knives that have a sharp end and a narrow blade. Chefs use these knives to debone different kinds of meat, including fish, beef and poultry.
Typically, boning knives can be anywhere from 12 to 17 cm long. Most boning knives have narrow blades since this feature makes it easier to debone with precision.
You will also notice that boning knives have sharp tips. This feature will help the knife pierce into meat easier, move around and manoeuvre bones with.
Boning knives can also have different thicknesses and flexibilities. These two characteristics of a boning blade will determine what kind of meat that chefs use the knives for.
Stiff Boning Knives
Stiff boning knives, which will look thicker, are meant for more tough meats. Chefs often use stiff boning knives for beef, pork, or any other tough meat.
A stiff knife is needed for thicker meats since the boning process will require more force. You will have to exert a bit more energy when deboning thicker meat since the bones themselves are larger. If you use a knife that is not thick enough, the knife could bend and ultimately cause injury.
Flexible Boning Knives
There are also boning knives that are more flexible. These knives are suitable for more delicate meat such as fish or chicken.
When dealing with these kinds of meat, you will need a flexible knife to make sure you don’t pierce the meat while deboning. Delicate meats such as fish and poultry have more intricate bone structures, so you will need to act with more precision during the process; flexible knives will allow you to do that.
Fillet Knife Features
Some people may get confused between fillet and boning knives because the fillet knife is part of the boning knife family.
Fillet knives are kitchen knives that chefs use for filleting meat. Most are about 15 to 28 cm long. The length is what helps them move easier under the skin.
There are a few defining features of fillet knives.
There are a few defining features of fillet knives.
Many fillet knives have trailing point blades which increase the ease of skinning and slicing. Trailing point blades have a distinguished shape; the back curves slightly upwards from the handle to the tip. This shape is what makes the blade’s belly ideal for precise cutting.
Typically, fillet knives are made of stainless steel. However, manufacturers will usually add chromium to the blades to increase corrosion resistance since the blades are often wet. The added chromium also makes the blade much easier to clean. Finally, fillet knives have a medium hardness level. This means that the blades have moderate edge retention.
All fillet knives are very thin. The blades are typically 2.5 to 3.5 mm thick at the spine. Fillet knives need to be able to bend but maintain an edge to do a good job. While removing the skin, the blade must be able to flex to the meat’s contours while creating enough space between the user’s hand and the meat.
Another distinguishing feature of fillet knives is the bevel. Fillet knife bevels are much longer than many other knives, such as steak and pocket knives. Bevels are usually 12 to 17 degrees on fillet knives which make the end very sharp and pointy. Since the end is so sharp, the bevel is not very durable and can easily chip. Even so, the bevel makes it easier to navigate through intricate and delicate bones while not picturing them.
Most handles on fillet knives are rubber or plastic. People use these knives mostly in wet conditions, and materials such as wood would quickly deteriorate. The handles also have a high level of grip. While the shape of fillet knife handles may differ, most have a place for your index finger to rest. This feature will prevent injuries.
Now that we know the main features of both knives, let’s take a look at the similarities and differences between a boning knife vs fillet knife.
Both Have Razor Sharp Edges
Both fillet and boning knives have razor-sharp edges. Both knives need to be able to manoeuvre through bones and delicate meat without puncturing anything. For this reason, the blades are razor-sharp. Users will have to be careful while deboning with them since you can easily get cut.
You Can Use Both Knives for the Same Job
Another similarity is that you can use both knives for the same job. You will be able to use a boning knife to slice a thin layer from soft meat, while you can use a fillet knife to dig for bones through multiple layers of meat.
However, you will have very different experiences with each knife. For example, it would be a lot more challenging to use a fillet knife with thick meat. You could also easily puncture bones while using a boning knife for delicate meat.
Both Knives Are Made of Stainless Steel or Carbon Steel
Virtually all fillet and boning knives are made from stainless steel or carbon steel. Carbon steel knives are typically sharper than their counterpart, but you will have to perform a higher amount of maintenance on those tools to prevent rust.
On the other hand, stainless steel tools are much easier to maintain since they are highly corrosion resistant. However, they will not be as sharp.
Both Knives Are Made To Remove Bones From Meat
Even though the fillet knife is obviously designed for filleting meat, its other job is to remove bones. Boning knives do the same but simply work better with tougher meat. The main difference is that chefs commonly use fillet knives for smaller animals.
They Are Used for Different Kinds of Meat
Due to each blade’s thickness and strength, boning and fillet knives are used for different kinds of meat. Chefs use boning knives for tougher meats such as beef, while fillet knives work better for more delicate meats like fish and chicken.
Fillet Knives Are More Delicate Than Boning Knives
When it comes to boning knife vs fillet knife, fillet knives are much more delicate. Fillet knives are thinner and also have a very sharp point. Both of these features contribute to how delicate the tool is. If you use the knife with tough meat such as beef, there is a chance that you could break or damage the knife.
Fillet Knives Are Usually Longer Than Boning Knives
Since length is such a prominent feature of fillet knives, they usually have longer blades than boning knives. When it comes to fillet knives, the long blade can cut underneath skin much easier. It is also less challenging to cut with precision with a long, thin knife.
Fillet Knives Are More Flexible Than Boning Knives
Even though you can bend boning knives a bit, you will be surprised by how flexible fillet knives are. You can test the flexibility of your knife by placing the tip on the cutting board at a sideways angle and pressing down on the base of the blade. (Don’t press too hard, though.)
Boning Knives Look More Similar to Kitchen Knives
Even though they have different functions, boning knives look more similar to kitchen knives. Despite their thinness, boning knives have a straight back that resembles kitchen knives. The blade’s belly is also not as curved as fillet knives, which may confuse some people.
Fillet Knife Handles Are Usually Rubber or Plastic
A main difference when it comes to boning knife vs fillet knife is the handles. Since fillet knives are constantly wet, many manufacturers only use plastic or rubber for the handles. Chefs can easily grip these handles, even in moist environments.
On the other hand, boning handles are made of many different materials such as wood, steel, plastic and polypropylene.
How To Use a Boning Knife
There are different ways to use each one when it comes to a boning knife vs fillet knife. In this section, we will cover how to use a boning knife.
Holding the Knife Properly
First of all, hold the knife with your dominant hand. Hold the handle with your thumb, middle finger and ring finger to get a good grip. You can then stabilize your movements by placing your index finger on the knife handle.
While cutting, use your other hand to hold the meat in place. You should also curl your fingers in; this will help avoid injuries.
How To Wield the Knife
The most important thing to remember while wielding a boning knife is to slice in a way that moves the knife away from you. That way, if something slips, the knife will not hit you.
You will also need to be aware of where your non-dominant hand is at all times. Since boning knives are more flexible than the average kitchen knife, they can bend in different directions.
Use Proper Slicing Motions
When you are using a boning knife, you will probably be cutting tough meats. To work most efficiently, try to slice with a sawing motion. Remember to use the whole blade while you cut; this will give you the most power.
How To Use a Fillet Knife
Even though fillet knives are quite similar to boning knives, there are still a few differences in using the tool. Let’s take a look.
How To Hold the Knife Properly
The way you hold a fillet knife will be very similar to a boning knife. Hold the handle with your dominant hand, wrapping all of your fingers, except your index, around the handle. Place your index finger on the top of the blade to have more control while cutting.
Wielding the Knife
As mentioned above, always slice in motions that move the knife away from you. Fillet knives are incredibly sharp, even sharper than boning knives. For this reason, always make sure your hand and fingers are not in the path of the blade.
Furthermore, fillet knives are even more flexible than boning knives. They can bend in any direction, so it is vital to keep an eye out for that.
How To Cut With a Fillet Knife
One of the main features of fillet knives is their pointy ends. Use this to your advantage and use the tip to make small incisions in your meat before filleting a fish.
While cutting with a fillet knife, use a soft sawing motion. Fillet knives are the best tools to use when you want to slice thinly. Also, keep in mind that you can use fillet knives to cut thin slices of fruit or vegetables, for instance. Just be careful not to exert too much pressure on the knife.
We hope that this guide has helped you learn the difference between a boning knife vs fillet knife.
Boning knives are typically 12 to 17 cm long and are used for deboning meat such as poultry, beef or fish. On the other hand, fillet knives are usually 15 to 28 cm long and are used to fillet meat and debone smaller animals.
Fillet knives have a distinguished shape with its curved blade that points a bit upwards. When it comes to boning knives, many people mistake them for kitchen knives since they have a straight back.
As a general rule of thumb, chefs will use boning knives for tougher meats, while fillet knives work well with delicate meats.
There are two general categories of boning knives: stiff and flexible. On the other hand, all fillet knives are very flexible.
Lastly, fillet knives are much more delicate than their counterpart. It is pretty easy to damage fillet knives, especially the tips. Boning knives can withstand more pressure.