The Differences Between a Fillet and Boning Knife

The Differences Between a Fillet and Boning Knife

Most amateur chefs among us can easily distinguish one knife from the other. Even if unfamiliar with the name of the knife, the stark differences in shape and size make identifying the different knives that combine to make a knife set, an easily accomplished task.

That is, until you come across the fillet or boning knife.

Essentially it is the fact these knives share a similar size and shape that can cause confusion. Not only do amateur cooks sometimes struggle to identify whether the knife they have is a fillet or boning knife, but they often struggle to know what the difference is between the two.

This is unfortunate because understanding what these two knives each have to offer can help turn any fish or meat based dish into a culinary sensation. 

Fillet vs Boning Knife - What’s the difference? 

While at the surface level these knives may appear to look very similar, there are some noticeable differences, not only aesthetically but also in performance. 

The Boning Knife

What they do best: Designed to separate bones from meat and fish

Usual size: Normally this knife features a length between 5 and 7 inches

Usual shape: Flat with a straight blade until the tip, which is slightly curved   

Strengths: Precise cutting through both ligaments and connective tissue. Capable of removing meat away from large bones while also removing small bones from fish 

The Fillet Knife

What they do best: Ideal for the scaling of fish

Usual size: The blade usually measures between 5 and 9 inches

Usual shape: The fillet knife is distinguishable due to the upward curve that features along the blade, ending with a severe curved tip. 

Strengths: The shape of the knife makes it ideal for the removal of scales from fish, and it can achieve this without damaging the body therefore it is very helpful in the aesthetic of the presented meal. 

What is the boning knife most commonly used for?

Due to their thin make up, the boning knife is very effective at maneuvering through meat cartilage in order to remove bone. They are generally thinner than the other knives in your kitchen set and therefore the most adept knife at accomplishing this task.

It is largely thanks to the tip of the knife that the boning knife can complete this task - due to its sharpness it can penetrate through meat with little elbow grease required.  

There are normally two types of blades that your boning knife can possess. The first is the firm-handed knife. The second is more flexible by design. Both have their advantages: 

Firm-handed boning knife - Performs best when slicing beef, deer, rabbit, and other gaming meats away from the bone. 

Flexible boning knife - With its thinner design, and enhanced flexibility, this type of boning  knife is most effective when dealing with chicken and poultry. It is also a great choice when removing the sheen from lamb and pork, which can help create a more tender meat if performed prior to cooking the meat. 

What is the fillet knife most commonly used for?

The fillet knife’s design means that it is highly effective when scaling a fish to create precise fillet cuts. This is due to the blade's upward curve that increases the size of the knife’s cutting belly and makes performing this task a breeze. 

The thinness of the blade is also deliberate, in order to allow the cook to gently work around the delicate fish’s skin and bones. In effect, it is a precision knife. 

The creation of the fillet knife also takes into account its effectiveness in damp conditions - this largely because fish are often prepared when moist. This means that the fillet knife will possess a type of steel that is corrosion-resistant.

The Fillet vs Boning Knife Debate Resolved - Which is best?

The answer to this question will largely revolve around your favorite food and which food items you largely prepare in the kitchen. For example, a pescatarian will probably get more use out of the fillet knife, while an amateur cook who likes to prepare a range of different meats will likely find the boning knife more useful. 

It really depends on the situation. 

The boning knife is one that will feature more in knife sets as it is a much more versatile option. Fillet knives are often considered to be a specialty tool only really essential to those with experience, or a desire to fillet fish often. 

Additionally, although it won’t be as effective at the task as a fillet knife, the boning knife can be used to fillet fish. Which is why most people will opt for the boning knife if given the option of both.