One of mankind’s first tools was a knife, and when you look at its versatility it’s not hard to understand. Today’s survival knives have the ability to cut through a multitude of materials; rope, wood, weeds, and stone are just a few examples. They can pierce in order to make small holes, or defend you in an animal attack. If something is stuck, you can use a knife to pry it open or apart. Knives can be used to sculpt something useful like a makeshift spoon by whittling. They can become a shaver or a slicer. Knives have 1001 uses outdoors.
An every-day-carry knife is an indispensable tool for many kinds of jobs. They can cut wires, open packaging, cut nets and lines, and a bevy of other tasks. In the kitchen, knives pare, carve, cleave, debone, dice, spread, and fillet like no one’s business. And, while this simple tool’s versatility goes unmatched, specific qualities make each knife the right choice for the job at hand.
You don’t want to use just any knife when you want a clean fillet. These knives have their own characteristics that make them right for the job.
What Is a Fillet Knife?
A fillet knife is used to remove the bones from fish; it can also be used to debone meat. The blade is slender and flexible for the fine work that is required. It gets the job done quickly and easily without tearing up the fish or the meat.
If you’re an avid fisherman, outdoorsman, chef, or cooking enthusiast, you’ll want to have this knife in your arsenal. There are four characteristics to evaluate when choosing the best fillet knife for your needs.
4 Characteristics of a Fillet Knife
A Flexible Blade
Blade flexibility is the hallmark of a fillet knife. It makes it easier to do the intricate work often required for cleaning and deboning fish. You’re able to get cleaner cuts that preserve more of the fish meat, and at the same time lower the probability of cutting yourself in the process. Keep in mind that the larger the blade is, the less flexibility it has. Smaller knives may have as much as an inch of flex in either direction, whereas a large fillet knife will have much less flex, but will always have a little bend.
Quality Blade Material
Most fillet knives are made from high-carbon stainless steel. Some are made with new high-tech versions of stainless steel. Others have a titanium, non-stick, or other finish. The blades are slender with a sharp tip and a smooth edge. It is unusual for them to be serrated, but in some cases that is the preferred choice when filleting larger fish. Again, matching the blade’s quality materials to the job is the key, and remember that not all high-carbon stainless steel is created equal.
The Right Blade Size
Since fillet knives vary widely in size, you need to match the fish you’re cleaning to the size of the blade. You’ll appreciate the flexibility and precision of a small fillet knife when skinning and separating tiny bones from the meat.
However, if your catch-of-the-day is halibut, salmon, mahi mahi, or other big game fish, you will need a fillet knife that’s up to the task, like a Bubba Blade 9-inch Flex Fillet Knife. Most fillet knives fall between five and eleven inches, with seven inches being the standard small knife.
A Comfortable Grip
There are quite a few materials that are used for making fillet knife handles: polymer, rubber, stainless steel (the most common), and hardwood. Of the materials, wood may be the least preferable, because it can be slippery when wet, and therefore dangerous, and it also may retain a fishy smell. However, a high quality knife with a wood handle like Schmidt Brothers Bonded Teak 7-inch boning and fillet knife will generally not have these issues. Some knives have no-slip grips; others have finger and thumb pads for even more knife control.
4 Top Fillet Knives
Global Cromova Flexible Boning & Fillet Knife
This 6.25-inch flexible boning knife is perfect for both at-home cooking enthusiasts and professional chefs. It’s equally great for both left and right-handed individuals, thanks to its double-beveled edge. Global, a cutlery company out of Japan, perfected the fillet knife by making this model lightweight and well balanced, allowing you to easily separate meat from the bone.
Havalon Baracuta Edge Folding Fillet Knife
What makes this knife so great? Well, for starters, it’s completely replaceable; who needs the hassle of a knife sharpener when you can just replace your dull blade? This is a fisherman’s dream fillet knife; it’s lightweight, portable, and comes with a blade so sharp you can bone a fish and skin a deer. When you’ve worked the blade to no end, just grab a replacement from the pack of five blades that came with the knife and keep moving.
Dexter Wide Fillet Knife
This is the go-to knife for commercial kitchens or fish house restaurants; it is the premier blade in this category. The blade is made from solid high-carbon steel, ideal for boning fish, and is equipped with an easy-to-hold Grip-Tex handle, making it a chef’s dream knife. Also, the handle is sealed well around the blade that bacteria transfer is minimized – an important feature for a busy restaurant.
Rapala Soft Grip Fillet Knife
Rapala is known for making great fillet knives that are inexpensive. The Rapala Soft Grip Fillet Knife has a full tang Swedish blade that is seven inches, and a handle made of reinforced birch wood. It’s perfect for filleting a wide range of fish, from freshwater to saltwater; just be sure you thoroughly clean the blade after each use. This is a good starter fillet knife and also a good choice for fishermen/cooks on a budget.
A Word About Electric Fillet Knives
If you’re all about the fish, but no so much into the fillet, you might want to go with an electric fillet knife. Berkley is recognized world-wide for its extraordinary fishing gear, and they’ve introduced the Berkley Deluxe Electric Fillet Knife. Fishermen love this option when there are a lot of fish to clean and debone. It makes quick work of any large catch.
Tell us which fillet knife you think is the best in the comments below.