Knives for FILLETING FISH: how to choose the best one
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Filleting fish if not done properly can damage the flesh of the fish and leave some bones that can be quite hard to chew and may even pose a choking hazard. For these reasons, it’s advisable to use a proper knife, not just any other kitchen knife like carving and boning knives.
This special knife is known as a fillet knife and it’s specifically designed for preparing fish. It’s able to cleanly separate the skin, scales, and bones from the flesh of various species of fish without damaging it. These knives come in various designs but they share several common characteristics which include a blade that’s narrower and tapers towards the tip.
The best filleting knives also have a flexible blade that’s very sharp. These thin, flexible blades with upward curvature and pointed tips offer great control when filleting fish as they are able to move around bones, and make slices without inflicting any damage on the flesh. In other words, they do well to maintain the integrity of the meat (don’t tear the flesh) and are far less likely to break bones or cut tendons. They make filleting fish much easier and quicker.
They as well offer certain safety benefits because of their sharpness, ease of use, and convenience. One is that accidents from falls or slips can be avoided if you’re careful when handling the knife in wet or slippery conditions. These knives can also cut through the smallest bones, down to small kids-sized portions which make them perfect for feeding young children.
In this article, we’ll look at a few of the top fillet knives available in the market and also go over some of the things that you need to look at when selecting one so that you’re able to make the right decision. We’ll equally share several useful information about fillet knives that may come in handy when making your decision and when using your knife.
Three Best Knives for Filleting Fish:
1.Best German Fish Fillet Knife: Wüsthof Classic 7-Inch Fillet Knife
- Ideal for filleting small to medium sized fish
- Blade is a strong and durable high carbon steel
- Holds its edge longer and it’s resistant to corrosion
- Sturdy and durable handle that’s well balanced
- Handle is comfortable and offers a fairly firm grip
- Full bolster and finger guard to protect the fingers
- Comes with a leather sheath for safe storage
- It’s backed by a limited lifetime warranty
- The sheath can easily get poked by the sharp tip
- Handle may get a bit slippery when slimy or greasy
Why it’s the best
This Wüsthof Classic 7-inch Knife is the best German fish fillet knife mainly because of the quality and design of its blade. It can fillet nearly all kinds of fish. It has a long, thin blade that’s extremely sharp out of the box. The blade has just the right flexibility for filleting fish. With its narrow shape it’s able to move smoothly along the bones of the fish to separate them from the flesh and it also easily removes the fish skin. The end results are pretty impressive as more meat is left on the fillets and almost nothing on the bones. The blade is about 7.1 inches long, ideal for filleting small to medium-sized fish including halibut, salmon, and trout.
The blade is strong and durable, made from a single piece of hard (HRC58) high carbon stainless steel that’s resistant to corrosion. It can hold its edge fairly longer than most average fillet knives. The handle is robust and durable too, made of synthetic polypropylene material that’s able to resist discoloration, fading, heat, and impact. It’s triple-riveted to a full tang for extra strength. It fits perfectly in the hand and feels well balanced, providing better overall control and leverage during filleting. It has a nice contoured shape that’s comfortable to hold and the grip is fairly solid. The handle also has a full bolster and a finger guard to protect the fingers.
2. Best Japanese Fillet Knife: Shun DM-0743 Classic 6-inch Knife
- Removes fish flesh from bones and skin pretty well
- Suitable for use on small to medium-sized fish
- Very sharp blade that holds its edge for long
- Blade is strong and resistant to rust and corrosion
- Handle offers a secure and comfortable grip
- Handle is sturdy, durable, and doesn’t harbor bacteria
- Lifetime sharpening from Shun
- Not as flexible as standard filleting knives
- It doesn’t come with a sheath for storage
- Several reports of the tip snapping off over time
- Handle can be slippery when wet or slimy
Why it’s the best
The Shun DM-0743 is a high-quality Japanese fish filleting knife that does a great job when it comes to filleting small to medium-sized fish. It features a double-bevel blade with a VG-MAX cutting core which is an extremely hard steel that’s able to hold its sharp edge for a very long time. The core is clad with 34 layers of Damascus steel on both sides which enhances its strength further, making it resistant to rust and corrosion. The blade is sharpened to a steep angle (16 degrees). It slices through tough skin and flesh with minimal effort. It has some flex, although not as much as other standard fillet knives.
However, it’s thin and has a slight curve that allows it to easily glide around bones and remove the meat with utmost precision. It also removes the fish skin pretty well, so there’s little wastage of meat. The blade is 6 inches long, fit for filleting small to medium-sized fish. The handle is made of ebony Pakkawood which is durable and doesn’t harbor bacteria. It is D shaped with a small ridge on the right side; a design that allows it to fit well into the hand (the curl of the fingers) hence providing a comfortable and secure grip that ensures great control. The Pakkawood handle is attached to a full tang, so it also has a good balance and some heft.
3. Best Electric Fillet Knife: Bubba Li-Ion Cordless Electric Fillet Knife
- Ideal for small, medium, and even large fish
- Strong serrated blades that are corrosion resistant
- Handle offers a secure and comfortable non-slip grip
- Cordless operation to allow you to use it anywhere
- Comes with two batteries that last longer when charged
- Features an LED indicator to show remaining power
- Equipped with a trigger guard and safety lock for security
- Comes with a durable storage case and a charging cord
- The blades are slightly dull out of the box
- You can’t adjust the speed
- It may overheat when cleaning a very big fish
- The handle may be too big for those with small hands
Why it’s the best
This is a great choice if you are after an electric fillet knife. It works really well-cleaning fish. The first cool feature about it is that it comes with four different attachable blades that allow you to conveniently fillet fish of different sizes whenever you require. It includes two flexible blades (7 and 9-inch E-flex) for filleting small and medium-size fish and two stiffer blades (9 and 12-inch E-stiff) for filleting medium and large size fish. The blades are pretty good. There’s no meat left on the bones and the skin. They are dual-riveted and made of high carbon stainless steel which is coated in titanium nitride (TiN), making them strong and resistant to corrosion.
Another notable feature is the non-slip grip handle. It’s ergonomically designed to fit comfortably and securely in the hands. It’s looped and has a rubber texture hence it provides a very solid non-slip grip even when working in slimy or wet conditions. The blade material and handle feel lightweight and balanced giving you sufficient control over the knife. The cord-free design also gives you freedom and space to operate anywhere comfortably. The lithium-ion batteries appear to last longer too. Each can process up to 100 crappies once fully charged. The unit equally features a ventilation system to help maximize its motor power and torque. The handle also has an LED indicator to let you know how much power is remaining.
Other Recommended Products
1. Dalstrong Gladiator Series (7-inch) Fillet Knife
- Suitable for filleting small to medium fish
- Effectively separates all the flesh from bones
- Blade is narrow, sharp, and keeps its edge well
- The blade is resistant to wear and tear
- Sturdy, durable handle that’s comfortable to hold
- Handle is properly balanced and has a finger guard
- Comes with a lifetime warranty and two sheaths
- Not ideal for making thick cuts
- Blade is not as flexible as most standard fillet knives
- Blade tip can break if used on frozen meat
- Handle can get slippery in slimy conditions
Why we choose it
This is a great option for those looking for a quality and flexible filleting knife. The blade is very durable, made from high-carbon German steel that has a hardness of HRC55+. It’s strong and hard enough to keep its sharpness for a considerably long time, plus it is corrosion and stain-resistant. The edge is razor-sharp and the blade itself is very thin (1.5 mm) to ensure minimal slicing resistance. It does have some flexibility, almost like the Wüsthof Classic 7-Inch Knife which together with the narrow shape allows it to move smoothly along the contours of the bones and easily separate the meat without tearing it.
The handle is incredibly strong and durable, made from black pakkawood that’s been triple-rived to a full tang, which makes it even much sturdier. It has also been laminated so that it’s impervious to cold, heat, and moisture. The texture of the handle’s surface is fairly smooth and the shape is ergonomic, so it’s easy and comfortable to hold onto, plus the grip is relatively secure. The handle has a bolster made of stainless steel which improves the knife’s balance and also provides protection to your fingers, stopping them from coming into contact with the blade. The knife comes with two sheaths, one for storage and another for outdoor activity.
2. Rapala Fish ‘n Fillet Knife (7.5-inch)
- Suitable length for most kinds and sizes of fish
- Extra thin, sharp, and flexible blade for easy filleting
- Ideal for precise or delicate filleting tasks
- The blade is resistant to rust and corrosion
- Handle is well balanced and comfortable to hold
- Handle is sturdy, secure, and looks classic
- Includes a leather sheath and a single-stage sharpener
- The blade doesn’t hold its edge for long
- Not suitable for heavy or regular filleting
- May not be ideal for very large fish
- The sheath is a bit longer than the knife and it’s not lockable
Why we choose it
This is a good fillet knife for occasional usage or if you want a knife that offers great flexibility for handling delicate filleting tasks. The blade is made of Swedish stainless steel which is not the hardest steel out there, but it’s rust and corrosion-resistant. It’s ultra-thin and has an ultra-sharp edge that progressively tapers to the tip of the blade, ending in a very fine, extra-sharp point that makes it easier to make the first cut. The best part is that the blade is highly flexible compared to other fillet knives. It conforms to the shape of the fish which allows it to effectively extract the bones without causing damage to the flesh or wasting the meat. It’s great for making clean fillets or removing small bones.
The 7.5-inch length of the blade also makes it very versatile as it’s an ideal length for most sized fish. You can as well get the same knife in 4-inch and 6-inch sizes. Each of the blades has a non-stick PTFE coating to allow the blade to run through the fish smoothly. The handle is made of varnished birch wood. It’s not only durable but it also looks classic with the polished brass ferrule that attaches it to the blade. The birch wood is slightly textured and contoured to provide a comfortable, firm grip, although it’s not completely non-slip when wet or slimy. There’s, however, a safety notch just behind the ferrule which helps prevent the hand from slipping to the blade. The handle itself is secured to a full tang, so it’s sturdy and well balanced.
What makes a good fish fillet knife?
A good fish fillet knife is one that is sufficiently versatile to be used for almost all types of fish. It should have a flexible, sharp blade that’s thin but not too thin so as to enable it to easily glide through fish skin, joints, and bones without actually ripping the flesh to shreds. The blade should also be curved upward and have a pointed tip which is perfect for removing scales, making punctures, and achieving thin slices.
A good model will also have an ergonomic handle that fits comfortably in your hands without sacrificing control or balance so you can work for prolonged periods without straining or fatiguing your wrist and hand. Its grip should as well be secure enough that you can safely use it in wet conditions or even when wearing gloves (as long as they don’t reduce dexterity). The knife must equally be easy to clean and sharpen, and last longer with both proper care and maintenance.
Things to look for on a Filleting Knife:
1. The Blade
There are several parameters you need to consider when it comes to the blade of a fillet knife. These include:
Most fillet knives usually use a trailing point blade where the back edge curves upward gently, starting from the handle all the way to the tip. This design is ideal for slicing and skinning as the curve maximizes the size of the blade’s belly or rather the curved part that makes up the cutting edge. This makes the blade effective for doing precise cuts because it allows you to quickly slice through the flesh of the fish without putting too much pressure thereby minimizing chances of tearing or ripping skin apart.
Straight blades can snag and tear the fish flesh more easily compared to curve ones. Curved blades as well allow you to easily work around bones and other parts while the straight ones don’t, especially when working on large-sized fish such as salmon. Therefore, you should go for a fillet knife with a curved blade. You would also want to consider one with a pointed tip as it will make it possible and easier to start the cut or puncture the meat when needed.
1.2. Sharpness (Edge Angle)
The sharpness of the blade plays a major role in making precise and accurate cuts/slices when filleting a fish. A fillet knife that has a dull blade will take you quite long to finish filleting and could also cause unwanted damage since you have to apply pressure when cutting. You are likely to tear at the fish flesh, leaving the meat not separated from the bone and skin, which you don’t want. A dull blade can as well lead to injuries, especially when it’s caught on bones or scales.
It can also leave marks (fileting marks) on the meat, which are really undesirable as they can affect both the look and taste of the filleted fish. So, you have to ensure you pick a fillet knife with a very sharp blade that can cut through the fish efficiently and smoothly without applying too much pressure. The sharpness will be mainly determined by the angle of the edge, which indicates just how acute the edge is. It usually ranges from around 12 to 17 degrees for filleting knives – the smaller the angle of the edge, the sharper the blade.
1.3. Edge Pattern
When it comes to patterns, you have three options; single edge blades, double-edged, and serrated blades. Each option has its advantages that make it suitable for certain types of fish. The most common pattern is the single edge and it is ideal for use with Salmon and other fish that have thin long bones which can be easily cut off by a thin blade. The double edge pattern offers the optimal flexibility amongst the three options as it can be used for removing bones as well as scales and skin from many different species of fish.
It’s the best for separating thin bones from larger ones because it provides precision to your movement such that you don’t get to damage the flesh while cutting through bones. It usually has one sharp edge and another that is a bit rounded to make it easier to chop through the small bones without really damaging the meat and the blade’s edge.
Generally, we don’t recommend the double-edged type if you’re inexperienced because it can be dangerous. It requires considerable skill to use since these knives usually have very thin blades that can easily break under pressure. The serrated blade edge is the less common option but it’s useful when cutting through thick ribs and fins.
2. Size and Length
The ideal size and length to choose will depend on the size and species of the fish you’ll primarily be filleting. Overall though, the size and length of standard fillet knives range from 4 to 12 inches, but this can be further broken down into three main categories; short size blades, medium size blades, and the long blades. Each type is ideal for different types of fish.
Short blades (4 to 6 inches long) – these are suitable for smaller fish species such as sunfish, trout, mackerel, crappies, and yellow perch, among others. They provide great handling control and maneuverability which makes them easier to work with. They allow you to reach the tighter spaces and fillets which are necessary particularly when filleting smaller fish.
Medium blades (6 to 8 inches) – these are best suited for slightly larger fish such as bass, trout, eater-sized walleyes, and certain species of pike. They offer adequate handling control as well as flexibility.
Long blades (9 to 12 inches) – these offer great control and save you lots of time when it comes to preparing larger fish like large salmon, a broad-shouldered pike, tuna, catfish, halibut, codfish, or other bigger fish. However, they tend to be more cumbersome to transport. They are usually a little awkward to carry around compared to small or medium-sized fillet knives.
Anything out of the 4 to 12 inches range can be a problem as it could either be too long or too short for an easy, comfortable, and effective filleting job. In fact, longer models are usually more dangerous since they can be quite difficult to maneuver which might, in turn, result in injuries when you’re not careful. A shorter one, on the other hand, can’t handle thicker scales well. Generally, the longer the blade, the more challenging it will be to control.
The best approach is to consider the size of the fish you’ll be dealing with. If you deal with mostly smaller to medium-sized fish, then using a fillet knife with a small or medium-sized blade will work just fine. If you handle bigger fish on the regular, getting a large one would be much better. In case you catch both types of fish, then you may need to get one of each fillet knife.
However, if we had to recommend one knife size that can fit all, then it would be a 7.5-inch blade. This is a medium blade size that’s considered as an all-around or multi-purpose knife as it can handle the fillet process for almost any fish size (small to large) with little difficulty. The length gives you sufficient control over the knife thereby ensuring precision cutting, whether you’re dealing with freshwater or saltwater species. If you are to only pick one knife for a wide variety of situations, then we would recommend you go this route.
3. Blade Hardness & Flexibility
A quality fillet knife should have a thin and flexible blade that’s hard and strong. It should be made from a material (preferably a metal) that’s hard enough to keep its edge. Generally, knives that have a rating of around 55 to 61 on the Rockwell scale (used to determine the hardness) are considered the hardest, so you would want to pick a knife that falls in this range.
Such a strong knife will give you sufficient leverage to easily slice through dense meat and bones without the blade breaking, losing its edge, or getting damaged in any way.
Besides the blade hardness, you have to consider the blade flexibility and this is closely associated with the blade’s thickness. Fillet knife blades are usually made very thin, with a thickness of approximately 2.5 to 3.5 mm at the spine. This is the range you should consider for the fillet knife you pick because you’ll get a thinner blade that can bend and flex without breaking.
The thinner blades are much better for filleting as they provide more flexibility and control to easily maneuver around bones, joints, narrow spaces, and general contours of the fish body, thus allowing you to make clean, precise slices or cuts according to your requirement without tearing the fish flesh.
Knives that are thicker than this range (2.5 to 3.5 mm) will give you a harder time when it comes to efficiently separating the fish meat from the skin and the bones because the blades won’t bend enough to effectively remove the skin or work around the intricate fish bones. They are more likely to cause unwanted damage to your fish. Knives that are thinner than the range are highly prone to premature failure if they are flexed too far.
Overall, you should go for a knife with a blade that’s thin enough to allow flexibility for precise cuts but still hard and strong enough to maintain sharpness and difficult to break.
4. Handle Quality
Filleting fish is a precision job and most of the time you do it in wet conditions, so you need a knife that has a good quality handle. One that’s sturdy and durable, and not likely to be affected by wet conditions. One that also provides a proper grip and it’s comfortable when in use. To achieve this you’ll need to consider these two factors:
4.1. Handle Material
Like other kitchen knives, the handle of most fillet knives is made from wood, plastic, and rubber. There are also others made from laminate and metal. These materials play a crucial role in determining how comfortable and easy-to-use a knife is and can as well impact your grip and comfort. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Wood – wood handles are usually preferred because they are sturdy and add some weight to the knife which makes handling and using it easier. They are also comfortable to hold (have a great natural feel) and offer a good grip that gives you control over the knife. They tend to look cool too. The downside is that they can become slippery and challenging to hold when wet or slimy. They are also not quite durable as they are prone to cracking. Keeping them clean can be difficult too as they tend to sometimes soak up the fish smell over time, leading to unpleasant odors and the finish can become pale too. They are as well more likely to hide bacteria, so they really need regular cleaning, especially when used on saltwater fish.
Plastic – plastic handles are pretty light and easy to maintain. They don’t soak up fish smells or unpleasant odors like wood, plus they clean up easily and don’t hide bacteria either. They do come in a wide range of colors and styles to choose from based on your preference or kitchen décor. Plastic handles also offer a good, comfortable grip. They are less slippery compared to wood but can as well become too slippery for a firm grip when wet or slimy. The other disadvantage is that they can wear out easily due to their fragile nature. Moreover, you can’t use them near fire or high temperatures as they can easily get damaged.
Rubber – rubber handles usually feature a soft, rubberized D-shape grip that offers stability and control. They provide the firmest grip compared to the rest. They are generally the best for non-slip hold and ergonomic feel thanks to their soft yet firm grip. They are ideal for filleting outside the kitchen since they won’t become slippery when used, even in extremely wet conditions, plus they are easy to clean. However, they tend to retain odor and may not be as sturdy and durable as wooden handles.
Laminate and Metal– laminate handles are basically a mix of plastic and wood but look more like plastic. They are more sturdy and durable than rubber or plastic and are easier to clean and take care of. They do offer a comfortable, solid grip but tend to be very slippery when wet. Metal handles are the most durable compared to all the others and they do offer a firm, comfortable grip but not as firm as rubber. They are easy to clean and don’t retain odor. However, they can get too slippery when used in wet or slimy conditions.
4.2. The Shape/Design
The handle has to have an ergonomic shape that fits in the hands well and feels comfortable. You also want a shape and design that will improve your grip and relieve your hands of some of the stress. The best option, in this case, is an elongated teardrop shape, featuring an indention where the index finger can rest and prevent the hand from accidentally sliding right onto the blade.
This is the basic shape of most fillet knives and it’s effective in terms of comfort, grip, and safety. However, most manufacturers modify it to create a unique handle with several specific features. Others might even use hollowed handles to make them lighter without really sacrificing strength or durability. Some will have special grooves all around the handle to help prevent slippage in wet conditions. If you pick a knife with these features, then you’ll be much better off.
The other thing to look for with regards to the handle design or construction is the tang. It can be a full or partial tang. You want one that features a full tang, attached to it with at least 3 rivets. This will make the handle and knife stronger and durable. The size of the handle is another factor you should look at. It should basically be proportional to your hand. However, a large handle is more ideal as it provides a more stable and comfortable grip.
Overall, you should go for a handle that’s sturdy, balanced, and fits comfortably in your hand regardless of whether you’re right or left-handed. It should also have a firm, non-slip grip considering that the fish filleting process can be wet and messy.
We would recommend a sturdy, soft-grip rubber handle as it will provide the most secure, non-slip grip and ergonomic feel – it’s easy to hold on tightly in extremely wet conditions without experiencing a lot of slipping or sliding, which can cause accidents. However, if you want a knife with a plastic, wood, or metal handle, then look for one that has a non-slip textured finish to ensure a steady and secure grip when wet and slippery.
For obvious safety reasons, you want to also consider a fillet knife with a handle that has a finger guard/beveled area where your index finger can rest on. This is usually located at the bolster (the spot where the handle meets the blade) and it will provide extra protection against slipping and also help you hold the knife more securely.
5. Blade Materials
The blade material is a major contributing factor in the quality and durability of a filleting knife, making it quite important. It will determine the sharpness of the blade (how sharp it can be sharpened), how well it’s able to retain an edge and withstand abuse once it’s sharpened. It will also determine the hardness and corrosion resistance of the blade.
There are mainly four different types of material used to make the blades of fillet knives. They include:
5.1. Stainless Steel
This is the standard and most popular blade material for filleting fish knives. It’s a good choice, especially if you fish occasionally because it’s easy to clean and less likely to rust and corrode if taken care of properly. Stainless steel blades are also heavy, sturdy, and generally durable. They easily cut through most big fish.
They are easy to sharpen, can hold their edge quite well, and are not too expensive, making them suitable for casual filleting jobs at home. However, while they will hold a sharp edge, they tend to become dull after only a few uses hence requiring re-sharpening regularly.
That said, there are higher-end fillet knives with blades made of stainless steel that’s been mixed with other non-corrosive metals. These are able to hold their edge for a pretty long time, plus they sharpen easily and provide the necessary flexibility.
5.2. Carbon Steel
Carbon steel is a softer metal than stainless steel. It’s a metal alloy of carbon and iron that is then hardened. It provides a good, fairly strong blade that offers great flexibility and can be sharpened to an almost razor-like edge, and retains the sharpness for a long time compared to a traditional stainless steel blade. Carbon steel knives may be good for certain filleting situations, like filleting mostly in the kitchen.
However, you may want to avoid it if you are going to use your knife out and around the water because it’s more prone to corrosion, rusting, and staining. It needs to be cared for properly, especially storing it away from moisture. Some manufacturers tend to enhance the blade’s rust resistance and durability during the forging process by actually layering the carbon steel with stainless steel.
5.3. High Carbon Steel
High carbon steel is generally considered the best type of material for fillet knives because it’s strong and very easy to care for. Most importantly, it offers superior edge retention compared to the other materials which allow the blades to remain extremely sharp for longer without needing to be re-sharpened. Besides that, it’s easy to sharpen when required.
The other advantage is that it’s more resistant to rust and corrosion than other kinds of material when exposed to water or used frequently which makes taking care of it easy as you don’t have to worry much about keeping it dry all the time after cleaning or using it in wet conditions.
As expected, though, due to their quality, high carbon steel fillet knives tend to be on the higher price end compared to the common stainless steel and carbon steel blades.
This is another material option for blades of fillet knives. It can be tougher than even high carbon steel and it’s not susceptible to rust or corrosion. It’s easy to sharpen, retains its sharpness for longer, and it’s certainly easier to handle. The main downside of this material in relation to filleting is the fact that it’s very stiff – it doesn’t flex, which makes it hard to fillet a fish effectively. You’ll likely miss out on most of the meat. It’s quite fragile too due to its brittle nature. If you drop the knife, the blade can easily crack. Moreover, a good-quality ceramic filleting knife can be costly.
With all this in mind, we would generally recommend getting a blade that’s made of high carbon steel or the highest grade of stainless steel as they will have a longer lifespan and offer a sharp edge that’s equally durable. They are less likely to rust or corrode when wet. The best option would be a high-carbon steel blade that’s layered with stainless steel. This will ensure optimum resistance to corrosion and rust and will hold a sharp edge for longer.
Style of Fillet Knives: German vs. Japanese
German and Japanese are the two main styles of fillet knives. They share some similarities but there are some general differences that set them apart in terms of sharpness, edge pattern, angle, thickness, and hardness.
1. German/Scandinavian Style
German knives often feature double-beveled blades, meaning they are sharpened on both sides. The blades have a wide angle (almost up to 18 degrees), great for rocking style of chopping. They are usually thicker, especially at the bolster, making them generally a little bit heavier than Japanese-style knives.
The quality of the German steel used to make the blades is often impressive, but slightly softer than the Japanese steel. This can be both an advantage and disadvantage because it’s durable but less sharp. Nonetheless, the difference is minimal, plus the rugged construction of most German fillet knives makes them quite versatile and easier to maintain.
2. Japanese Style
Japanese style fillet knives typically have single-beveled blades (sharpened only one side) that are long and have an almost even width along the blade’s length, with about a 45% curve. The blades have less angle (10 to 15 degrees) making them suitable for making clean, straight slices. They are often thinner hence more lightweight than the German-style but still not flexible.
These blades are usually made using higher carbon steel hence tend to be harder and sharper. The downside is that most Japanese-style knives lack a finger guard, meaning they require skill, experience, or different ways of using them. These knives also need a lot of care and they tend to cost more because of their manufacturing process.
The decision whether to go with German or Japanese-style knives will depend on your personal preferences as both are capable of delivering excellent performance and durability. You’ll have to decide whether to pick a precision blade or a multi-purpose one that’s ideal for all kinds of heavy filleting work. Being thicker and more rugged, German-style knives would be the best choice if you do your filleting outside in rougher conditions. They are ideal too for breaking and cutting through tough meat and bones.
On the other hand, as they are thin and very sharp, the Japanese-style knives are better suited for delicate cuts and doing precise work that requires paying attention to detail. They are the top option among professional chefs.
Manual vs. Electric Fillet Knives (Difference, How to Use)
Both manual and electric fillet knives have pros and cons, which you need to consider to decide which is best for you.
1. Manual Knives
Manual fillet knives are great for precision work because as the user, you’re in full control of the knife throughout making it easier to maneuver around bones, joints, skin, flesh, or delicate parts. As a result, there’s minimal meat wastage – you only need to have the right technique. These knives are the preferred choice amongst many cooks for the fact that they allow more precise cuts.
Besides that, they are pretty convenient because they don’t need a power source to use, so you can take them and use them anywhere you want without having to worry about looking for sockets or carrying batteries. Manual knives equally tend to cost less than electric fish fillet knives. The downside of these knives is that they can be more tedious to use because their speed relies on the pace of the user who is filleting the fish.
2. Electric Knives
Unlike the traditional manual knives which you have to operate manually, the electric fish fillet knives require less effort from you to cut through the fish since they are connected to a power source. The blade runs automatically at the press of a button and you only need to guide it through the fish to make the slices or cuts you want.
These knives are usually versatile and a great choice if you regularly prepare batches of fish or if you handle large-sized fish like swordfish, mahi-mahi, etc. They slice through fish flesh more quickly, saving time and effort. They are perfect for avoiding hand fatigue, especially when you have to cut many fillets.
However, using an electric knife will take some learning curve in order to master it as it’s easy to make a mistake without proper training or experience filleting with one. They are also heavier and due to the speed, they are tricky to maneuver hence can be less precise because you have little control over the movement of the blade. This can lead to the wastage of most of the meat during the filleting process. Besides, you can only use them on large fish.
The other disadvantage is that they require a power source to operate hence are not quite convenient compared to manual knives as you can’t use them where there’s no source of energy.
However, rechargeable electric fillet knives are available in the market and these can save you a lot of effort and time if you like fishing regularly and prefer to fillet the fish on your own when outside. Many models have rechargeable battery packs such as a 12V lighter plug (ideal for back wood fishing, especially when your vehicle is your only source of power), 12V battery post clips, and 110V wall plugs.
Overall, the type you choose here will really depend on your usage and the size of fish you’ll be handling. You have to figure out how often you’ll be using the knife, especially since the electric versions cost more. If you won’t need it frequently and you’ll be mostly filleting small to medium-sized fish, then a manual fillet knife would be better as it’s cheaper in the long run. It’s also great if you need a knife that you can bring with you anywhere, like on camping trips.
We would recommend an electric fillet knife if you enjoy fishing regularly or if you usually work on larger fish that have large bones and tough scales, or if you prepare batches of fish. It will speed up and simplify your filleting process as well as help prevent hand fatigue because the torque will be doing most of the work. Should you go this way, then you’ll have to choose between a corded and cordless model. The latter is more convenient and also easier to carry but tends to be less potent than the corded electric knives.
Care and Maintenance for Fish Fillet Knives
What to do after use
You have to take care of your fillet knife after use to ensure its durability and performance. It’s not a complicated process at all. The first thing you always need to do is to clean it after each use and this you need to do by hand washing it under warm water with soap.
Most household dish soaps fail to effectively remove the oil stains from the blades used to prepare the fatty meats from fish. So using warm water will help remove the oil but the more effective option to clean off all the oil as well as other types of residue would be white vinegar. It’ll remove anything from the blade without damaging it. Be sure to completely dry the blade with a towel right away after cleaning/rinsing it – don’t let the knife air dry.
Fillet knife should not as well be placed in the dishwasher or left to soak in water as this would certainly damage the blade’s edge and even the handle as well in some cases. For the best long-term care and maintenance, you can put a couple of drops of oil (vegetable oil) on a paper towel and then lightly wipe the knife’s blade prior to stowing it away. It’s these small acts of care that can make your fish fillet knife last longer.
Where to store after use
There are several ways to store a fillet knife after use. You can store it inside a wooden, plastic block, or any other cool and dry area where it can’t come into contact with water or other types of metal (like in a drawer) as the blade might rust. You can store it in a magnetic knife strip too or in a knife bag.
When you don’t plan on using the knife for a fairly long time like two weeks, then storing it in its sheath would be the best option as all parts will remain protected by the sheath and it won’t get exposed to air which can cause its metal parts to corrode.
You have to ensure you only take it out of the sheath when you are ready to use it, especially if you use your fillet knife to prepare meals every day because pushing it back and forth regularly can damage the blade overtime. Lastly, you need to ensure to keep your knife where curious children can’t reach it as they can end up hurting themselves.
When it’s time to use the fillet knife, experts recommend always disinfecting it by rubbing down its surface with rubbing alcohol right before using it on the meat because fish can carry parasites or diseases which can harm humans – doing this will instantly kill any bacteria present which will stop them from spreading throughout the fillet.
How to sharpen the blade and how often?
Sharpening the blade of your fillet knife is necessary not only to keep its edge but also to ensure you get the most out of it. You’ll have to sharpen it once a year or sometimes more frequently depending on usage or whenever you notice dents or chips, or as soon as it starts getting dull.
The proper way to do it is to use a sharpening stone. There are several varieties which include water stones (also known as whetstones) and oil stones. We would recommend using whetstones, which will need some skill to use so that the blade is sharpened properly without getting damaged.
Choosing the Sharpening Stone
The first step is choosing the right stones to use. When fillet knives get very dull and develop microchips, they need a coarser grit stone (such as 300 or 400 grit) to create a new edge, just like sandpaper. From there, you can use a fine grit stone (3000 to 8000 grit) for polishing and honing the blade. However, if you want to use just one stone, then a 1000 medium grit stone would be ideal.
How to Sharpen the Knife Using Stone
Once you have your whetstone, you may need to soak it in water for at least 30 minutes. You can get a “splash and go “stone if you want to skip this step. Once the stone is soaked or prepped, it’s time to get started.
The one thing you want to ensure you get right is maintaining a consistent angle on the blade as you sharpen it. You’ll need a bevel edge of around 12 to 15 degrees. A kitchen knife usually has a bevel edge of 20 degrees, but it has to be much more acute for a fish filleting knife.
Therefore, you need to set the slope at a good angle like 12 degrees, which is usually equal to the height of two quarters that have been stacked together. You just place two quarters on the sharpener, lay the top of your knife right on the edge of the two quarters, and then keep that angle when you remove the quarters.
Once you‘ve achieved this, you can start sharpening the knife. A good way to do this is moving the blade in a slicing motion, running it from the heel to the toe to ensure you sharpen its entire length. You should start with the coarse grit or the medium grit stone, ensuring to hold the fillet knife in your dominant hand.
For 8 to 12 inches knives, you should place 3 to 4 fingers of your secondary hand right on the knife blade to use for pressure. For the flex 7 or 9-inch knife, use two fingers because the blade is thinner and hide the other fingers so that they aren’t open to an accident. Keep the slicing motion until the whole blade is sharpened, counting the number of times you make the motions.
Once you are done with one side of the blade, you flip to the other side and try to maintain the same angle you initially used and also repeat the same amount of slicing motions you had made previously. When you are done with the first set of sharpening, then you can test out the knife to see if the blade has been sharpened.
To do this, you can carefully rub one of your fingers against the edge of the blade to feel for a burr, which tells you that a new edge has been created and that you’ve sharpened the knife enough.
From there, you can move on to the fine grit stone and repeat the same exact motion as before for another 30 or 40 strokes on each side, making sure that you get contact with the whole blade. Since the grain of this stone is so fine, it will polish the blade and also take off the burr, leaving behind only a precision sharp blade once you are done. After sharpening, you can also hit your fillet knife on your honing steel a few more times just to dial in your edge.
This whole process will certainly take time and practice but doing it once a year will ensure your fillet knives remain sharp and functional for a long time. You should always use a base that has traction for the sharpening stone or you can even place a towel underneath it to ensure it doesn’t slip. This is extremely important since slipping can mean cutting yourself.
For the less experienced users or if you don’t wish to manually sharpen your knife using a stone, getting an electric sharpener would be the best option, especially to ensure that you don’t get yourself hurt. You can choose between two types of electric sharpeners; one that hones the blade and the other which removes the steel and then makes the blade slimmer.
What’s the difference between a boning and a fillet knife?
Both knives are typically used for preparing fish for further cooking. However, a boning knife is specifically used to remove the bones from the meat while a fillet knife is used to cut and slice the fish flesh to separate it from the bones, skin, and scales.
Aside from functionality, these two knives are almost similar, although several notable differences set them apart, especially with regards to appearance. For instance, boning knives have a narrow, flat blade with a slight curve and sharp tip. They also have a more pronounced straight spine which is suited for separating meat from bones.
The blades tend to be short (5 to 7 inches in length), thick, and a bit rigid hence don’t offer great flexibility. Advanced boning knives usually have semi-stiff blades that offer some flexibility. Boning knives generally can’t handle bigger fish or game, especially if it’s too thick.
Fillet knives, on the other hand, are narrower with flexible blades. They are generally arched, which makes them suitable for separating meat from skin and bones when filleting fish. The blades of these knives also tend to be longer compared to boning knives and have intense strength and weight. They can cut through almost any size of fish, including large salmon, catfish, and tuna.
The other difference between the two knives is that while both can have flexible blades, the boning knives usually bend inward so that the blade can easily get closer to the bones.
Generally, a well-designed fillet knife blade can effectively work for boning because of its ability to slice the flesh off larger bones and also follow bone contours. However, the reverse is more difficult as boning knives make poor fillet knives because of their increased thickness which limits their blades from flexing with the bone contours of the fish.
Full Tang vs. Partial Tang
The tang is the metal part of the blade that extends to the handle and it can be a full tang or partial tang. A full tang knife is one where the metal goes through the entire handle, from the tip all the way to the butt. The partial one, as the name suggests, is where the tang doesn’t go through the entire length of the handle.
The knives with full tang handles are usually stronger and durable since they lack any weak points, plus they offer better balance and control compared to partial-tang knives. However, they are heavier. Nevertheless, always opt for a knife with a full tang, one with the handle attached with at least 3 rivets as this will enhance the strength of the knife. It’s worth handling the weight for extra control and durability.