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Difference Between a Boning Knife and a Filleting Knife

Difference Between a Boning Knife and a Filleting Knife

When it comes to knives, there are plenty of different types to choose from and they're all made for specific purposes. Some are more specialized than others, but they all have certain tasks that they can perform well and others that they cannot. Of course, special knives are made for this reason exactly – to make everything we do more effective and more efficient. But that's only going to be the case if you're using the correct knife for the right job.

Two types of knives that tend to be mixed up, or even conflated into one at times, are boning knives and filleting knives. While they're both suited to working with different types of meat, fish, and poultry, within that category, they have different strengths and weaknesses. And those come down to the fact that deboning meat and filleting meat are two very different things – they may be part of the same process, but they're two distinct steps in that process.

Indeed, the former involves separating meat from the bone of an animal, while the latter is used to cut out delicate fillets of meat. Since these tasks are so vastly different, it makes sense that a boning knife and a filleting knife would have such a different construction.

So, if you've ever been challenged by the question of the difference between a boning knife and a filleting knife, wonder no more, because I'm going to tell you everything you need to know on the topic.

To begin, we'll cover straight forward explanations of what each knife is, including construction and purpose, and then I'll provide a side-by-side comparison of the two knives, looking at both their similarities and their differences.

Once we've established what makes a filleting knife and a boning knife different, I'll give you a crash course into the proper way to look after and maintain these two special knives, and then I'll explain the correct process for sharpening them too.

So, if you're keen to learn all about what makes a knife and a boning and a filleting knife different, stick around, because I’m going to provide you with all the information you need.

What is a Boning Knife?

A boning knife is a special kind of kitchen knife that is designed and constructed for the specific purpose of cutting through meat to remove bones. This can be poultry, fish, or other types of meat.

Since a boning knife is made for the primary purpose of removing meat from bones, it boasts a sturdy and rigid construction and is quite a strong knife. Part of the process of removing meat from bones is having to cut through ligaments, muscle, sinew, and fat, hence the need for strength.

At the same time, however, boning knives also need to be very sharp and it's important that they allow a certain amount of precision since they need to be used to precisely cut meat off bones. Thus, boning knives are strong and fairly rigid, but they’re still delicate enough to do fairly precise work.

For this reason, the blades tend to be quite narrow and boning knives boast flat edges that curve up slightly at the tip. This slight curve makes it easier to remove meat from difficult to reach places on bones and joints. They also have very sharp points (as do most knives that are designed for working with meat) so as to be able to keep the meat in place and make precise cuts.

Now, people tend to think of cutting-boards in relation, mostly, to poultry and meat, which is accurate – obviously, they require the removal of meat from bones. However, boning knives can also be used to remove bones from fish. However, boning knives are more appropriate for large fish rather than small, delicate fish. This is because they're big and strong knives, and while they are capable of some degree of accuracy and precision, fish meat tends to be quite delicate, so if you need to do anything precise, a knife and a boning wouldn’t be the answer.

That's where a filleting knife comes in.

What is a Filleting Knife?

A filleting knife is, as its name suggests, a knife that is designed to allow you to accurately cut beautiful fillets of meat - be it fish, poultry, or other types of meat.

Going back to what we said in relation to boning knives being a bit big, strong, and cumbersome for precise cutting of meat, this is where the filleting knife comes in, because it's narrower, lighter, and sharper. In addition, while the edge of both filleting and boning knives curves upwards towards the point, this curve is more extreme on filleting knives. Filleting knives also have very sharp points to allow for precise cuts.

Conversely to boning knives, filleting knives are often thought of as only being used for filleting fish, and, while they are particularly suited to filleting delicate fish meat, they're also great for cutting fillets of other types of meat and poultry. Once the deboning process has been completed and the bones are out the way, it's time to use your filleting knife to cut your precise fillets – whether it's fish, chicken, beef, or just about anything else.

As we said earlier, filleting knives are lighter and more delicate than boning knives, so you should really never attempt to use a filleting knife to cut as it not only won't be particularly effective, but you run the risk of damaging your knife.

Similarities and Differences Between a Boning Knife and a Filleting Knife

As we've already seen, boning knives and filleting knives have a plethora of similarities and differences, so we're going to lay them all out so you can compare them side by side.

Similarities Between a Boning Knife and Filleting Knife

Here are some of the most important similarities between boning knives and filleting knives.

  • They're both suited to and designed for working with different types of meat – poultry, fish, and other kinds of meat.
  • They both have fairly narrow blades.
  • Both knives are very sharp and need to be very sharp in order to be as effective as possible. Thus, they need to be sharpened regularly and properly.
  • Both blades curve upwards towards the point, even though this curve is more extreme on filleting knives.
  • Both boning and filleting knives have extremely sharp points.

Now, having looked at these similarities, let's take a moment to consider the main differences between boning knives and filleting knives.

Differences Between a Boning Knife and Filleting Knife

Here are the main differences between filleting knives and boning knives.

Boning Knife Filleting Knife
Blade curves up slightly towards point Blade curves up significantly towards point
Heavy Light
Suitable for working with bones Not suitable for working with bones
Strong enough to cut through muscle, sinew, fat, and connective tissue Not strong enough to cut through more than prime cuts of meat, poultry, or fish (fillets)
Semi-flexible but still rather rigid Flexible and not rigid at all
Reasonably easy to maneuver in tight spaces Very precise and very easy to maneuver in all kinds of spaces

How to Look After and Maintain Boning and Filleting Knives

Boning and filleting knives may not be the same, however, looking after and maintaining them can be done in much the same way.

Here's a quick list of dos and don'ts:

  • Do: Handwash the knife with warm soapy water.
  • Don't: Put the knife in the dishwasher.
  • Do: Hand dry the knife immediately and put it away rather than leaving it to dry in a drying rack among other knives and cutlery – this may lead to bumping and damage.
  • Don't: Store it in a drawer or anywhere else it may get bumped or damaged.
  • Do: Store it in a sheath or on a knife magnet or something similar.
  • Do: Look after the handle of your knife (this depends on what it's made from).
  • Don't: Use your filleting knife for anything related to bones.
  • Don't: Use your filleting knife for de-scaling heavily scaled fish like sea bass or blackfish; rather use something with a scalloped blade.
  • Do: Remove any rust that may build up on the knife or handle.
  • Do: Sharpen your knife properly and regularly.

On that note, here are some tips for sharpening boning and filleting knives.

How to Sharpen Boning and Filleting Knives

Once again, although boning and filleting knives aren't the same, the sharpening process is fairly similar. Here’s a quick explanation of how to sharpen your boning and filleting knives.

1. Prepare Your Whetstone

Select a whetstone with fine grit - something close to a three thousand grit whetstone for a boning knife. For a filleting knife, you can choose a three thousand grit whetstone if it's very blunt and up to five thousand if it's less blunt.

Once you have the right whetstone, make sure you soak it for about fifteen minutes and then set it down on a surface where it won't slide around.

2. Perfect the Angle of Your Whetstone Right

Try to angle the blade of your knife at an angle of between twelve and twenty degrees for a boning knife and between eighteen and twenty-one degrees for a filleting knife. The angle doesn't have to be exact, but the closer you get to this the better.

An easy way to approximate the angle of your knife is to start out perpendicular to the whetstone and then keep halving it until you get to where you need to be.

3. Sharpen One Side and Then the Other

Once the blade is at the right angle, you can start sharpening one side at a time. Glide the blade against the whetstone, moving from heel to tip in one smooth motion while keeping your hand nice and steady. Use a sweeping motion when you're working with the curved end of the knife - you'll need to be particularly precise when sharpening the curved end of your filleting knife since the curve is more extreme.

You can do about 30 strokes on each side of the blade and then evaluate the knife's sharpness to decide if you need to continue. While sharpening, ensure that you're applying light pressure to the blade - this is especially important for filleting knives.

4. Rinse the Blade

After sharpening, you'll find a build-up of metal powder on your blade, so rinse it off before packing it away or using it.

Final Thoughts on the difference of a boning knife and filleting knife

That rounds up just about everything you need to know about the differences between a Boning knife and a Filleting knife, how to care and maintain your knives, how to hone and sharpen your Boning and Filleting kitchen knives.

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