When it comes to the kitchen equipment, there are a few essential items that you should invest in. A good fillet knife is one of them.
But why is it so important?
Let’s start by saying an absolute truth: all knives serve different purposes. So, if you have ever felt frustrated when filleting a fish, you probably were not using the right tool. And, trust me, when you use the proper knife for the job, it shows.
A fillet knife is not like your typical kitchen knife. Instead, it has a thin, flexible blade specifically designed for quick, smooth, and precise filleting.
Most models have a trailing point blade for that purpose. With it, you can fillet fish or meat like a pro as it separates flesh from the asymmetrical bone effortlessly while reaching intricate areas thanks to its narrow tip.
However, trying to find the perfect fillet knife is a lot harder than you might think. There are many options and prices, so you will have to take a little extra time to make the right decision.
That is why, in this post, we’re making a complete guide on how to choose the ideal fillet knife —plus the best 7 options in the market right now!
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- 1 How to pick a fish fillet knife?
- 2 Japanese vs. German knives
- 3 7 best fillet knives
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How to pick a fish fillet knife?
Before anything else, you can rest assured that you don’t need to spend a fortune to have a good quality fish fillet knife. There are enough brands and prices to fit every wallet. You just have to know what to look for and how to do so.
Nevertheless, when you have a flexible budget you can explore more sophisticated options, and it is always worth investing in durable, high-quality tools for your kitchen.
But, hey, remember that what makes a good knife is not the price!
Now, let’s talk about the main features you should take into account when buying a fillet knife:
Type: manual or electric?
This is the first filter you should apply in your search. Both manual and electric knives have pros and cons, so you must compare different models to decide what’s best for you.
Traditional manual fillet knives are the preferred choice among cooks of all levels because they allow more precise cuts. Besides that, since you don’t need any power source to use, you can take them anywhere you want without worrying about carrying batteries or looking for sockets.
On the other side, electric knives are faster and require less effort —perfect to avoid hand fatigue when you have to clean and cut many fillets!
However, it takes some time to get used to them, especially if you don’t have much experience filleting. They are also more expensive, so that’s something to think about.
Another thing you should consider if you’re looking for electric knives is whether you prefer a corded or cordless model. The second type is more convenient and easier to carry, but they are usually less potent than corded knives.
Knife blade: material, length, flex, and tang
A high-quality blade ensures flawless results. Therefore, you should invest in a good fillet knife with a thin, professional-grade blade. To choose the one, you must ponder four key factors: material, length, flexibility, and tang.
Let’s talk about each one separately.
Material: the best material for a fillet knife is stainless steel because it is durable and won’t corrode over time. That said, not all stainless steel has the same quality. Some manufacturers add more chromium to the steel to enhance its rust-resistant properties, but it also increases costs.
Another common material for fillet knives is high-carbon steel, which is harder (and sometimes cheaper) but requires more maintenance to prevent rust.
Length: the length of the knife will depend on the size of the fish you are willing to prepare. The bigger the fish, the longer the blade.
Generally speaking, fillet knife blades are 4 to 10 inches long (about 10 to 25 cm). With that in mind, if you want versatility and convenience, you could buy a medium-sized knife with a 7 inches blade. That will be enough for a wide variety of applications and should be easy to manipulate and store.
Flex: a good fish fillet knife should be thin and flexible. That means it should be able to bend when you apply a bit of pressure, but always without losing its shape. The more flexible the knife, the easier it will be to skin the fish, remove bones, and cut slices.
Tang: The tang is the part of the blade that connects to the handle of the knife. Full-tang knives have blades that extend to the butt of the handle. They offer more balance, durability, and control than partial-tang knives, but they are also heavier. Nevertheless, it is worth handling the weight for that extra control.
The handle is, perhaps, the most relevant factor when choosing a fillet knife. It should be ergonomic, resistant, and non-slip to ensure a firm and secure grip, even when things get wet and greasy.
A well-designed handle feels comfortable and safe in your hand, and that is what will grant you absolute control over the knife.
As for the material, it must be durable and suitable for wet conditions. That is not only to prevent the knife from slipping off but also to prevent deterioration over time.
The most common knife handles are made of rubber, wood, and plastic. Among those three options, rubber is probably the best one, followed by plastic. And I’ll explain why.
Rubber is soft, feels great in your hand, and provides an excellent non-slip grip for wet conditions. For its part, plastic is sturdy, but it can get slippery sometimes. That aside, both materials are easy to clean and do not absorb fish odors.
And what about wood?
Well, although it is common and looks nice, wood has some complications. To begin with, it is not very safe as it can get slippery when wet. Besides, it is annoying to clean and can take unpleasant smells over time, so it is a bit unhygienic compared to other materials.
Japanese vs. German knives
There is an endless debate about Japanese and German knives around the internet. But what is the difference between them?
Well, let’s see.
Japanese knives are widely known for their hard, first-class steel and precision. As they are thin and sharp, they are the top choice among professional chefs. In simple words, Japanese knives are perfect for delicate cuts. However, they require a lot of care and tend to be expensive because of their manufacturing process.
Conversely, German knives are a little bit heavier because they have a thicker blade. Nevertheless, this rugged construction makes them more versatile and easier to maintain.
The German steel quality is also impressive, but it is slightly softer than Japanese steel. That is both an advantage and disadvantage, as it is more durable but less sharp. Even so, the difference is minimal.
Time for the big question: is one better than the other?
Short answer: no.
The decision between Japanese and German knives will depend entirely on your personal preferences. Both of them deliver excellent performance and durability, so you’ll have to decide whether you want a precision tool or a multi-purpose blade for all kinds of heavy work.
Now that we know what makes a good knife, let’s move on to the fun stuff:
7 best fillet knives
If you want to buy a top-notch fish fillet knife but are unsure where to start, this list is for you.
Here are the 7 best fillet knives on the market right now:
This Deba knife from Japana Home is a fine option if you’re looking for quality, versatility, and endurance —plus a beautiful look! It is on the pricey side of the market but it is worth every cent.
Just like all Japana Home knives, this Moritaka Deba knife is handcrafted by expert bladesmiths in Japan and Europe.
Something curious about this Deba knife is that it doesn’t have a single bevel design like most Japanese knives. Instead, it has a symmetrical grind and edge bevel, which is a significant advantage for left-handed users.
On another note, the seasoned cherrywood handle is waterproof, so you can enjoy a nice-looking, traditional design without worrying about the common drawbacks of wood.
The blade is thick and sturdy but yet easy to manipulate for filleting fish or poultry. It is made of Aogami Super steel, a rust-resistant type of high-carbon steel with great edge retention. Additionally, the blade is forged to a stainless-steel tang to prevent moisture from damaging the handle.
– Two blade sizes available: 16.5 cm and 18 cm (about 6 and 7 inches)
– Professional-grade handcrafted design
– Waterproof handle
– A bit pricey
– Needs regular sharpening and special care
This Yanagiba knife is another excellent option from Japana Home. It is part of the Moritaka series, but this is a more precise tool designed to cut clean slices in one go. This type of knife is suitable for filleting, deboning fish, cutting slim pieces of vegetables, and more.
The Aogami Super steel blade is 21 cm long (8 inches). It is thin, sharp, and has a narrow tip perfect for reaching difficult areas. The finish is kurouchi (black) with a lacquer coating that helps to protect the steel.
As with the Moritaka Deba knife, this Yanagiba has a handmade, waterproof construction that includes a beautiful, seasoned cherrywood handle. It also shares the double-bevel edge.
On the downside, this model is pretty expensive. But you could not expect less from a high-end Japanese knife.
– Great size for cutting fish in one go
– Professional-grade handmade design
– Sharp edge with a narrow tip
– Needs regular sharpening and special care
Part of the Mercer Culinary’s Genesis series, this fillet knife has a flexible 7-inch blade made of German high-carbon steel.
The blade is also rust-resistant and has a taper-ground edge for stability and long-lasting sharpness.
Additionally, it is a full-tang knife with an ergonomic Santoprene handle. Santoprene is a rubber-like material that offers a comfortable and firm grip even with wet hands. Plus, it can withstand hot and cold temperatures without any damages.
Besides that, this is an affordable option for more modest pockets, and it also has a limited lifetime warranty.
In short, this Mercer Culinary Genesis knife delivers outstanding performance at a reasonable price. It is a good choice for beginners who want to invest in their first fish fillet knife.
– Rust-resistant, thin, flexible blade
– Full tang construction
– Ergonomic, non-slip handle
– Limited lifetime warranty
– Good quality at an affordable price
– Some people consider the handle too heavy
– It is undoubtedly a good knife, but it is not on the same level as the top professional brands
Wüsthof is one of the most popular kitchen knife brands. They offer a wide variety of high-end knives suited for domestic and professional use.
This 7-inch fillet knife is part of their Classic Ikon collection, and it has an elegant design with a long narrow blade, perfect for smooth filleting. The high carbon stainless steel blade is ultra-thin, flexible, and sharp for precise cuts.
It has a full-tang construction with a double bolster for more balance. The beautiful black handle is made of a sturdy, durable type of plastic called Polyoxymethylene, which is highly durable and fade resistant.
As you might expect, this one is a premium fillet knife, so it’s not very cheap. Nevertheless, it can be a good investment that will last for many years if you take good care of it. It also has a limited lifetime warranty.
– Sleek design
– Thin, flexible, rust-resistant blade with a narrow tip
– Full-tang construction with a double bolster that improves balance
– Comfortable grip
– Precise and long-lasting
– Limited lifetime warranty
Another Japanese knife for the list! This one is part of the Kanso series from Shun, a well-liked knife brand from Japan.
This fillet knife has a compact, hand-sharpened, high-carbon stainless steel blade with a beautiful shape that allows you to fillet fish, meat, or poultry with ease and precision.
It has a full-tang construction that ensures balance and control, plus a gorgeous design with a symmetrical Tagayasan wood handle.
According to Shun, Tagayasan, known as iron sword wood, is dense and durable. Therefore, it will last for many years to come.
You should know this is not a cheap knife, but it is suitable for professional and domestic use. It comes with a limited lifetime warranty too.
– Beautiful design
– Ergonomic handle
– Full-tang construction
– Thin, sharp, rust-resistant blade with a narrow tip
– Handcrafted in Japan
– Limited lifetime warranty
– Wood handle might absorb fish odors over time
Bubba is a brand for fishers that offers a diverse collection of fishing tools and knives for all tastes. Their well-known red non-slip grip is one of their most compelling points.
This tapered flex fillet knife has a stainless steel blade with a non-stick Teflon coating for better performance. Available in 7 and 9 inches, the blade is resistant, razor-sharp, and flexible. With it, you can fillet small or medium fish with precision in any environment.
The ergonomic red handle is textured for maximum grip and safety in wet conditions. It is comfortable and sturdy.
In short, this Bubba Tapered Flex fillet knife is a must-have for fishing enthusiasts due to its rugged construction.
– Flexible, thin, rust-resistant blade with a narrow tip
– Durable and rugged
– Ergonomic, textured handle designed for maximum grip
– Some people complain about the sheath included
– The handle might be too big for some users
Last but not least, this inexpensive fillet knife from Elk Ridge is a good option if you are on a budget.
It has a 7-inches stainless steel blade with a sleek finish and fine edge. It is flexible, sharp, and has a full-tang construction for more balance and control when filleting.
The wood handle has an ergonomic design that provides a comfortable grip, plus it looks beautiful!
Another nice feature about this knife is that it comes with a nylon sheath, so you can carry it safely wherever you want.
Of course, as this is a cheap knife, it is not comparable to the others we have mentioned in this list. Still, it is of very good quality for the price.
– Stainless steel blade
– Thin, flexible blade with a narrow tip
– Full tang construction
– Ergonomic, comfortable grip
– Not as sharp as high-end knives
– Doesn’t hold its edge too well
And there you have it! I included the best fillet knives with different prices, shapes, and materials so you can compare and choose the one that fits your needs —and your wallet.
Remember, however, that no matter which model you pick, you must take the time and care to treat your knives properly.
If you want some advice on that, take a look at this guide to maintaining your knives by Japana Home.
Would you add another fillet knife to the list? Leave a comment below!
Owner and Food blogger on The Cookware Geek. She loves cooking, baking, traveling, playing with the cats, and knitting. She believes that eating delicious meals doesn’t require a culinary degree or a Michelin-star chef in your kitchen.