What is a boning knife?
In this article, we’ll be going over everything you need to know in response to the commonly asked question, “what is a boning knife used for?” First, we’ll start you with a quick summary of the best ways to use a boning knife. Then, we’ll follow that with historical context, design information, comparative analyses, and quick maintenance tips.
Finally, we’ll wrap it all up with a buying guide and a FAQ section to clear the air of any concerns you might have regarding boning knives.
What are boning knives used for?
As you can hypothesize from its name, a boning knife is used for boning meat ingredients by removing bones or shell-like substances. Also known as a fillet knife, the boning knife is designed with a sharp blade and a pointed tip. This makes them exceptional for piercing meat effortlessly.
The flexible blade of the boning knife is denoted by its sharp tip and curved blade edge. This allows it to cut through ligaments and connective tissue, allowing you to remove skin and raw meat from the bone.
The boning knife was designed to address the issue of properly removing meat from bones without leaving anything behind. There was a time when butchers only used the cleaver blades to do their handy work. As a result, it was not uncommon to see plenty of wasted meats that never made their way off the bone.
The lack of proper utensils causes this, so it’s no wonder that boning knives have grown in popularity. They can now be found at just about any butcher shop you visit.
Related: Cleaver vs. Butcher Knives
Types of boning knives
The flexible blade is the most notable design feature that makes the boning knife unique and distinct from other knives. Unlike average kitchen knives, the boning knife’s blade is curved so it can bend around the contours of the meat’s bone.
The flexible blades of boning knives perform exceptionally well when cutting soft tissue and removing excess fat from meat, poultry, or fish.
Some boning knives come with a stiff blade, meaning there are fewer curves in the blade, and it is more rigid and usually sharper too. The benefit of the stiff blade boning knife is that it can generate more force for thicker cuts of meat.
The stiff blade boning knife also gives greater control for filleting fish and removing fish skin (1). Particularly, it is exceptional in taking on large fish with long and rigid blades.
As its name suggests, the straight-blade boning knife is a straight-edge blade with no curves in its design. As such, it is not as flexible as most other boning knives, but it does provide exceptional sculpting and slicing capabilities.
This type of boning knife is great for cutting out large pieces of meat from a roast lamb or beef. However, it is not so great at removing skin from a small fish.
Curved blades are among the most common boning knives out there. This is due to their flexible thin blades that curve up from the handle and continue up to the tip. These are the best boning knives for removing skin from fish and poultry in a single swipe. In addition, they offer incredible maneuverability through the ingredient.
Furthermore, these curved filleting knives can remove excess fat with minimal movement. This allows you to get a lean cut for your meat as preferred easily.
Other boning knives have extremely sharp and narrow blades, making them ideal for precise cuts and delicate work. The blade has a razor-sharp point. The narrow width promotes precision for cutting around acute angles, such as navigating around a fish skeleton.
In addition, these knives often come with a reverse wedge handle that provides a safety lock for your finger. It also provides a firm, comfortable grip that promotes control and accuracy with your cutting tasks.
In contrast to the thinner blades of the narrow boning knife, you may also opt for a broad-blade boning knife. This provides a wider blade length and width. In addition, the large stainless steel handle is great for cutting out thick cuts of meat, making it great for large fish, beef, or lamb ingredients.
In addition, these knives typically come with a finger lock handle that allows you to keep your index finger and pinky safe and secure.
Boning knife vs chef knife
A boning knife differs greatly from a chef’s knife; the two knives have hardly any mutual uses. Instead, they build boning knives with narrow blades separating meat from bones more efficiently and effectively than most kitchen knives.
In contrast, they build a chef’s knife with a wider, thicker blade. This is for basic kitchen prepping tasks such as slicing, dicing, and chopping ingredients.
Ultimately, the chef’s knife is a multi-purpose knife that can take on a greater variety of ingredients outside of the realm of meats. As one of the most popular knives in the kitchen world, the chef’s knife is great for chopping up vegetables, cutting slices of meat, and even slicing through some breads.
In a nutshell, the chef’s knife is a jack of all trades but a master of none, so it may be wise to use a boning knife in conjunction with a chef’s knife.
In contrast, the boning knife is a specialist knife that excels at finer slicing tasks. It also helps with delicate jobs such as removing bones from thick meat sections and skinning fish and poultry.
The boning knife gives home cooks and professional chefs alike the perfect tool for getting steady cuts out of difficult meat shapes. The shorter blade lets you get into small spaces, and the blade’s curvature lets you get around the bone in a way that leaves no meat behind.
Related: The Best Chef Knife Under $100
Boning knife vs utility knife
At first glance, a boning and utility knife bears a striking resemblance. They typically come in at around the same blade length and similar stainless steel construction. Also, both knives have a thin blade and usually come with an ergonomic handle that may or may not come with a finger lock too.
In truth, a utility knife could be used as a boning knife, making it a great option for those included in their knife sets.
With that being said, it may be difficult to understand the need for the boning knife, but some subtle differences could sway your decision. The key difference lies in the blade shape of the boning knife. It depends on the curve designed explicitly for bending around meats, poultry, or fish bones.
There are also more varieties of boning knives that specialize in different aspects of bone and skin removal. For example, the narrow blade and the broad blade boning knife options.
Nowadays, knife sets tend to come with a utility knife more often than a boning knife, so if you own a standard knife set, there is a good chance you already own a utility knife. If that is the case, you may consider your individual needs before investing in a boning knife. You can likely cover most of your meat-cutting tasks with the utility knife.
However, if you find yourself always wasting meat you may benefit from purchasing a boning knife and a utility knife. They also help if you struggle to remove fish skins and excess fats from your meats.
In addition to the many types of knives available for boning knives, there are also a plethora of handle materials and designs. As a general rule of thumb, you should choose one that is comfortable in your own hand. However, you also must consider your intended use for the knife, as different designs support different grips.
The main types of handle materials available for boning knives include synthetic, wood, plastic, and steel. Perhaps the most popular among the range, synthetic handles offer a rubbery grip that gives plenty of security and control with your hand.
They are usually made in single, double, or triple rivet designs. They are extremely durable and able to withstand high moisture exposure to be used in the dishwasher.
The wooden handle is just as popular as the synthetic handle. You’ll find these types of handles quite prominent with Japanese kitchen knife brands. They often feature a D-shaped handle design made of Pakkawood or Tagayasan material. They offer stylish aesthetics and traditional, vintage appearances.
Wooden handles are also offered in the Western design. These come with a riveted construction and a safety lock for your pinky and index finger.
Plastic and steel handles are not quite as common, but still widely available if you know where to look. For affordability, plastic handles are usually the best choice because of their low cost. However, they tend to be more fragile than the others.
Steel handles are great for durability and aesthetics. Looking for a full tang construction, but some claim these handles lack grip, and the cold steel can be uncomfortable to use.
Boning knives are special because they offer more handle varieties than any other knife because of their versatile range of blade types. For instance, the narrow-blade boning knife typically has a curved handle with a safety lock. So, you can involve your index finger more and achieve precise and accurate cutting for delicate tasks.
Similarly, a straight or broad-blade boning knife is commonly found in the D-shape Pakkawood or Tagayasan design. This is seen in Japanese brands like Shun or Miyabi.
How to use a boning knife
To use a boning knife properly, you must first understand the correct way to hold the knife. Always begin with your dominant hand (2). The standard grip involves wrapping your middle finger, ring finger, and pinky around the handle with your knuckles resting on the handle’s spine.
In addition, you can use your index finger or thumb to maneuver the knife. This can help you get more precision with your cuts, especially for fragile ingredients.
When cutting meat from the bone, always ensure you are cutting in a motion that moves away from your face and body. You also need to take extra care with your free hand. The intricate work involved with a boning knife could frequently see this hand shift positions. Always ensure it’s safely positioned before cutting.
Finally, use the pointy sharp tip of the boning knife when making cuts by thrusting the blade head first. Then, slice accordingly. This will deliver the necessary initial penetration to make the task easier.
Cleaning and maintenance
The best way to clean a boning knife is to use warm, soapy water and a cleaning cloth to wipe down the blade and handle. You can then dry the knife using a dry towel or let it rest and air-dry naturally. Like most knives, it’s best to avoid using the dishwasher for a boning knife. They tend to reduce their lifespan through excessive moisture exposure.
Boning fillet knives require constant sharpening and honing to maintain the edge’s sharpness and the blade’s shape. Most brands offer tools such as honing steel rods and sharpening stones to help you maintain your knives at home.
In addition, some brands, such as Cutco and Shun knives, provide free sharpening services as part of their warranty. You can send your knives back to the manufacturer at any time to be expertly sharpened and returned for free. Shipping costs may apply.
With so many types of boning knives on offer today, deciding which boning knife is best for you can be daunting. My advice is not to take things too seriously when deciding. Each type of boning knife can more or less be used for the same tasks, which ultimately revolve around deboning or skinning meats.
However, some basic elements make up a good quality boning knife that you must keep in mind when making a purchase.
Firstly, the blade material should be durable, such as high-carbon stainless steel, to ensure it does not crack or chip too easily. A good filleting knife will also encompass a razor-sharp edge sharpened to about 12-degree angles per side.
In terms of the handle, it is entirely up to you and your preferences. I’d recommend synthetic for durability and ergonomics and wooden for style and aesthetics.
What is a boning knife used for FAQ
What do you need a boning knife for?
A boning knife is essential for removing meat from bones. They are designed to allow you to bend and warp around the bone to cut the meat off cleanly and seamlessly. While a utility knife does well to mimic its characteristics, the boning knife is unique because it provides more curvature on the blade’s edge.
Can you fillet fish with a boning knife?
The boning knife is often referred to as the fillet knife because of its ability to remove fish fillets from a fish skeleton easily. Whether you are a professional chef or an everyday home cook, boning knives are great tools. They minimize the wastage of food and make certain recipes possible. They also allow you to make more lean cuts by removing excess fats from your meat.
Is a boning knife the same as a carving knife?
A carving knife is similar to a boning knife. However, it features a wider blade that is longer in length, resembling a small santoku knife. While the boning knife is used strictly for deboning meats, the carving knife is used for slicing and carving meats, fruits, and vegetables.