‘Let the knife do the work.’
You hear that line on every TV cooking show, every time a professional chef gives a demonstration of the art of filleting fish.
‘Let the knife do the work.’
That’s all very well, but if you’re looking for a knife with which to fillet fish, a knife you can trust to do the work when you know what you’re about, what are you actually looking for?
In fish filleting, you’re looking for a handful of practical things. You need a knife with a good sharp blade, a good grip, and a degree of strength and flexibility – when you’re cutting flesh away from bone, you need to be able to feel what the knife is doing through the handle, to be able to move with swiftness, certainty and precision to fillet any fish you encounter in the kitchen.
So how do you pick a great fish filleting knife from the thousands out there?
For now, let the knife rest. Let us do the work for you. Here are the best knives currently on the market for filleting fish.
In a hurry? Here’s our top pick.
In a hurry?
This is our Winner!
Best Knives For Filleting Fish - Comparison Table
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Best Knives For Filleting Fish - Reviews
Mercer is a knife-maker of longstanding distinction. Among a handful of immediate go-to knifemakers in the culinary world, it’s earned its reputation over years of delivering knives that let cooks do what they need to do, quickly, efficiently, and with minimum product-waste.
What’s so special about the Mercer Culinary Millenia 8-inch narrow fillet knife?
First, anyone will tell you extra inches help you do things you couldn’t otherwise do. Whereas the standard in the industry might be 6 inches, an 8-inch knife will give you more reach, more scope to do more with less effort and more economy.
Second, it’s narrow and razor sharp – make a definite cut with this knife, and it really will do the work of filleting for you.
Now, let’s get swordmaker-technical. This is a knife made of high carbon Japanese steel – that gives you strength, durability and a degree of resistance to corrosion and stains.
Learn your way around the anatomy of your fish, and this is the blade you need to fillet it with little effort and great precision. Whether you’re dealing with freshwater or saltwater fish, this is knife that will make the cuts you need, and lift fillets away from bones with ease.
Moving away from the blade, the handle is made of a mixture of Santoprene for comfort and polypropylene for strength.
The handle has some heft, but doesn’t give you cramp or fatigue if you spend the whole day boning and filleting fish. It has slip-resistant finger-points and a finger guard too, because it’s worth treating this filleting knife like the sword it wants to be – keep your fingers out of its way.
It’s easy to clean and sanitize, meeting National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) safety standards, and it’s backed up by a limited lifetime warranty, to take the guesswork and replacement costs out of your filleting work.
Bottom line – if you’re only going to have one knife with which to fillet fish, make it this one. The combination of high carbon steel, balance, flexibility and quality construction explains why it’s a go-to in the food industry, and why thousands of users have given it favourable reviews.
At work, at home, if you want to fillet fish, the Mercer Culinary Millennia is the tool you need all day long.
Victorinox is another solid name in the knife world, and the Fibrox Pro Curved 6-inch boning knife scores highly on our list not just because of its flexibility and thinness of blade but for its durability and price too.
Although it’s a more expensive filleting knife than the Mercer, the Victorinox still has a high-end feel for relatively little cash.
As with the Mercer, you’re in the world of high carbon steel with the 6-inch Victorinox. There’s a conical grind to the cutting edge here though.
Who cares about a conical grind to the cutting edge, right?
You will – it means you get a wide breaking point, which translates as the power to cut really close to the bones, lifting out the fillets of your fish cleanly and leaving exactly what every professional chef would demand – minimal wastage.
Wastage in cooking means a loss of money, a lack of elegance in your dishes, and a sign that either you or the knife is not up to the job. The conical grind is your friend, minimizing that wastage.
The flexibility of the Victorinox means you can use it for some meat and poultry work as well as fish (wash and sanitize between meats – food poisoning is fun for no-one), especially for trimming and skinning.
As with any kitchen knife worth using, the Victorinox comes with a finger guard, and the handle is ergonomically designed for safety and balance – it has a pebbled texture and finger contours in the handle as an anti-slip precaution.
While the Mercer takes our top spot, the Victorinox is more than a decent alternative. Sharp, precise and perhaps more a multi-purpose boning and filleting knife than the Mercer, there’s every chance that the Victorinox will become your handy go-to filleting knife, specifically because of that versatility of use. It’s also dishwasher-safe, reducing the risk of accidental injury in the sanitizing process.
While Victorinox provides a lifetime warranty, be aware it covers only defects in materials or workmanship, which is perhaps not as no-quibble a warranty as you might like.
Another multi-purpose boning and filleting knife, the 6-inch curved-blade boning knife from Update International has been raking in reviews from satisfied users.
Where the high carbon steel of the Mercer knife was Japanese, and Victorinox famously uses Swiss high carbon steel for its knives, the Update International boning knife uses high carbon steel from Germany, so as with the first two, this is a strong, sharp, flexible filleting knife that should give you years of precision cutting.
Users have been complimentary about the versatility this knife brings to the kitchen, both with fish and as a more general filleting and boning knife for poultry and even the tougher red meats.
The Update International is a stiffer knife than many on our list, meaning it’s a little less forgiving when encountering bones in your fish. But that greater stiffness also lets it double-up as a boning knife for the stronger red and game meats, where too much flexibility would be actively troublesome and might risk the blade.
The handle sits well in the hand, though it’s less ergonomically sound than the first two knives on the list.
The Update International 6-inch knife is listed by the NSF for its ease of sanitization, and while it carries no manufacturer’s warranty, it is an extremely budget-friendly filleting and boning knife – you could use a couple of these as backups in your knife drawer in the event of needing a stiffer knife for a particularly thick fish, or in case of thicker cuts of meat, with which both the Mercer and the Victorinox might struggle.
The Rapala 4 Soft Grip fillet knife has won fans as much for its handle as for its cutting edge.
That said, there’s little to quibble with when it comes to the quality or performance of the Rapala knife edge. It’s just that the company makes a particular feature of the soft-grip handle on this model, which lets you fillet for hours without getting cramp or stiffness in your filleting hand.
Rapala has a reputation for making sharp flexible blades, and this knife is no exception – it comes in 4, 6, 7.5 and even a 9-inch variant, which not only puts control in your hands, but lets you build a fish-specific collection if you feel the need – choose the right size of knife for the right fish filleting task.
While the longer blades give you a more instinctive extended reach along the skeleton, the shorter knives, like the 4-inch, deliver great flexibility and certainty of cutting, especially when dealing with small to medium fish.
Obviously, try and use a 4-inch knife of a giant bass or a sturgeon and you might come unstuck, but the 4-inch has that sense of being an immediate extension of your hand for precise, quick filleting.
So – handle? It’s moulded and textured to give you a soft grip but to maximise control and avoid slippage in use. It feels lightweight in the hand, which means less cramping and hand fatigue when used for extended periods than some harder handles.
And of course, the handle comes with a protective guard.
Unusually for the knives on our list so far, the Rapala4 comes with a sheath for safe storage and/or transport, which allows it to be more safely used both inside and outside the kitchen – it could be just as happy in a tackle box for on-site filleting and gutting as in the kitchen drawer.
Again, there’s a versatility here that encourages multiple purchases – one for the tackle box, one for the drawer, and if the two never meet, that’s probably no bad thing.
The Dalstrong Gladiator Series is the BMW of knives. Made of high carbon German steel, the entire collection is precision engineered to give outstanding results every time you use them.
Understandably then, the series has left cooks gawping in its wake at the balance, the sharpness, the flexibility and the precision of its knives.
The 7-inch filleting knife is no exception. In fact, the 7-inch fillet knife is like a BMW doing ballet – you can use it for skinning, trimming, filleting, de-boning, butterflying, and de-scaling.
You can use it in the kitchen as your go-to filleting knife, or outdoors for fishing and even hunting, to fillet and trim up meats in the wild. It even comes with two sheaths – one for outdoors, one for in, to encourage this multiple use.
When German high carbon steel meets precision engineering and blade-making, the Dalstrong range is what you get. At only 1.5mm thickness, this is a thin blade which helps you maneuver through fish and meat, the thinness of the blade helping you get finer fillets with only minimal effort.
Meanwhile the tapering at the blade’s tip allows you to get in between bigger bones for minimal wastage of ingredients – while it’s a born and built fish filleter in the heart of its steel, the long, strong blade means you can use it for chicken, pork, beef and even game animals.
It has a full tang construction, which means it’s robust and sturdy in use.
The handle is made from pakkawood, laminated and triple riveted to make the handle part of the blade. Laminated pakkawood won’t absorb smells, stains or water even over time, while giving the knife a more rustic, old school look and feel.
There’s a bolster for counterweight, meaning the knife feels natural in your hand, and allows you to make rapid, decisive cuts that translate into fine, precise cuts and fillets.
While some ergonomically designed filleting knives add excess weight in their steel or their handles to reassure the cook of their heft, the Dalstrong fillet knife has a different design philosophy – flexible, lightweight, machine precise and blending the old-school craft of knife-making with 21st century techniques and engineering know-how, the knife weighs no more than 3 ounces.
That makes it a take-anywhere filleting knife of exceptional precision and delicacy, alongside its strength and durability.
Naturally, it’s an easy-clean filleting option, and it a lifetime warranty makes it a strong investment.
The Dalstrong filleting knife combines the traditional and the new in a knife that delivers exceptional results.
Best Knives For Filleting Fish - Buyers Guide
When buying a knife for filleting fish, there are a handful of things to keep in mind.
The Flashing Blade
Blade sharpness and edge retention, are important in filleting knives. While practice should allow you to use them without running the knife into the bones, the nature of their work tends to blunt the sharp edge of filleting knives.
Look for ones that make a feature of the sharpness and precision of their blade and the retention of their cutting edge.
To Bend Or Not To Bend…
A filleting knife is different to most other knives you own. While they should all have the strength to do the jobs you need them to do, flexibility is never so important as it is in your filleting knife.
Look for a filleting knife with a light touch and the ability to flex, so that you’re able to get close to the bone without hacking into it, and can prise fillets cleanly away from the skeleton.
Minimum wastage of product is your goal when filleting fish – the right knife should be flexible enough to leave you a mostly clean carcass.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why the fuss about high carbon steel in filleting knives?
High carbon steel is helpful because it makes very strong knives. Filleting knives are some of the thinnest knives in your collection.
If the knife is not strong, that thinness could mean the knife snaps or breaks.
High carbon steel lets you combine strength, flexibility and thinness in a filleting knife with precision.
2. Should the ideal filleting knife be long or short?
The ideal filleting knife is the one that best does the job at hand. For smaller fish, a short-bladed filleting knife (4-inches) will allow you make sharp, precise cuts and whip the fillets away from the bone.
For bigger fish with thicker flesh, you’re going to need a longer knife simply because filleting is more like swordplay than axeplay – you should never hack or saw at your fish to remove the fillets.
Slice, with an appropriately long, sharp filleting knife, and let the knife do the work of parting flesh and bone for you.