A quality fillet knife may not be essential to every kitchen, but if you plan on breaking down a whole fish, this item is an indispensable tool. Fish is so delicate, and you really don’t want to accidentally “butcher” your fillets with the wrong knife.
Fillet knives can be categorized into two groups - the outdoor, camping and fishing variety tools, and the indoor kitchen knives. And while these two categories are functionally comparable, they differ radically when it comes to aesthetics.
The following list includes both indoor and outdoor fillet knives. And to be honest, you can probably get away with using each in either situation - we promise we won’t tell anyone.
High End Pick
My pick for the all around, absolute best fillet knife.
The Wusthof name is synonymous with quality, and this Wusthof Classic 7 Inch Fillet Knife is no different. The first thing you need to know about this product is that these knives are made in Germany, and they come with a lifetime guarantee.
The knives are precision forged from high-carbon steel, and hardened to a 58 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale. The 58 rating is just about what you’d expect from a high quality European style blade, and perfect for a fillet knife.
Much higher than a 58 HRC and the knife steel begins to creep into brittle territory, but the high 50s rating is still plenty hard for a razor sharp angle (about 14 degrees per side) and excellent edge retention.
When it comes to the handle, I’m mixed. On the plus side, the grip is incredibly comfortable, and I love the wide bolster that doubles as a finger guard. The handle is also triple riveted around a full tang, so in addition to looking great, it’s also incredibly strong.
My problem with respect to the handle has to do with materials. The handle is made from a synthetic polypropylene, and though these materials are great in terms of resiliency and resistance to fading, discoloration, and heat related stains, I just don’t love polypropylene.
To be clear, polypropylene is not a cheap material, or an indicator of cheapness - indeed, almost all Wusthofs have polypropylene handles. My issue with the handle has much more to do with personal preference, and really this is a preference that I can get over.
The only other downside is price. This fillet knife is, admittedly, quite expensive. But as they say, you get what you pay for, and with Wusthof, you get a lot.
This Cangshan TS Series Fillet Knife is truly a thing of beauty. Sleek and minimalist, this knife is hand forged from a proprietary blend, high-alloy Swedish Sandvik 14C28N steel, and hardened to just about a 59 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale, give or take two points.
This HRC rating is really a sweet spot for fillet knives - the blade needs to be thoroughly flexible (that is, not brittle) while at the same time hard enough to hold an edge.
The knife is quite thin, with a flexible, ultra sharp blade that makes fillet work super easy. The knife has also got a great curve to it, and I absolutely love how the line on the blade extends into the curvature of the handle. It’s a work of art.
The handle curvature feels great in the hand, and the knife is triple riveted for strength. You’ll also notice, upon holding the Cangshan, that not only is the handle ergonomic, but it creates a perfect balance with the blade.
Establishing appropriate balance is actually pretty challenging in a fillet knife, since the blades are so thin. The fact that the Cangshan is so well balanced is actually quite impressive.
The Cangshan comes in under a hundred bucks, but it’s definitely not cheap, and perhaps more than you’d otherwise like to pay for an occasional use item like a fillet knife. The knife does come with a leather sheath, though I’m not sure the point of this, as the blade is just too nice to take on a fishing trip. For me, this is a kitchen use tool, rather than a field knife, and for that reason the sheath seems superfluous.
If you’ve got the money to spend though, this is an excellent choice of fillet knife. The overall quality is top notch, and the knife gets a great aesthetic rating as well. The lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects is nice, but really it’s just icing on the cake.
This Bubba 9 Inch Grip Handle Fillet Knife is a great option for outdoor use. Don’t get me wrong, you can use this fillet blade in the kitchen, but the aesthetic screams fishing trip - up to you.
Bubba makes quite a few excellent quality blades, and this knife is definitely one of them. The blade is super long - 9 inches - and ultra flexible. If 9 inches is too long for you, Bubba also makes 6 and 7 inch blades, and each come in varying degrees of flexibility.
This blade is made from a durable yet thin 8Cr13MoV steel, which won’t rust or chip, despite the abuse it’s sure to take out in the field. This resiliency is due in part to the fact that the blade is ti-nitride coated, making the steel even more resistant to rust than a normal knife. The ti-nitride coating is also what gives the knife that distinct black color.
The handles are also super distinctive and very easy to spot. Each handle is bright, reddish orange, and they have an easy-to-grasp, non-slip grip. The handle also feels pretty good, with a trigger grip towards the bolster, and a lanyard hole towards the butt.
The Bubba Blade also comes with a synthetic sheath. I know I got down on sheaths with respect to the Cangshan knife above, but that’s because the Cangshan option was an indoor knife. The Bubba is obviously meant for the outdoors, and as such, the sheath is helpful, and even necessary in preventing accidents.
I had to include this Chroma fillet knife on the list, if for no other reason than the minimalist design by F.A. Porsche. Take a look at this thing - it’s incredibly simple, and yet it looks so, so cool.
The blade is made from a very sharp, Japanese 301 type steel, and the blade joins seamlessly with the handle. That’s right, this knife is one single piece of steel - no separate handle materials - marked at the center of gravity by a small, silver projection point.
This silver projection point serves as a tactile warning to your fingers, like a bolster would on more traditional knives, essentially saying: don’t go much higher!
The design is definitely unique, and admittedly not for everyone. It’s hard to imagine the handle being particularly comfortable, especially after extensive use - though to be fair, people still seem to love it - and I fear gripping this knife in haste at the wrong end.
But this is still a fantastic quality knife, and if you like the style then there is absolutely no reason not to go for it. Chroma also offers a lifetime warranty, which always sweetens the deal!
I have had a minor obsession with Opinel knives since my first Number 8 Opinel was gifted to me by a friend about six years ago. Opinel is the pinnacle of simplicity, quality, and genius design. They’re also just gorgeous knives.
This Slim Series Folding Fillet Knife is another great on the go option, perfect for camping and fishing trips. Truthfully though, I wouldn’t be mad if this were my go to fillet knife at home as well.
Despite being a folding knife, it’s not at all garish or unpleasant to look at. I’m not trying to get judgmental here, but I wouldn’t really want to use the Bubba Blade, for example, in my kitchen at home (a space I’ve worked hard to make both functional and aesthetically pleasing).
Like all Opinel pieces, this fillet knife has a beautiful beechwood handle, into which folds the blade, which is made from high quality, Sandvik stainless steel. The blade is super sharp, and pretty flexible for a folding knife.
The blade can be locked in both open and closed positions, thanks to the Virobloc safety ring (first invented by Marcel Opinel in 1955), an Opinel trademark. The system is easy and intuitive.
I have a single concern about this knife, and that's the fact that it’s got a wooden handle that probably won’t do that great if submerged in water for any extended period of time. I have many Opinel knives, and they can certainly get wet (and don’t even slip), but I would be wary of letting the wood soak for a long period of time, for fear it might warp.
This knife is made in France, but beware, in handling a new Opinel you risk developing your own, minor obsession with the brand. Be forewarned!
This Fish ‘n Fillet knife by Rapala is an on-the-go field knife that probably won’t get a lot of use in the kitchen. Having said that, there’s no rule that says you can’t use this knife in the kitchen - it is, after all, not bad to look at.
Rapala makes this knife in two sizes - one with a four inch blade, the other a six inch blade. While the four inch blade is obviously smaller and better suited to small fish, the handle is also a bit small. For that reason, unless you’re only working with very small fish - or if you have very small hands - I’d recommend sticking to the larger six inch blade.
The knife itself is pretty durable, and forged from a single piece of steel with a full tang. The blade is sharp, and I would recommend regular honing to help it keep its edge. On the downside, although the blade is durable and holds an edge, it’s also a bit stiffer than I’d like for my go-to fillet knife.
Now, let’s talk about this handle. I really, really like the light birchwood aesthetic, and beyond looks, the grip is ergonomic and fits pretty comfortably in most hands (again, as long as you go with the bigger option). Having said that, it does tend to get a little slippery when wet.
On the upside, the Rapala comes with a solid, genuine leather sheath that can be attached to your belt, so it’s always within reach. Additionally, they throw in a single-stage sharpener. It’s not the best sharpener in the world, but it’s easy to use - even in a canoe - and it gets the job done.
Frequently Asked Questions about Fillet Knives
The best fillet knife currently on the market is made by Canghshan. The TS Series Fillet Knife - discussed in greater detail above - is a thing of beauty. It’s sleek, extremely well made, and holds an edge like no other without compromising flexibility.
Cangshan is a trusted name in the knife space, and the knife comes with a lifetime warranty against manufacturer defects.
A fillet knife is a type of knife used primarily in breaking down fish. Specifically, a fillet knife is used to make delicate slices between fish fillets (along the sides of the fish) and central bone structures, and between side fillets and skin.
A fillet knife looks unlike most other knives out there. Typically long and slender, fillet knives can be anywhere from four to ten inches long, and usually have a slight upward curve.
Fillet knives are long, narrow and flexible because this shape makes it far more conducive to working with fish. The point of this design is to be sharp and flexible enough to work around bone, and to precisely separate skin from delicate pieces of flesh.
Although a fillet knife can be used on delicate pieces of meat, they are most typically used to prepare fish. Because fillet knives are long, slender and flexible, they are ideal for making precise cuts around bone, and in removing skin.
As you can see from the knives recommended above, fillet knives run the gamut, and can generally be divided into two categories - outdoor, recreational fillet knives, and indoor, kitchen knives. Lots of outdoor knives will come with a sheath, and are designed to be used “in the wild,” while indoor fillet knives look more like regular, well, knives.
A fillet knife is designed to slice intuitively between the fish’s spine and the lateral sections of meat, or the fillets. The blade is curved and flexible, which allows for slicing around bone and/or fins, and the blade is typically extremely sharp.
When you fillet fish, the trick is to get as close to the central spine as possible and to slice in one long, fluid motion. Try to avoid hacking at the fish, as this will damage the delicate fillets. Take a large fillet off the side of the fish, and worry about trimming later.
A fillet knife can also be used to remove skin on firmer fish, like salmon. You’ll want to make sure to remove the skin though only after you’ve removed the sides from the spine.
Keeping a fillet knife sharp isn’t much different from maintaining any other knife. There are a few things that you can do to preserve the edge on your fillet knife, including the following:
Always hand wash your fillet knife, regardless of whether or not it’s advertised as dishwasher safe. Dishwashers accelerate dulling, and can lead to chips and stains.
Hone your knife regularly. If you didn’t know, honing is different from sharpening, and should be done with far greater frequency.
When you hone a blade, you are essentially pushing micro-variations in the blade edge back into place. This will keep your blade much sharper, for much longer, between sharpenings.
Store your fillet knife properly. This means using a sheath, a knife block, or a magnetic knife strip. Never leave your knives loose in the drawer. This can be dangerous, not to mention the damage it is sure to do to your blades.
Always dry your fillet knife immediately after washing.
Sharpening a fillet knife is pretty straight forward, and you have essentially two options. As with other, double-bevel knives, you can either sharpen your knife with an electric sharpener - this is probably the easier of the two options - or manually.
If you decide to go with an electric sharpener, I’d suggest something like this Chef’s Choice three stage sharpener. For manual sharpening, you’ll need a sharpening stone.I like the King Whetstone Starter Pack, but for a complete breakdown of options, check out the 6 Best Sharpening Stones on the market.
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