Fish Fillet Knife 101: All You Need to Know

August 21, 2021

Whether you're preparing lunch on the shores of a wilderness lake or cleaning your newest catch on the kitchen counter at home, having the correct knife for the task makes transforming your catch into exquisite table food a wonderful experience.

As the name suggests, a fillet knife has a thin, flexible, relatively short, and narrow blade that provides the ideal balance of control, accuracy, and mobility for quickly removing skin, bones, intestines, and fins from a fish fillet. Fillet knives are also helpful for field-dressing and may be used on other types of meat, including poultry and cattle.

 How to Select the Best Fishing Knife


When using a knife, the blade, handle, and spine are used considerably, which is precisely why you should be critical about what these parts are made of, including how they're made.

As you go about your research, you will realize that the blades of most cleaning knives are usually composed of stainless steel. The material's resilience makes it ideal for creating fish fillets. Since it's resistant to rust, stain, and other forms of corrosion, you won't have to worry about your knife getting grimy with blood, fat, water, and scales. Meanwhile, plastic, wood, and rubber are the most common materials used for handles. So how do you decide the best one for you?

Choose a rubber handle if you want a firm grip, even when operating with a wet knife in slippery situations. Meanwhile, wooden handles always appeal to specific groups of people, granting that wood is very luxurious-looking and comfortable. They do, however, decay when repeatedly exposed to water over an extended period, absorb scents, and are highly slippery when wet. On the other hand, plastic does not absorb odors, does not decompose, and is durable but may not be pleasant for specific individuals.

Hygiene and security

Working with sharp-bladed instruments is inherently risky. Besides mechanical issues, knives become particularly health-hazardous when they become contaminated with bacteria or fungi, leading to the possibility of food poisoning to the customers or infection to the cook.

A decent knife for creating fish fillets should be built so that accidents and injuries are minimized. It should include finger grooves to help you grasp the knife and keep it from slipping away. To ensure proper cleanliness, consider a knife with a molded grip and a well-sealed blade. When using a knife with gaps and crevices in the handle, you risk significant health concerns due to inadequate cleanliness. This is because filth, blood, and flesh may enter the holes and collect, creating a breeding habitat for germs.

Design and style

When looking for the best knives for fish filleting, consider the kind and style of that knife. If you need a knife to prepare the fish you caught during your enjoyable outdoor activities, an average fish filleting knife will suffice.

However, if you work in the restaurant industry and prepare a vast fish or conduct mass filleting, consider purchasing an electric fillet knife. It is significantly faster and requires very little work from you. You may also wipe the blades while using it, making it an excellent alternative for dealing with saltwater fish.

When filleting, a straight-edge blade is a fantastic choice for clean slices and accurate cuts. However, for piercing through the scales, use a serrated blade. Make sure the handles on whichever knife you choose are ergonomically built and comfortable to use. To lessen the likelihood of accidents, the design should allow you to manage the knife effortlessly.

Size of the Blade

When producing fish fillets, you don't want a knife that is too short or too long. The usual rule of thumb is to choose a somewhat longer blade than the broadest point of the fish you intend to cook.

Choosing the right knife enables you to make accurate and clean cuts with just one pass. There is a wide selection of blade sizes to choose from, ranging from 4 inches to as long as 13 inches.

If you have little fishes, such as crappie, bluegills, or walleye, you can use a 4-5 inch blade. Meanwhile, a 6-7.5 inch blade would be excellent for a medium-sized fish like a trout. Finally, for larger fish such as salmon and tuna, choose 8-9 inches long blades.

Electric Fillet Knife Versus Traditional Fillet Knife

Electric fillet knives cost more than regular knives. They are also more complex, having several moving components and batteries. They're reliable tools, but they're not infallible, and they won't operate if they're not charged or connected in.

In addition, electric fillet knives are less flexible and fragile than traditional knives. This makes delicate tasks, such as removing rib bones from a fillet after removing the fish, a bit more complicated. For this reason, many anglers who use electric fillet knives carry a traditional fillet knife as a backup in case their electric fillet knife fails.

Traditional fillet knives are far more straightforward and less expensive than electric fillet knives, and they will never run out of power on you. They're made of thin steel with chromium added to assist them in resisting corrosion and making cleaning simpler.

Manual or traditional fillet knives come with lengthy bevels to enable razor sharpness and allow them to slide through fish bodies without the edge catching on to a bone. While this design makes fillet knives unique, it also presents a disadvantage as it makes the edge more prone to dulling. This makes it practical to have professional sharpening equipment around to have consistently sharp edges.

How to Use A Fish Fillet Knife

To prepare the correct cut of fish, it is necessary to use the best fish knife. The long, thin, flexible but robust blade of the fillet knife makes cutting fish a piece of cake. To make the ideal fillet, follow the two-part instructions below:


  1. Use the spine to remove fish scales.
  2. Take off the fins.
  3. Remove the skin.
  4. Rinse the entrails with water after removing them.

Actual Filleting:

  1. Cut the fish in half lengthwise
  2. To define the fillets, cut each side.
  3. Using the flexible blade, gently peel the fillets from the spine.
  4. Apply this technique to the opposite side.

This cutting method may be used on practically any species of fish.

How to Sharpen a Fish Fillet Knife

Sharpening a Knife With a Whetstone

Sharpening a knife using a sharpening rock or whetstone is a classic way of sharpening. This approach gives you better control over the knife and a more comfortable working environment when sharpening. A whetstone is an outstanding sharpening stone in terms of knife sharpness and simplicity of use. Plus, it doesn't require any other tools other than the sharpening stone itself.

A few steps are all that it takes to get your fillet knife-edge on point. However, it would be best not to sharpen the knife right off the bat. First, you must master the procedures and angles for sharpening the knife. Otherwise, you risk having a knife with an uneven edge that is insufficient for cutting. To sharpen a knife using a whetstone, follow the instructions below.

  1. Place your sharpening stone on a flat surface and cover it with a damp cloth.
  2. Place the stone's coarse side on top of the knife blade to reshape it.
  3. Apply lubricant on the stone as directed by the manufacturer.
  4. At a 23-degree angle, gently drag the knife down and over the stone in a smooth motion from heel to tip direction.
  5. Repeat step 5 five times more. Depending on how dull the knife is, you may need to repeat this action more than once.
  6. Flip the knife to the other side and sharpen the opposite side with the same technique. For consistency, sharpen this side the same amount of times as the other.
  7. Bring the knife to the same side, but from tip to heel direction this time. Repeat this five times.
  8. Flip to the other side and sharpen five times from tip to heel.
  9. Repeat steps 1–5 using the fine side of your sharpening stone.

A fillet knife with sharpener may not always be available when you need it. It is relatively common to be unable to locate an essential piece of equipment exactly when you need it, which is why you have to think of alternatives for when the need arises. Furthermore, using home materials always equates to convenience and accessibility, which means more savings.

Leather belt

A leather belt is considered one of the most efficient sharpeners available and is used to hone saloon razors. Strop the blade down the leather belt's length to sharpen and hone the fillet knife while realigning the blade.

Nail file

Even if you don't care about nail appearances, you almost certainly have a nail file at home. Furthermore, because this tool is so compact, it may be used as part of a travel or survival pack. While the abrasive component of a nail file helps polish your freshly cut nails, this rough area can also remove portions of the knife, which is essentially what knife sharpening tries to achieve.

Coffee Mug

Every household indeed has a coffee mug. After all, who doesn't have an afternoon joe or tea? To sharpen your knife, the coffee mug has to be ceramic. The bottom part is sufficiently rigid and can remove knife material, thereby pointing it. First, turn the cup upside down, then glide the knife edge from end to end on the bottom of the mug and repeat until satisfied.

While the things mentioned above are conveniently found in the comfort of your home, it's essential to remember that these are all alternatives only and will not be ideal for long-term sharpening. A whetstone is always suitable for maintaining consistent angles.

Choosing the perfect fish fillet knife takes plenty of practical experience and wisdom, especially for newcomers to the field. However, with the proper knowledge and training on correct filleting looks, it's easier to know what to look for in a professional fillet knife that consistently produces excellent outputs.

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