Have you ever found yourself struggling with trying to prepare fish in your kitchen using your usual kitchenware? It’s not strange, as fish needs a different tool altogether. Today, we explore what makes for the best flexible fillet knife.
A Flexible Fillet Knife
A fillet knife needs to perform three tasks in a kitchen – filleting, skinning, and de-boning. The blade needs to be thin and flexible to separate the meat from the bone easily and without wastage, but strong enough to cut through fine fish bone.
Let’s take a look at how the knife construction makes this possible.
Have you found filleting a messy process? This presents certain dangers as a slippery knife affects your control – something you don’t want when wielding an extremely sharp blade. For this reason, the type of handle you choose matters. There are several handle types:
- Wooden – can be slippery and retain fish odor.
- Plastic – sometimes has colored coded handles to denote use on raw fish.
- Rubber – firm grip, colored coded handles.
- Pitted metal – not secure and doesn’t come with color coding but retains no odor.
Clearly, a rubber handle is our winner for today.
Ideally, you want a non-corrosive durable metal blade. Most chefs recommend a stainless steel knife, as they last forever. However, they may be too hard for an amateur kitchen.
Alternatives are carbon steel and titanium blades. The problem with carbon steel is that it will rapidly rust. These knives require a lot of maintenance. They need to be washed and thoroughly dried each time after cutting – which is not always possible in a busy kitchen. If possible, go for titanium.
They are made with a thinner blade and not made to cut through bone. They are delicate knives meant for careful work – they cut around bone. That is why renowned sushi and sashimi chefs can cut fish into slices so thin that they are transparent.
Japanese flexible fillet knives are sharp and light. You get a beautiful design that’s comfortable to use.
The highest quality fillet knives are from Japan and are named after the top 3 Sushi chefs in the world.
- Sakai Takayuki
- Yu Kurosaki
- Saji Takeshi
On the other hand, German fillet knives are heavier and thicker, which makes them more robust and less flexible. However, they offer more stability to the chef using them, so consider both options, especially if you’re an amateur.
You pay good money for a fillet knife, so it’s wise to look after it. Nourish it and indulge it. You can pick up great tips from places like Culinary Lab School. Keep it clean and dry at all times. Even stainless steel will rust over time if not properly maintained.
Sharpen on a regular schedule. A blunt knife requires more pressure and increases the chance to slip. Metal has to be removed from the edge of the blade to sharpen the knife. There are honing steels that often come with sets of knives and electric knife sharpeners. These tools may temporarily sharpen the knife, but they also help to ruin the blade.
The best piece of equipment you need to sharpen your knife is a sharpening stone. For a Japanese knife, use a 1000 grit stone. For a German knife, use an 800 grit stone. Sharpening stones are available at hardware stores and restaurant and catering suppliers.
The Last Cut
Let’s sum it all up.
Buy a fillet knife made of softer steel. It will be easier to sharpen. Do not use honing steels or electric sharpeners. Just buy a sharpening stone and practice how to use it on an old knife.
You cannot go wrong with a Japanese stainless steel fillet knife. And remember – using a blunt knife leads to a slip – a cut – some blood – a trip to the hospital.
Author bio: Ryan Wagner is the Founder of Culinary Lab School and a Certified Executive Chef with over 20 years of experience. He has had success running a catering business in Los Angeles and within high-level roles at culinary startups, but his cooking school is his true calling.