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What Is A Boning Knife Used For? – Complete Guide

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With so many different kinds of knives on the market today, it is sometimes difficult to keep up or even tell them apart.

There are thousands of different brands to choose from, each having many different shapes, sizes, and designs of the same knife. But what actually sets these knives apart from each other? 

Boning knives have been around for quite some time but have only recently become more popular in your everyday home.

The big question people are asking though is what makes this knife so special and even essential in a non-commercial kitchen? Why do you need different types of knives?

So, what is a boning knife used for? These knives are used to debone any type of meat such as poultry, a variety of red meat including game, and even fish. They can also be used to remove the skin from the meat, cut away cartilage, and remove tiny sinews like silverside.

Why this knife is so essential is because its design allows it to do the work a regular chef’s knife wouldn’t be able to.

This includes cutting big and tough pieces of meat, while simultaneously being able to perform intricate and delicate movements like reaching in between tiny spaces.

In today’s jam-packed article, we will have a look at everything you need to know about boning knives.

We will look at what it is, different types you can buy, how to choose a boning knife, how and when to use a boning knife, and lastly look at some differences between this knife and others.

At the end of this article, you will be an expert on all things boning knives and it will help you choose exactly what you need! Ready to get started?

What is a Boning Knife?

As you may have already seen in-store or even online, there are thousands of different knives available to buy.

Besides being different in shape and size, there is also a wide range of materials, handle shapes, and blade shapes to choose from. 

The big problem people are having is not even knowing what different knives are used for. A lot of people don’t even realize that the difference in shape and design is for functionality, not fashion.

Knives are classified according to their function and what they are meant to do. For example, cleavers are designed to cut through large pieces of meat, whereas a paring knife is designed to perform intricate cuts.

Boning knives are used mainly to remove bones and skin from meats such as beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and even fish – literally any type of meat you can think of!

These knives are generally about 5 to 9 inches (12 – 22.5cm) long and have a very narrow blade.  This blade can either be relatively flexible or very stiff, almost unmoving.

To identify a boning knife, you can look at its very unique blade shape that has an almost S-like curve.

This shape is why the knife works so well – it can remove joints and bones from meat with as little wastage possible, while also being able to do more delicate jobs like moving around in small spaces.

This is why many people buy boning knives instead of using a chef’s knife. Chefs’ knives are too large and even weak to do what a boning knife can.

Types of Boning Knives

As within any category of knives, of course, there are different types of boning knives as well. The difference in blade shape and size is what allows them to have an even more specialized use.


Like we have already mentioned, boning knives can either have a flexible or stiff blade. The flexibility of the blade has nothing to do with its thickness – thin blades can also be stiff and thick blades can be flexible.

The flexible boning knives work great when deboning poultry, fish, or other small animals. These blades can do very intricate and delicate work like cut around difficult shapes or in tiny corners.

The stiff boning knives work better to remove the harder and larger bones in beef, pork, and lamb where fine precision isn’t necessarily needed.


When it comes to the thickness of the blade (which, again, has nothing to do with the flexibility of it), the thinner blades can move easier through meat and can also ready difficult corners.

The thicker blades are used mainly to help portion thick sections.


Most boning knives have curved blade which can perform more precise movements. This means that the blade will slice through meat in a smoother motion as well as help get into small or tricky angles.

The straight blade you will sometimes see works well when removing large pieces of meat, again mostly from beef, pork, or lamb. They still work great for finer slicing depending on the blades’ thickness.

Curved blades are usually flexible whereas straight blades are usually straight, but this isn’t set in stone and there are many variations.


The larger blades are used for bigger pieces of meat and tougher jobs, whereas the smaller blades are used for smaller cuts and finer jobs.

Naturally, this means that cutting red meat will require larger blades while deboning fish or poultry can use a shorter blade.

Short blades range between 5 to 6 ½ inches (12.5 – 16.5cm) while larger blades can be anything up to 9 inches (22.5cm).

FlexibleHas more delicate movements and finer precision cuts.Fish Poultry
StiffUsed to debone or cut larger pieces of meat, especially red meat.Red meats Large fish
CurvedMuch finer movements and can get into smaller spaces. More delicate cuts.Fish Poultry
StraightWorks great to remove large pieces of meat or bones.Red meats Large fish
ThinMoves easily through any type of meat and makes smooth cuts.Any
BroadCan cut thick and large pieces of meat very easily.Red meats Large fish
Large bladeBigger pieces of meat.Red meats Large fish
Small bladeSmaller pieces of meat.Fish Poultry

How Do You Use a Boning Knife?

After looking at the different types of boning knives, you can choose one depending on the specific use.

The main uses of a boning knife include removing bones from meat, removing the skin off of a piece of meat or fish, or simply cutting through tougher pieces of food.

Removing bones

This is mainly what a boning knife is used for. To remove a bone from a large piece of meat, locate the bone and make an incision. Then, using the tip of the knife, cut as close to the bone as possible to remove as much meat as possible.

There are a lot of different methods used to remove specific pieces from different animals. Deboning a chicken isn’t the same as deboning a leg of lamb.

A deboning knife is extremely sharp so make sure you have control over your knife at all times, especially when deboning.

Removing skin 

Removing skin and silverside from meat or fish is another thing boning knives are great for.

The flexible and thinner knives will work best for chicken, poultry and to remove sinew or silverside from red meat. Removing the skin from red meat is much easier and any type of boning knife can be used.

Tips when cutting:

  • Always cut away from your body. When deboning meat, you apply different amounts of pressure to your cuts and sometimes your knife will move or slip unexpectedly.
  • Make sure that you have a good grip on the knife. Many people prefer holding the knife with all 5 fingers on the handle, while others prefer placing their index on the top of the blade.

Professional chefs do not use their index finger on top as this can put unnecessary strain on your finger.

You do have more control, but also run the risk of it slipping off and getting injured. Try and get into the habit of placing your whole hand on the handle.

How to Choose a Quality Boning Knife?

The first and most important factor to consider when choosing a boning knife is obviously what you want to use it for. Beyond removing bones, you have to decide what type of meat will you mainly be using the knife for.

If you want to debone red meat, a thick, curved blade is best, and if you want to debone white meat (fish and poultry) a thinner and flexible blade is preferable.

What’s even better for filleting fish is a filleting knife – we will also discuss the differences later.

After choosing the design of the blade, you have to look at other factors to ultimately choose a quality knife that suits your needs. 

Some of the things you will see with different brands are the material the knives are made of, forged and stamped knives, and different types of handles.


Knives usually come in 3 or 4 different materials.

Stainless steel knives are cost-effective knives that are corrosion and rust-resistant; however, they have a very short lifespan as their blades don’t hold well or even sharpen well.

High carbon stainless steel blades are one of the most popular material choices and will last you quite a while.

While they are more costly, they are still very affordable with many benefits. These knives will hold their edge for a while, sharpens beautifully, and are also rust-resistant.

Next, we have carbon steel blades, some of the more expensive types. These knives are most popular amongst professional chefs because of their durability. They always stay extremely sharp but require constant honing.

Finally, we have ceramic bladed knives which aren’t as common compared to other materials. These knives are extremely hard, sharp, and holds their edge for a while. The biggest drawback is their price tag and that they are extremely fragile.

Stamped or Forged

Stamped knives are made from a single flat sheet of metal that is pressed before being cut into its final shape. The handles are glued on or shaped around the metal afterward.

Stamped knives tend to be more flexible compared to forged knives. They are also much more affordable but don’t hold their edge for long.

Forged knives are also made from a single piece of metal, but pounded into their final shape before being ground to create smooth edges. Forged knives are much stronger and hold their edges for a long time.

Forged knives are also usually more balanced with the tang reaching into the handle – these are the types of knives that have metal between the two handlebars. Naturally, they also come at a higher price tag.


The type of handle you choose (the design thereof) is entirely up to your grip preference. The material it is made of on the other hand can have some pros and cons.

While wood looks great, it doesn’t make for the most comfortable grip and can stain and warp over time. Not to mention, a poorly made wooden handle can give you splinters!

We also wouldn’t recommend a cheap plastic handle as they tend to break under little force. When deboning, you often have to apply pressure, meaning you definitely need strong material.

Polypropylene is a very hard synthetic plastic that makes a great handle and is also aesthetically pleasing. It is comfortable, sturdy, and is very durable long-term.

You can also have a knife that is made of just metal. These are sturdy, won’t bend or break, and is often very comfortable.

What is the Difference Between a Fillet Knife and a Boning Knife?

Fillet knives and boning knives do overlap in some ways. Many designs are very similar to one another and their uses are often the same.

The main difference between these two knives is that fillet knives are used to debone fish while boning knives are used to debone red meat and poultry.

In terms of designs, filleting knives are always flexible and thin and most often have a straight (or slightly curved) blade.

These knives have exceptional flexibility, making them easy to slice along the delicate spine and bones in one go. 

Boning knives come in a variety of designs as we have already discussed, but are mostly used for larger pieces of meat. The blades are usually not as thin compared to filleting knives and their shape is more S-like. 

Boning knives are much tougher specifically for those tougher pieces of meat, bone, and skin.

Difference Between a Boning and Fillet KnifeBoning KnifeFillet Knife
Blade thicknessVaries. Can either be thick or thin.Extremely thin.
Blade shapeS-shaped, but sometimes straight.Most often straight or slightly curved.
FlexibilityNot often flexible, but can be found with slightly flexible blades.Extremely flexible.
Blade sizeVaries from 5 – 9 inches (12-22cm).Mostly long blades for singular motion cuts through fillets.
UsesDebone meat. Remove skin from red meat. Cut through thick pieces of meat.Filleting fish. Removing fish skin. Make fine delicate slices (sushi).

Do I Need a Boning Knife?

Unlike your regular chef’s knife that can perform various different functions, a boning knife’s function is limited.

But having limited function does not mean that it is a useless knife. On the contrary, having one of these in your kitchen can save you a lot of time and effort.

Boning knives are meant to debone, so if that is something you find yourself regularly doing, we highly recommend investing in a good quality one.

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