Top 5 Best Japanese Knives For Filleting Fish

Filleting your fish properly doesn’t just make it look more delicious, it helps it cook evenly and prevents any guests from ending up with a mouthful of bones.

A single knife is all you need to scale, gut, and fillet your fish with ease. Japanese filleting knives are world-renowned for their efficient design and expert craftsmanship, and they make all the difference in the world.

Whether it’s salmon, cod, mahi-mahi, tilapia, trout, or even a goldfish (well maybe not), we’ve broken it down simply, to compare and find the most popular, most affordable, and best Japanese knife for filleting fish.

Why Are Japanese Fillet Knives Best?

Japanese vs. German Steel

The main types of steel for knives is either German or Japanese. The key differences of the steel are hardness, tang, sharpness, and in their durability.

Hardness is measured by the Rockwell Hardness Scale (HRC, or Hardness Rockwell C). German steel usually measures up to 55-58 HRC, whereas Japanese steel often exceeds 58-62, significantly harder. Tougher steel stays sharper for longer, but softer steel is easier to sharpen.

Tang refers to how far the steel blade runs into the handle. A knife with full tang will have the steel run from tip to the butt of the knife, most often observed in German steel knives. Partial tang will have the steel running only partially entering the handle, is many Japanese steel knives.

Sharpness is just how thin the edge of the knife is and what degree it’s sharpened at. Always use a sharp knife, as it makes everything easier and you’re actually more likely to injure yourself when using a blunt knife. Japanese steel knives are usually sharpened at the 15-degree mark, whereas German steel is often around the 20-degree mark.

Because of these qualities, the Japanese fillet knives naturally perform better than other knives for cutting, slicing, and filleting fish. This is true no matter what type of Japanese filleting knife you are comparing, whether it’s a boning knife, Japanese fishing knife, or a Deba Knife.

Top 5 Best Japanese Knives For Filleting Fish

Best Overall!

DALSTRONG Shogun Series Fillet Knife

  • Strong, durable Japanese blade that’s been treated with nitrogen.
  • Blade tapers to a point, making it easy to navigate around the small fish bones.
  • Handle is strong and resistant to heat and moisture in the kitchen.
  • Not the most flexible blade on the market.

The Dalstrong Shogun Series Fillet Knife features a strong stainless steel blade that tapers into a narrow point, allowing you to slice large pieces of fish and cut around the tiny bones with the same knife. The handle is heat- and moisture-resistant, meaning that you can use it in high-pressure cooking situations without worrying about damaging the blade. It has a semi-single bevel, with one side being sharpened at a lower angle.

You can fillet catfish, salmon, tilapia and countless other varieties with the nitrogen-treated blade that’s specially designed to cut through scales and flesh. The only downside is that this blade isn’t particularly flexible, and it’s a little shorter.  However, it’s versatile, of high-quality, and overall one of the best Japanese steel fillet knives on the market. 

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Top Quality

Shun Premier Gokujo Boning Fillet Knife

  • Angled blade can debone fish and make thin slices
  • Can be used for filleting, dicing, chopping, mincing and much more
  • Walnut handle can fit in either hand
  • Might not be ideal for large varieties of fish

The Shun Premier Fillet Knife offers a sharp, angled blade that glides through meat without leaving ragged edges. This double bevelled blade can debone the fish, make thin slices, and fillet easily, perfect for sushi, sashimi, and filleting smaller fish. The handle is made from real walnut that rests comfortably in either hand while providing a secure grip. You can perform a variety of tasks with this versatile knife: fillet fish, slice vegetables, dice carrots, mince garlic and much more. This blade is on the smaller end of the scale, so it’s better for small and medium fish.

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Most Affordable

KYOKU Samurai Series - 10.5" Yanagiba Knife

  • Perfect for slicing and filleting large pieces of fish
  • Authentic design that’s reminiscent of the top Japanese restaurants
  • Wood handle promote stronger grip and reduces the risk of slipping
  • Affordable option
  • Too large for smaller fish

This sleek KYOKU Yanagiba Knife comes in elegant Japanese packaging that will make you feel like a pro. The narrow blade is made from treated steel that stays sharp and precise after months of repeated use. You can use this knife to scale and debone large pieces of fish, then change the angle to cut the fish into manageable pieces.

Each blade is attached to a sturdy wood handle that fits comfortably in your hand, reducing the risk of accidents when you’re slicing meat. The treated blade can cut through virtually any type of fish, making this knife an investment that you’ll be using in the kitchen for years to come.

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Popular Pick

TUO Damascus Steel Boning Knife

  • Stunning design that’s both practical and attractive
  • Blade tapers off toward the end to make it more versatile
  • Finger guard reduces the risk of accidents
  • Blade is on the stiffer side

The Tuo Damascus Fillet Knife. Dayum.  But the elegant pattern isn’t just for looks, it makes this blade stronger and more wear-resistant. You can use the narrow end of the blade to navigate around the small fish bones, then slice large pieces of meat off the skeleton. This versatile knife can be used in virtually every step of preparation: filleting the fish, chopping vegetables and mincing herbs and spices.

Plus, the finger guard reduces the risk of accidentally cutting your fingers while you’re gawking at how beautiful it is.

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Special Mention

Keemake 10.5‘’ Japanese Fish Knife

  • Specially designed for sushi and sashimi making
  • Wood handle helps you maintain a strong grip
  • Thin, efficient design is easy to maneuverer
  • Not the best option for small fish, and precise filleting.

This slender Keemake Japanese Fillet Knife is specially designed for cutting sushi, sashimi and other raw meats. You can fillet the fish off the bone, cut the fish into small pieces for sashimi or slice through sushi rolls with ease. This thin, efficient knife is one of the most manoeuvrable blades on the market. The wood handle helps you maintain a strong grip on the knife, while the water-resistant blade avoids rust and corrosion. It’s the perfect gift for any sushi enthusiast in your life.

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Deba Knife For Filleting Fish

The Deba Knife or Deba Bocho is a much more traditional Japanese filleting knife compared to the western style Japanese filleting knives.

The Deba knife is designed to be able to both behead and fillet the fish. The sharp and slightly heftier blade allows it to behead the fish easily. The curvature and bevel of the knife help fillet the fish separating the filler from the bones.

Best Deba Knife For Filleting Fish

Kai Seki Magoroku Kinju Japanese Deba Knife

If you prefer the added strength and versatility in its use then the Kai Seki Japanese Deba Knife will serve all your purposes. It’s the standard 6 inch blade size which makes it useful when it comes to filleting small to medium fish.

It’s elegant, sharp straight out of the box, and of real Japanese steel make and origin. Keeping it traditional. 

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Deba Knife Vs Fillet Knife

The Deba Knife is much wider and less flexible but is much more versatile in its use. Designed for both beheading and filleting allows you to be more efficient when filleting your fish from start to finish.

However, when it comes to filleting large fish, the Deba knife often doesn’t have the length and flexibility to maneuver as swiftly as the other “boning knife” style Japanese fillet knives. Further, the blade is not as thin, which can make precise cuts a little harder.

The standard style fillet knife does fillet fish in a more efficient, elegant, and effective way than the Deba knife. But, it does depend on the size and type of fish you are filleting. Filleting larger fish sometimes even requires a knife longer than a classic boning knife or Deba knife, which is where a Yanagiba comes in handy. 

Features Of A Japanese Fillet Knife To Look For

Flexibility

Traditional knives are more likely to have a stiff blade. This is great for cutting most meats but not ideal when you’re trying to slice the meat off the delicate fish bones. The best Japanese knife for filleting fish offers a thin, flexible blade that can slide underneath the meat, and bend slightly helping you make a precise cut. Unlike a standard knife, which can get caught in the meat and result in jagged edges, a high-quality Japanese fillet knife should glide effortlessly through the meat as it separates it from the bone. 

Blade Length

If you plan on cooking a lot of fish, you might want to have multiple Japanese filleting knives in your arsenal. A large knife works great for larger fish, naturally. But, if you are cutting a lot of smaller fish, a knife with a shorter blade makes things so much easier. The rule of thumb to follow is to use a knife about as long as the fish.

Handle

Japanese filleting knives are some of the sharpest in the tool shed. They also tend not to have a full bolster either, which would usually keep your fingers much safer.  So make sure you find out what kind of handle the knife comes equipped with, particularly when shopping online, as it’s vital to find one that has a strong no-slip handle with a good grip. 

Single vs. Double Bevel

Single and double bevel refer to the knifes blade having either a one-sided, or two sided angle toward the edge. 

Single bevel is best for filleting most fish, as it’s must easier to get a precise cut. When you are filleting fish you can lie the edge of the knife flat and make a clean horizontal cut to get the fillet. 

Double bevel is more for general purpose, and won’t make as precise cuts as a single bevel knife. This isn’t always a problem, and depending on how exact you want your fish fillets, a double bevel knife will do just fine, but a single bevel will help get you to that professional quality precise cuts. 

Freshly Honed Japanese Knife

Maintaining Your Japanese Knives

You can go on and on (and on) about caring for your Japanese knives, but kept simply, you just need to keep them sharp, honed, and stored well.

Keep It Sharp

Using a sharp knife is essential. As japanese knives are usually hand sharpened during manufacturing at a 15-degree angel, be sure you either get a high-quality 15-degree automatic sharpener, or put the effort in and use a whetstone to be more precise.

Keep It Honed

The last thing you want is scratches all across the surface of your attractive Japanese knives. The best honing steel for Japanese knives are always ceramic and very fine. You have to be extra careful if you decide to use a steel honing rod to hone your steel not to damage the blade edge.

Keep It Stored

Most high quality Japanese knives come with either a sheath, or a box with padding. Take full advantage of these, as they usually fit perfectly snug against the knife protecting it as well as possible.

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