Japanese knives are considered some of the best knives any chef or cook can own. These Wa-bocho (Japanese knives) differ from western knives since their blade shapes, handle design, and crafting techniques set them apart. The Japanese fillet knife is one example vastly different from the European style filleting knives.
For effortless filleting fish, the Japanese single-edged Deba is the ideal knife. The Deba’s spine is thick and tapers to the blade’s edge. It can easily cut through fish bones and remove fins, heads, and tails. The Deba is available in sizes ranging from 4 to 11 inches and 90 to 650 grams.
When it comes to effortless fish filleting, you might need more options than your traditional chef’s knife or Gyuto. Choosing which Deba or even a Yanagiba knife for sashimi and nigiri sushi would be the best can be daunting. Below we will give you some ideas on selecting the perfect Japanese filleting knife.
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How To Choose The Best Japanese Knife For Filleting
If you ask any chef that uses Wa-bocho (Japanese knives), you will find that they will have a specific knife for filleting fish. This is because the technique of filleting fish with a thick, sturdy single-edged blade is vastly different from using a slender European flexible filleting knife.
When choosing a Japanese filleting knife, it is essential to consider the following factors:
- Blade construction material: Japanese knives traditionally contain more carbon than European or Western knives. The benefit is that they can be sharper and retain that sharpness for longer. The downside is that they need more care since they can rust and chip easily.
- Handle Design: Japanese knives have a more rounded or D-shape handle that fits comfortably in your hand for extra control. The downside is that you must order a left-handed knife since it is commonly crafted for right-handed people. A good quality wood handle is traditional.
- Blade Flexibility: Japanese filleting knives do not have flexibility like European-style knives. This is because of the high carbon content. It will snap in two if it flexes too much. Many have cried after experiencing the snapping of their highly-priced knife.
- Blade Length: Japanese filleting knives range from 4 to 11 inches. The shorter Ko-Deba is easier to handle and maneuver in tight angles or for smaller fish. In contrast, the longer ones are better when filleting larger fish or making Sushi.
- Brand Reputation: We believe brand reputation and quality craftsmanship are paramount for Japanese knives. Some brands are older than 600 years, and the skills were handed down from generation to generation. So if you buy a Japanese knife, choose one from a reputable brand, not one from a mass-produced factory. It will be well worth it to get the best.
The Traditional Hon Deba
The Hon-Deba (meaning True-Deba) is the most common Deba knife explicitly designed for butchering and filleting large amounts of fish and poultry. The thick and sturdy blade of the knife is ideal for slicing through bones and other hard materials and chopping up whole fish. The edge is designed to withstand the frequent chopping and cutting required when working with fish.
The Hon-Deba knife has a noticeably thicker blade and a single-bevel edge with a curved body, which makes it stand out from other filleting knives. The ergonomic handle and strong blade allow precise and easy cutting through fish, removing bones and other unwanted parts. The Hon-Deba is perfect for easily decapitating, backbone dissection, and fillet-slicing fish.
The Deba’s blade is much thicker than other sashimi knives, making it more suited for cutting through bones and cartilage. Therefore, it may not be ideal for creating sashimi or trimming thin fillets.
Here are 2 popular Hon-Deba to choose from:
- Masamoto KS Series Hon Kasumi White Steel No.2 Deba
- Sakai Takayuki Kasumitogi Shirogami Carbon Steel Deba Knife
The All-Rounder Funayuki
Funayuki translates to “Going on boat.” Therefore, a Funayuki knife was traditionally used as an all-purpose boat knife. The Funayuki is shaped like a Deba knife but has the thin profile and adaptability of a Yanagiba or Gyuto. The Funayuki is commonly used for filleting fish or preparing sashimi, making it a popular choice among professional chefs who require a versatile and accurate knife.
A Funayuki knife has a thinner, more versatile blade than a Hon-Deba knife. Because of its slimmer profile, you can easily remove the skin from a fish fillet or trim small pieces of meat. In addition, it requires less force which helps reduce hand fatigue and improve cutting speed and efficiency. As a result, the Funayuki is a great all-rounder for filleting fish and other push-and-pull actions.
Here are 2 Funayukis to choose from:
- Funayuki Knife, Shirogami 3, Polished Finish – Sakai Takayuki
- Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan Hon Kasumi Series Gingami No.3 FG-16 Funayuki
The Mioroshi Deba
Some consider the Mioroshi Deba to be a hybrid of a Hon-Deba and a Yanagiba. The blade design of a Mioroshi Deba is narrower and thinner. It has a more severe tip than a Hon-Deba. In contrast, it is shorter, more comprehensive, and thicker than a Yanagiba. It is designed for portioning and filleting fish and allows for precise and clean cuts.
However, because it has a smaller and more fragile blade than the Hon Deba, it can be challenging to perform the same chopping duties without breaking the edge. Similarly, the Mioroshi Deba is slightly less ideal for finely slicing fish for sashimi or Sushi.
Its single-bevel edge allows for greater precision and control when making cuts. This means the knife has only one side sharpened, allowing for greater cutting precision and control. The edge of the Mioroshi-Deba is usually slightly angled, giving it more versatility than the Deba knife.
Here are 2 Mioroshi-Deba options:
- Hitohira Kikuchiyo Manzo White #3 Mioroshi Deba
- Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan Limited, (FSO-82) Solid VG-10 Blade Mioroshi Deba
The Shorter Ajikiri
This smaller Japanese knife is known as an “Ajikiri,” which roughly translates to “flavor cutting” or “taste cutting.” Because of its precision cutting ability, it preserves the flavor and texture of delicate seafood while cutting. The Ajikiri is a traditional Japanese knife that fillets small fish and slices delicate seafood such as shellfish and crustaceans.
The Ajikiri knife has a short, thick blade with a sharp, single-bevel edge typically angled at around 30 degrees (with most of the blade being on the right side for right-handed users). The ergonomic handle and sharp blade allow effortless and controlled cracking and cutting through shells and other hard materials.
Ajikiri knives typically have high-quality carbon steel or stainless steel blades that have been hardened to a high level for added durability and sharpness. Ajikiri knife handles are generally made of wood and may include a bolster for improved weight distribution and control.
The Ajikiri knife is commonly used when preparing Sushi, sashimi, and other traditional Japanese seafood dishes. It can be used for other minor cutting tasks like trimming and peeling. The Ajikiri knife is a valuable specialized knife for any cook who enjoys working with seafood. Still, it takes time and practice to master its use.
Here you can choose 2 Ajikiris:
The Yanagiba Sashimi Filleting Knife
A Yanagiba is a traditional Japanese knife used to thinly slice raw fish for Sushi and sashimi. The name “Yanagiba” means “willow blade” and refers to the long, slender shape of the blade, which resembles a willow leaf.
A Yanagiba knife blade is typically made of high-quality carbon steel that has been hardened to a high level for increased durability and sharpness. The blade is thin and long, with a single beveled edge that has been finely sharpened. The knife’s length can range from eight to twelve inches, with the handle adding another four to five.
Yanagiba knives’ handles are typically wood and may include a bolster for improved weight distribution and control. The handle is usually round or octagonal, with a lacquered finish for durability and a shiny appearance.
The Yanagiba knife is a must-have in Japanese kitchens, and not just for sashimi and Sushi. It can also be used to fillet and skin small to medium-sized fish. The thin blade is ideal for slicing raw fish into long, uniform strips with little tearing or damage. The clean, even cuts produced by the single-beveled edge are ideal for preserving the natural texture and flavor of the fish.
Here are 2 beautiful Yanagibas:
- Sakai Takayuki Nanairo Blue – Yanagiba
- Masamoto KH Series Hon Kasumi Suminagashi Blue Steel No.2 Yanagiba
The Classic Flexible Fillet Knife
Many western cooks still prefer the flexible filleting knife they grew up with. Because this is a popular design worldwide, many Japanese manufacturers began including these knives in their collections. Although it is not a standard Japanese filleting knife, we thought to have it on our list of the best knives for effortless fish filleting.
Here are 2 flexible filleting knife options made by Japanese manufacturers:
Japanese Knife Maker Brands
It is crucial to remember that the popularity and reputation of any brand may vary depending on factors such as personal preferences and the type of knife under consideration. There are also many other Japanese knife brands on the market and numerous upcoming smiths.
This table is not intended to represent an exhaustive list. Yet, it could be a fantastic starting point for someone curious about the many Japanese knife possibilities.
Personal preference, price, and special requirements can all play a role in determining which knife is the best option. However, it is difficult to say which option is the “best” for each type of Japanese knife. Yet, for each knife category mentioned above, here are some popular and well-respected selections from some of the top Japanese knife makers.
|Level of Popularity
|Overall Reputation for Quality
|Types of Knives Produced
|Shun (KAI Group)
|High-quality, innovative designs
|Deba, Yanagiba, Gyuto, etc.
|Lightweight, well-balanced, sharp
|Deba, Yanagiba, Santoku, etc.
|Traditional craftsmanship, high quality
|Deba, Yanagiba, Gyuto, etc.
|Exceptional performance, favored by professionals
|Deba, Yanagiba, Gyuto, etc.
|High-quality steel, sharp and durable
|Deba, Yanagiba, Gyuto, etc.
|High-quality steel, a wide range of options
|Deba, Yanagiba, Gyuto, etc.
|Good value, high-quality steel
|Deba, Yanagiba, Santoku, etc.
|High-quality steel, handmade
|Deba, Yanagiba, Gyuto, etc.
|High-quality craftsmanship, a wide range of options
|Deba, Yanagiba, Gyuto, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Knife Do The Japanese Use To Fillet Fish?
In Japan, filleting a fish is traditionally done with a knife called a “Deba.” A Deba’s blade is thick and heavy, with a single-bevel edge, allowing precise and clean cuts. When filleting, the flat side created by the single-bevel edge allows the blade to be guided along the fish’s bones for cleaner, more precise cuts.
What Is The Best Filleting Knife On The Market?
The Deba knife is a great option for filleting fish, especially for Japanese cuisine. However, whether it is the “best” filleting knife on the market is a matter of taste and necessity. For example, filleting smaller, thinner fish or making more delicate cuts with a Deba knife may not be the best use. Instead, a fillet knife with less mass and greater flexibility may be preferable.
What Is The Best Knife To Fillet Salmon With?
Which knife is best for filleting salmon is up to you and the size of the fish. We’ve already established that a Japanese-style Deba knife is ideal for filleting salmon. A Yanagiba knife, on the other hand, can be used for even more precise slicing of sashimi and Sushi.
Is It Worth Buying Japanese Knives?
Suppose you’re looking for a new knife. In that case, you should strongly consider purchasing a Japanese knife due to its well-deserved reputation for superior quality and performance. Many people agree that if you want a high-quality knife that will last, the extra money you’ll spend on a Japanese knife will be well worth it.
When it comes to filleting fish, Japanese fillet knives, specifically Deba knives, are a perfect addition to any cook or chef’s arsenal. These single-bevel-edged knives are nothing like Western filleting knives regarding blade shape, handle design, material, flexibility, or manufacturing methods. Japanese fillet knives are worth the investment because they make filleting effortless and efficient.
Which Japanese knife is best for filleting fish?
The best Japanese knife for filleting fish is the Deba. Known as the “Short Fat Tooth” in Japanese, this knife is ideal for fishmongery. It features a large, thick, sharktooth-shaped blade with a heavy spine and a sharp edge with a low bevel. The unique geometry of the Deba knife makes it highly effective for processing softer foods such as fish or animal flesh.
Can you use Gyuto to fillet fish?
The Gyuto can be used to fillet fish effectively, especially if you only do it occasionally.
How do I choose a fish fillet knife?
When selecting a fish fillet knife, it is important to consider several factors. Firstly, opt for a blade made of a material that is resistant to rust and can withstand the test of time. Additionally, look for a knife with a thin and flexible blade, as this will allow you to effortlessly slice through the fillet and make precise cuts. Lastly, ensure that the blade is sharp-edged, enabling you to easily pierce the fish and delicately remove any bones.
What is a Sujihiki for filleting fish?
A Sujihiki is a type of knife used for filleting fish. It is characterized by its long, narrow, and graceful blade, which is perfect for removing sinew and fat from meat, as well as finely slicing boneless meat or fish. Additionally, it is ideal for filleting and skinning fish. The length of the blade allows for a seamless cutting motion, from the heel to the tip, enabling the meat or fish to be cut in one fluid stroke.
What are the 2 most common knives used in fish?
The two most common knives used in fish are the fillet knife and the boning knife. The fillet knife is widely popular for its effectiveness in filleting fish, while the boning knife is quite similar in function. Additionally, the Deba, a Japanese style knife, is also commonly used for cutting fish or meat.
Which knife would work best on a fish?
The best knife to use on a fish is a filleting knife. It is designed specifically for removing the skin and meat from the bones. Its extra narrow blade allows for precise cutting close to the skin or alongside the bones. With its thin and sharp tip, you can effortlessly cut thin slices of fish.
What is a Gyuto knife used for?
A Gyuto knife is designed for various cutting tasks in the kitchen, ranging from slicing meat and vegetables to finely mincing garlic. It can be considered as the Japanese counterpart to a Western Chef’s knife, featuring a sleek stainless steel blade with a distinct Japanese style.
Can you use sashimi knife to fillet fish?
The sashimi knife can be used to fillet fish. The Yanagiba or Sashimi-bocho, which is the long slender one in the middle, is specifically designed for slicing up raw blocks of fish and fish fillets.
What is the best Japanese knife for fillet salmon?
The best Japanese knife for filleting salmon is the Japanese Deba Knife. It is a traditional tool in Japan that is specifically designed for the butchery of whole fish. With its 5.5mm thickness, the Deba Knife excels in various fish preparation tasks, including precise chopping, gutting, and filleting. Additionally, it can also be used effectively for parting out poultry or as a vegetable cleaver.
What knife is best for cutting salmon fillets?
The best knife for cutting salmon fillets is the Salmon Knife, also known as a salmon slicer. With its long 9-7/8″ flexible blade, it effortlessly maneuvers under the skin to remove it. Additionally, the Salmon Knife’s thin and sharp edge allows for smooth cutting through the flesh, enabling the creation of thin slices, fillets, or thick steaks.
Can you fillet fish with Yanagiba?
The Yanagiba knife can be used to fillet fish by sliding the thin and long blade through the piece without applying force. The entire length of the blade is utilized to cut the fish into thin slices, making it ideal for this task. Professional Yanagiba knives can even reach up to 36 cm in length.
What is the best length for a fish fillet knife?
The best length for a fish fillet knife depends on the size of the fish you plan to fillet. For eater-sized walleyes and trout, a knife with a length of six, seven, or eight inches would work well. However, if you are handling bigger fish like broad-shouldered pike, supersize salmon, or various saltwater species, it is recommended to use a blade with a length of nine or ten inches for the extra length and heft needed.
What is the best knife for the job removing raw fillets from a whole salmon separating them from the skeleton?
The best knife for removing raw fillets from a whole salmon and separating them from the skeleton is a boning knife or fillet knife. These knives have a long, flexible blade that is ideal for making precise cuts. It is important to make long, smooth cuts when working with fish as it is very delicate. While a basic chef’s knife can also get the job done, using a boning knife or fillet knife will ensure better results.
What Japanese knife to cut sashimi?
The best Japanese knife for cutting sashimi is a perfectly sharpened Yanagiba. Its long and sharp blade effortlessly severs the fibers in the flesh without causing any pulling or tearing.
What knife is designed for filleting fish?
The knife designed for filleting fish is called a fillet knife. It is specifically designed to cut fish and remove bones. There are different types of fish knives available, including fillet knives, large serrated knives, and knives designed for cutting tuna.
What is the difference between boning and fillet knife?
The difference between a boning knife and a fillet knife lies in their blade designs. Boning knives have a thicker, sturdier, and straighter blade compared to fillet knives. Although both knives have a sharp and curved tip, fillet knives are more flexible and have a slender design that is specifically suited for removing scales and small bones from fish.
Who makes best fillet knives?
The best fillet knives are made by Wüsthof Classic, Mercer Culinary Millennia, Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Four Star, and Victorinox Cutlery.
What knives do Michelin star chefs use?
Michelin star chefs use Gou knives, which are crafted by artisans from Seki, a Japanese city known for producing Samurai swords for centuries. These knives are considered the very best and are sought after by chefs, including those with multiple Michelin stars like Tom.
Is a straight or curved fillet knife better?
A curved fillet knife is generally preferred over a straight one. The curved design is commonly used for fillet knives as it allows for easy separation of skin and bones from the flesh. Additionally, when working with delicate meats like quail, a curved boning knife is the ideal choice. On the contrary, if you need to detach larger chunks of meat, such as beef, a straight blade is more suitable.
Where are the highest quality knives made?
The highest quality knives are made in Germany and Japan, as these countries have a long-standing reputation for their exceptional knife making skills. For centuries, both Germany and Japan have been home to renowned knife brands that are highly regarded worldwide. To ensure you make an informed choice when purchasing a top-notch kitchen knife, it is essential to understand the distinctive characteristics that distinguish these knives.
What is the most used preferred knife by chefs?
The most commonly preferred knife used by chefs is the Zwilling Pro Slim Chef’s Knife (7 in.), followed by the Messermeister Oliva Elite Chef’s Knife (10 in.), J.A. Henckels Classic Chef’s Knife (10 in.), Wusthof Classic Ikon Chef’s Knife (8 in.), Mercer Culinary Genesis Chef’s Knife (8 in.), Misen Chef’s Knife (8 in.), and Victorinox Fibrox Pro Chef’s Knife (8 in.).
What is the Japanese name for fillet knife?
The Japanese name for fillet knife is Miroshi-deba, which is a thinner and longer type of deba knife specifically used for filleting fish.
What is the most popular knife type in Japan?
The most popular knife type in Japan is the Santoku knife, which is named after its ability to handle various tasks such as mincing, dicing, slicing, and chopping meat, fish, and vegetables. Due to its versatility, Santoku knives have gained widespread usage in Japanese kitchens, often replacing the Usuba and Deba knives.
What is the best knife shape for filleting fish?
The best knife shape for filleting fish is a straight blade. Straight blades are considered the standard because of their versatility. A properly sharpened straight blade can handle delicate fish as well as tougher fillets effortlessly.
What knife did samurai use?
The samurai used a knife called the tantō, which had a length of 15-30 cm (5.9-11.8 in) and could be single or double edged. The primary purpose of the tantō was for stabbing, although it could also be used for slashing due to its sharp edge.
Which Japanese knife for cutting meat?
The best Japanese knife for cutting meat is the Santoku. Its versatile design, featuring a rounded tip and a hollowed blade, allows for efficient chopping and slicing of meat, fish, and vegetables, making it perfect for everyday use.
What knife is best for cutting salmon skin?
The best knife for cutting salmon skin is the Salmon Knife, which is specifically designed for this purpose. Also known as a salmon slicer, it features a long and flexible 9-7/8″ blade that effortlessly maneuvers under the skin to remove it.
What is a Takeda knife?
A Takeda knife is a type of hand-forged blade and tool produced by Takeda Blacksmith, which was established in 1920 and relocated to Niimi in 1951. These knives are crafted by the third generation master blacksmith, Shosui Takeda, who has achieved success in forging blades using Aogami Super Steel (NAS), a high-quality carbon steel.
What is a Tanaka knife?
A Tanaka knife is a type of knife that is hand-forged in the traditional way by Shigeki Tanaka and his small crew of employees at a workshop in Miki City, Hyogo. This traditional method of knife-making has been practiced in Japan for centuries.