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6+ Best Japanese Fillet Knives for Effortless Fish Filleting

6+ Best Japanese Fillet Knives for Effortless Fish Filleting

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. 

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

MASAMOTO KS Japanese Gyuto Chef's Knife with Sheath 9.5" (240mm) Made in JAPAN, Professional Kitchen Chef Knife, Ultra Sharp Japanese Carbon Steel Blade, Wood Wa Handle, Black Ferrule

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 

Sakai Takayuki/KUROKAGE Series VG-10 Hammered Gyuto(Chef's Knife) 210 mm/8.3" Black

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

Yoshihiro VG10 16 Layer Hammered Damascus Gyuto Japanese Chefs Knife (8.25'' (210mm))

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:

The Shorter Ajikiri

Seki Sanbonsugi Japanese Utility Chef Kitchen Knife, KUROUCHI Carbon Tool Steel Ajikiri Small Deba Knife, Shiraki Wooden Handle, 105 mm, Made in Seki Japan

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

KEEMAKE Sashimi Sushi Knife Japanese 10.5 inch Yanagiba Knife,Japanese VG10 Stainless Steel Single Bevel Blade, Perfect Rosewood Handle Filleting & Slicing 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

Shun Cutlery Classic Flexible Fillet Knife 7", Ideal for Filleting Fish and Trimming Meat, Authentic, Handcrafted Japanese Filleting Knife & Meat Trimming 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.

BrandLevel of PopularityOverall Reputation for QualityTypes of Knives Produced
Shun (KAI Group)Very popularHigh-quality, innovative designsDeba, Yanagiba, Gyuto, etc.
GlobalPopularLightweight, well-balanced, sharpDeba, Yanagiba, Santoku, etc.
MiyabiPopularTraditional craftsmanship, high qualityDeba, Yanagiba, Gyuto, etc.
MasamotoPopularExceptional performance, favored by professionalsDeba, Yanagiba, Gyuto, etc.
TakamuraGrowing popularityHigh-quality steel, sharp and durableDeba, Yanagiba, Gyuto, etc.
Sakai TakayukiRespectedHigh-quality steel, a wide range of optionsDeba, Yanagiba, Gyuto, etc.
TojiroGrowing popularityGood value, high-quality steelDeba, Yanagiba, Santoku, etc.
YoshikaneRespectedHigh-quality steel, handmadeDeba, Yanagiba, Gyuto, etc.
KikuichiRespectedHigh-quality craftsmanship, a wide range of optionsDeba, 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.

Final Thoughts

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.