What is a boning knife and why do I need one?

What is a boning knife and why do I need one?

Kitchen knife sets tend to include a chef’s knife, a paring knife and a serrated knife. These are generally sufficient for accomplishing most food preparation tasks. However, a boning knife is a very useful addition.  As the name suggests it’s especially handy for cutting joints of meat but there are other jobs where it proves invaluable too.  In this article we talk you through the main uses of a boning knife, and what to look for in a good one, as well as how best to use and care for it. 

Features of a boning knife

A good boning knife will have a thin and slender blade between 5 and 7 inches long.  The narrowness of the blade makes it easier to manoeuvre when absolute precision is required.  It will have a flat cutting edge (not serrated) that curves up to a tapered tip – the sharp point is perfect for penetrating skin and flesh with ease.  The handle will feature a diagonal bolster.  This guards your fingers from the sharp blade and enables you to hold it in a pinch grip.

Boning knife vs filleting knife

There’s actually not much to choose between them.  A filleting knife has a flexible blade and is used for pulling skin away from meat or fish.  It’s especially good for fiddly jobs like working around the bones of a fish or separating seafood from a shell.  A boning knife, however, tends to have a stiffer blade, but can have some flexibility – it can accomplish most of the same tasks as a filleting knife and some boning knives are specifically designed with both roles in mind.

What to look for in a quality boning knife

Although a boning knife is relatively small it should be quite heavy – this is a sign that it is made from quality materials.  Also look for a full tang, where the steel runs all the way down through the handle to the base of the knife.  It should also feel nicely balanced in the hand – you don’t want most of the weight in the blade.

How to use a boning knife

To handle a boning knife correctly you have to appreciate the importance of grip.  There are two different ways to grip a boning knife.  You can wrap all of your fingers around the handle and grasp it firmly.  Or you can use the “pinch grip” (sometimes referred to as the “blade grip”).  This involves pinching the blade between your thumb and forefinger with the rest of your fingers wrapped comfortably around the handle – it gives you greater control and is used when you need to achieve greater precision.  For more information about the pinch grip read our earlier article.  

Using a boning knife to prepare meat

A boning knife is the go-to knife for preparing meat.  The shape of the blade allows you to manoeuvre around bones while the sharp tip is great to braking up cartilage in joints.  It’s especially good for jointing a whole chicken (see our article explaining how to do this) but it’s also great for carving chicken or turkey meat away from the bones. 

A boning knife is also ideal for peeling the skin or fat off joints of meat like rack of lamb or fillet of pork.  Peeling the skin off fish is also a task that can be accomplished with a boning knife. 

When boning meat use the standard grip using long stokes of the blade to carve away the flesh (try not to saw back and forth).   If you are filleting meat switch to the pinch grip with your forefinger resting on the flat of the blade just before the bolster and the rest of your fingers safely wrapped around the handle.  You’ll then slide the blade horizontally down through the meat while gently pressing your guide hand on top to hold the meat in place as you make your way all the way through.

Using a boning knife to prepare fruit

A boning knife also comes in very handy for cutting the skin or rind off fruit such as melon, mango or pineapple whilst leaving the flesh intact.  The smallness of the blade enables you to change the angle with ease and the sharp tip is very useful as well.  When using a boning knife for peeling fruit, place the handle of the knife across the base of your four fingers with the blade facing toward you. Then, simply hold the blade steady with your thumb and slide the blade under the skin, moving the fruit as necessary to peel away the skin.

Using a boning knife for baked goods

A boning knife is surprisingly good at working with cakes and pastries.  The narrow blade is perfect for precisely carving both straight and rounded lines.  The pointed tip is also very good at coring and filling cupcakes.  You can even use your boning knife to carve out different shaped cookies (nb, make sure your cookie dough is cold to avoid it from sticking to your knife blade and tearing).

How to look after your boning knife

Treat it the same way as the other kitchen knives in your collection.  Never put it in the dishwasher.  Wash it by hand as soon as you have finished with it using warm soapy water and a soft cloth then wipe it dry with a towel.  Store it in a knife block – much safer than loosely in a drawer!

How to sharpen a boning knife

Your boning knife, like all your kitchen knives, will need sharpening regularly and properly.  If you intend to do this yourself you’ll need to study the specifications of your knife, from the type of steel used to create the blade to its edge type and sharpening angles.  One option is to use an electric sharpener – read our earlier article for further details on how best to do this.  

Be aware that sharpening and honing are not the same thing.  Sharpening involves removing a thin layer of steel from the blade to create a new sharp edge.  This is done by rubbing it against a whetstone – first a coarse whetstone then a finer one.  Both must be kept wet during the process and you must hold your knife at the precise angle required.  Honing, using a sharpening rod or honing steel, simply realigns the edge on the blade.

Three Orient boning knives to choose from

Hopefully you have found this article useful and you now realise that a good quality boning knife is well worth adding to your collection.  We offer three different boning knives as part of our Damascus Series, our Carbon Series and our Origin Series.

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