Your Complete Guide For Choosing, Using, And Caring For A Boning Knife

Posted by Steven Tuckey on

Whether a meat-packing facility or a family kitchen, a boning knife is a great addition for anyone working with large cuts of meat. Cooking with bones is simple, but many people prefer avoiding the mess during meals. Of course, you can use other utility knives as part of your toolkit, yet a boning knife makes things much more convenient.

Throughout this guide, you’ll learn about what a boning knife is, which one might suit you best, and how to keep it sharp and clean for years to come.

What is a Boning Knife?

A boning knife is pretty self-explanatory. It is a slim knife that you use to debone medium to large-sized meat pieces, anything from chicken to prime ribs and even whole animals. You can also draw a couple of finely cut fillets, provided you apply the correct technique.


The knife has signature characteristics that make it stand out from the rest of the blades. It's straight edge, slightly tilting at the end, makes it perfect for running alongside thick bones. Compared to other knives, it is lighter and, therefore, easier to handle. It is low maintenance, and you can get it in varying lengths, depending on your preference.

Most boning knives have a thick, rigid spine, which helps when cutting in small joints and using the fine tip. 

Choosing the Right Boning Knife

With its range of utilities, there are several variations of the boning knife that you can buy. Still, selecting the appropriate choice for yourself requires some research. You can choose from various criteria as mentioned below.

Type

A boning knife can be stiff or flexible. You should purchase a stiff knife if you want to work with long, sturdy bones, such as those found with pork or beef. It is also an excellent choice if you desire a single knife for multiple purposes. It can find its way to your chopping board or a pie pan.


Flexible boning knives have softer steel cores. They can debone more delicate cuts like tenderloin or seafood while doubling up as a fillet knife. It can easily remove fat and muscles, though a fillet knife is more suitable in professionally trained hands. Flexible boning knives are fairly rare nowadays, as the thicker, rigid spine of traditional boning knives are preferred.

Blade Length and Shape

The blade length of a boning knife can vary between 5 to 7 inches (12.7 to 17.8 cm) and can be straight or curved. Longer, straighter boning knives make removing large portions of meat easier, while the slimmer, curvier boning knives offer more precision and preferred by professional butchers.

Handle Type

Boning knives have several handle types that you can choose from. Straight wooden handles are the most inexpensive and commonplace options. However, if you want to gift it to someone or prefer something fancy, you can get a composite or ivory handle as well.

Most handles will come with a notch either before the blade begins, or where the back of your hand rests. This is to prevent the blade slipping in your hands and causing injury.

Blade Material

The blade of a boning knife maintains a balance between sharpness and durability. Most variants have a stainless steel blade with a sharp tip to pierce tough flesh. Although, if you want bite over strength, you can get one in high-carbon steel although they can be brittle when working close to bones.

Angle of bevel

One of the most important attributes of a boning knife is its bevel (or cutting edge). Bevel angles can dictate how sharp a knife is, but also our durable the edge is. For boning knives they should be above 15 degree per side, any finer and you risk chipping the edge or prematurely blunting it. 

How to Use a Boning Knife

Depending on the type of meat and the removal action, you should use a suitable technique to operate a boning knife. It saves you from harm and lets you waste as little meat as possible while grinding the blade the least. You can use a boning knife for any of the following functions.

Removing Meat

It is the primary purpose of the boning knife. It can help you remove the meat off the bone from chicken pieces, beef ribs, pork chops, and more. You can even use it to bone out a Thanksgiving turkey.

When doing so, you should avoid a sawing motion back and forth. Instead, hold the knife firmly and practice long, smooth movements to remove skin, meat, or cartilage. For filleting operations, place your forefinger along the spine of the blade and run the knife along the bone. You might also put a guiding hand to ensure that the cut is appropriate; just don’t hurt yourself in the process. Apply pressure with your off hand to the bone or meat to gently force the meat away from the bone.

Slicing Fruits/Vegetables

A boning knife can easily remove the skin from a thorny fruit. You can also use it to carve complex shapes out of apples or pumpkins, making for some delightful decorations for Halloween. It also works well for removing melon skins or peeling papayas without much effort.


To carve a hole into a fruit, pierce it with the boning knife and circumvent the area you wish to remove. The sharpness of the tip does most of the job, so you don’t need to exercise too much force. When peeling fruits, place the knife, so the blade faces you. Then, place your thumb on top of the handle and gently run it along the side of the fruit, moving it as you see fit.

Maintaining a Boning Knife

A boning knife is more forgiving knife to care for than most other additions to your toolkit. It is no Santoku but can have a reduced life if you’re not careful.

Cleaning

Never place a boning knife in a dishwasher. Rinse the blade in warm, soapy water and gently run a soft cloth along the edge. Repeat the process a few times and dry it using a towel. You might want to schedule a cleaning weekly or post a colossal feast at your home.

Sharpening

Usually, boning knives can last for 2-3 months before going dull. It would be best not to use an electric sharpener since it can damage the blade through vibrations. Sure, you can give it to a professional for sharpening, but it is better to save some money and do it at home.

You can use any regular whetstone to sharpen a boning knife. Run it along the blade's edge gently until you get a smooth finish. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure a burr (or metal shavings) appears on the opposite edge before continuing. This excess steel is removed in order to create a new bevel (or cutting edge).

Storage

There are no qualms about storing boning knives with other cutlery. The stainless steel versions don't chemically react with other metals, and you can place them in a wooden drawer without worry. Although, if you're using the premium carbon steel versions, you should isolate them in a separate box or knife block. We suggest keeping all of your knives in a knife roll or block, but boning knives are relatively forgiving.

Final Thoughts

Boning knives are essential for people who need to make their cooking process less straining and more creative. A single knife can do multiple jobs and make you happy memories for years to come. They are safer to use than most other professional cutlery, and even amateur cooks can get used to them quickly. We hope this piece helped you learn some new stuff and let you care for your current or next one optimally.

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