The 7 Best Boning Knives of 2023, According to Chefs
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The 7 Best Boning Knives of 2023, According to Chefs

Aug 04, 2023

Our top picks to take care of bones in chicken, meat, and fish.

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Slicers and chef's knives get all the glamour; paring knives are a quiet little workhorse; bread knives are simply ubiquitous; and boning knives go under the radar or are left out of many home knife sets. There just hasn't been a great demand for them in home kitchens heretofore. With more people plumbing the depths of their kitchen capabilities – be it the curiosity of "I always wanted to debone a chicken" or economic reasons, like buying a share of a whole animal and dealing with the tasks related to that – boning knives are crossing the line between commercial and home kitchens more frequently.

An ideal boning knife will have a distinct, sharp point that can facilitate short, quick, shallow flicks that separate meat, bone tendon, and nerve in a larger piece of protein, much like wielding a surgeon's scalpel. But it will also have the rigidness to cut between joints, like wings, legs, and shoulders. Also, a boning knife should not be confused with a fillet knife, but we’ll discuss those differences later.

Chefs have strong opinions about their preferred boning knives, and we’ve recruited the help of bespoke knife maker Quintin Middleton as well as chefs Greg Garrison, Isaac Toups, and Matt Bolus to gather their thoughts on what constitutes a good boning knife in home kitchens. Many great contenders are on our list, so read on to see our choices.


It's lightweight, the steel takes and holds an edge well, and the price is excellent for the quality.

The plastic handle could be a bit more ergonomic and slip-resistant.

Our Best Overall is a classic European boning knife design with high-quality forged stainless steel and Wüsthof's reputation behind it. I’ve owned a few of these (knives get lost in commercial kitchens and need replacing) and was quite happy with them. This knife is up to the challenge for tasks like trimming fat and silverskin, breaking down chickens, seaming pork shoulders, and taking pork loins off the ribs. It's lightweight, holds an edge well, and takes an edge quickly when it's time for sharpening. With the classic design, however, comes a somewhat dated handle. The hardened plastic handle is rather blocky, which can become uncomfortable, and the smooth surface does little to prevent slipping. The price is higher than others here, but the quality of the steel is worth it.

Price at time of publish: $115


This is an excellent entry-level boning knife that holds an edge and is well-shaped for jointing meats.

The hard stainless steel blade requires a lot of work to sharpen, and the knife isn't a good fit for fileting.

In addition to its flagship Swiss Army Knife, Victorinox has made its bread and butter for decades by producing serviceable, middle-of-the-road kitchen knives. Yes, there are better knives on the market, but these knives are hard to beat for the price point. I’ve used Victorinox boning knives for years for whole-animal butchery with great results.

"For a beginner as well as an intermediate level, I would recommend Victorinox brand," says Bolus. "They are affordable, built well, and will retain their sharpness for a long time. They also provide an affordable way to learn how to hone the blade on steel and sharpen it on a stone without the risk of messing up a super expensive blade."

The Flexible Boning Knife belies its name a tad. It's a relatively rigid, curved blade with a fine point and a small amount of give, making it suited for separating joints, whether chicken wings or a beef shoulder. The plastic Fibrox handle provides a comfortable grip, whether holding the knife like a scalpel for delicate work or in a stabbing-type grip for jointing or removing bones. Cleaning is easy, as the blade and handle are dishwasher safe.

Price at time of publish: $28


Dark wood and a curved, folded steel blade make this a beautiful knife that will hold a precision edge for a long time.

The blade is a bit brittle, meaning dropping it or making hard contact with a bone can chip it easily. Also, the price is steep for many people.

With its hammered, 68-layer Damascus steel curved blade to its stained pakka wood handle, the Shun is a beautiful knife. But there's more to it than looks. The hammered finish also serves as a non-stick surface that aids the knife in gliding through the meat. The curved design aids in performing fine detail work with the point and makes trimming large pieces of silver skin significantly easier. This knife will require maintenance: the blade will require oiling to prevent rust, and the handle will need similar treatment to prevent discoloring, warping, or separating.

Price at time of publish: $170


Strong high-carbon steel holds and retains an edge exceptionally well, and the handle is comfortable on the hand.

The one-sided bevel is only useful to right-handed people, and the high-carbon steel is not machine washable.

Garrison prefers using a Honesuki knife for boning and filleting. By design, these knives are very stiff and durable, which gives him more control when he cuts along the bone to get the meat off, and he doesn't have to worry about bone damaging the knife. Additionally, the blade is only beveled on one side, which eliminates the risk of the other side catching the bone.

The Mac's hardened molybdenum steel blade is thick at the hilt for joint breaking and has a tapered tip for fine work of separating meat from bones. For a thin blade edge, the Mac is incredibly resilient. The through-handle tang provides extra strength with a pakka wood handle that is both comfortable and good-looking. We also like the Kikuichi and Miyabi Honesukis, but we recommend the Mac for overall sturdiness and value.

Price at time of publish: $127


It's strong but versatile enough to do delicate trimming work.

The rounded tip isn't as well suited for jointing as a pointed knife and requires a bit of practice to use effectively.

Toups is an outlier in the boning knife area: "Instead of boning knives, I use a semi-flexible scimitar for all of my butchering purposes. I keep it razor sharp, and the curve of the blade eases the stress on your wrist," he says. Following that path, we arrive at a skinning knife. Despite its name, which it is also quite useful for, this knife is up to the task of jointing, separating, and portioning without the need to change knives. It has a slip-resistant nylon-plastic handle and a durable stainless steel blade that holds an edge for extended use. The heft of the blade is enough to break through small bones, such as those found in poultry and fish but is also capable of more delicate trimming work.

Price at time of publish: $37


It's slightly heavier than its counterparts, and the ice-hardened steel takes and holds an edge very well.

It's on the expensive side, and the finger guard can sometimes be an obstacle.

European knife designs share many common traits, and the Zwilling shares enough with the Wüsthof to be cousins by marriage. From there, they significantly diverge in the flexibility of the Zwilling's blade, which opens it up to be a passable fillet knife. It's a long, slim blade with a finger guard at the tang to provide extra protection. It's also a little more pointed, making it slightly better for jointing, among other common tasks like trimming and seaming. The handle has been updated from other European styles, with more rounded edges to make it comfortable on your hand when you’re using it for extended periods. It's also slightly heavier than some of its contemporaries, which is actually an advantage when considering the tasks it's meant for, as it allows a little more force without losing dexterity.

Price at time of publish: $120


This is a good, versatile knife at a low price point.

The blade is a little too flexible to be a proper boning knife, but the shape and edge retention help make up for that.

I will go against my advice about keeping fillet and boning knives separate for this recommendation. I see this knife being more than adequate for filleting a kingfish or field dressing an animal. The tapered shape lends itself to jointing, while the flexibility will allow it to follow a rib cage for detaching a back strap or the like. The molded plastic handle is ergonomic and provides slip resistance where blood is present. The stainless blade, which is usually of throw-away quality in knives of this price point, takes and holds an edge quite well. And then there's the price. You won't mind if it gets lost or damaged for a knife of this quality at this price. It also comes with a rigid sheath for storage.

Price at time of publish: $25

For a balance of quality stainless steel that retains an edge, we recommend the Wüsthof Classic 5-Inch Boning Knife. For those looking for something a little more utilitarian and seeking value, the Victorinox 6-Inch Flexible Boning Knife is a strong contender that won't break the bank.

A boning knife should have a little flexibility to it, but not so much as a fillet knife. A flexible knife will bend when cutting around or through joints, so you may want a more rigid knife if this is a task that you’ll perform often. If you’re simply trimming or seaming meats, there's no reason you can't use a more flexible knife.

This is a personal choice. A straight knife gives a little more precision when seaming meat simply because you can choke up on the handle a bit and hold it like holding a pen. But I prefer a curved blade when jointing or removing femurs because I get a little more strength to the cut while still having the precision to make little flicks of the blade.

Five to six inches is sufficient for a boning knife for seaming, jointing, or trimming. If you’re removing large sheets of silver skin, like cleaning a flat iron steak or breaking down a beef round, you might want to consider a slightly longer blade.

Carbon steel versus stainless steel is a battle of preferences that will continue long after we’ve left this earth. High-carbon stainless steel provides an easy-to-sharpen blade that holds an edge for a good amount of time and is also rust resistant. Carbon steel is better for sharpening and edge retention but is prone to rust and pitting, so it requires more attention and maintenance. Carbon will lose its out-of-the-box shine after a few uses, so if looks are important, be prepared to tend to your knife frequently or seek a stainless alternative.

Handle material is less controversial. Wood handles provide adequate grip and slip resistance but cannot be machine washed and require oiling and attention from time to time. A plastic handle requires less maintenance and is machine washable, but some handles can be boxy and grow uncomfortable after long periods of use.

For this article, we recruited the assistance of chefs Greg Garrison, chef and owner of Prohibition in Charleston, S.C., and Repeal 33 in Savannah, Ga.; Isaac Toups, cookbook author, chef, and co-owner of Toups Meatery in New Orleans; Matt Bolus, chef-partner of Nashville's 404 Kitchen; and knifemaker Quninton Middleton of Middleton Made Knives in St. Stephen, S.C., to collect their input on what makes a good boning knife. After receiving their feedback, we paired it with our unique expertise and combed the internet for knives that fit the mold for this collective information.

A fillet knife is flexible, allowing it to bend to follow the rib cage of a fish and cleanly remove a fillet. A boning knife is more rigid for cutting joints and trimming while possessing a fine, pointed tip for short, strategic flicks for seaming. "Most people try to use a boning knife as a fillet knife," says Middleton. "A boning knife is stouter. They’re flexible, but not flexible enough [for filleting]." They can be interchangeable, but you’ll have better results with separate knives for each purpose.

The angle is everything for sharpening. Many people like Japanese whetstone sets, but they require maintenance and upkeep that isn't necessary with oil stones. Arkansas stones with oil work well, according to Middleton. "I’ve sharpened knives on a brick," he says. "It's all in the angle."

There are two critical steps in keeping a boning knife (or any knife) sharp, according to Middleton. The first is your choice of cutting boards. Hard plastic boards are nice for the board's longevity, but they are rough on knives. "The best cutting surface needs to be soft enough to cut into," he says. Hard plastic, hardwood, or even some bamboo can be too hard and dull your knife. A soft board will need frequent replacing or resurfacing, as the cuts in the plastic or wood are perfect traps for illness-causing bacteria, so adjust your cutting board purchases accordingly.

The second step is honing your knife frequently. When cutting proteins, especially when coming into contact with bone, a quick touch-up on a steel rod or hone is necessary every few minutes of working. A ceramic hone works well here, and again, the angle is everything, according to Middleton.

Greg Baker is an award-winning chef, restaurateur, and food writer with four decades of experience in the food industry. His written work appears in Food & Wine, Food Republic, and other publications.

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