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What is a Boning Knife?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A boning knife is a kitchen tool designed for removing the bones from cuts of meat, typically before cooking. The highly specialized tool is vital for any cook who wants to create boneless cuts of meat. Butchers and meat processors keep boning knives, as do most commercial kitchens. Most kitchen stores stock boning knives in an assortment of sizes, as different cuts of meat require different boning knives.

The blade of a boning knife is thin and short, allowing it to slip easily between the flesh and bone in a cut of meat. The handle may be of varying length, and can be made from wood, plastic, bone, or metal. Using a boning knife ensures that the maximum amount of meat is taken off the bone cleanly, reducing waste in the kitchen. The knife is also kept extremely sharp, so that it can cut cleanly through fibrous tissue.

Smaller, more flexible boning knives are suitable for small cuts of meat such as pork chops. For larger cuts like roasts, a big boning knife with less give is recommended, to reduce the probability of injury. A boning knife is almost always used in the back of house, and does not appear at the table, since it is part of meat preparation, not serving.

A related concept is the fillet knife, which is used to fillet cuts of fish. A fillet knife has a longer blade, so that it can in theory be used to gently lift and separate all of the bones of the fish at once. Since the skin of fish is relatively thin, a fillet knife can also be used to quickly skin a cut of fish.

As with most kitchen knives, a boning knife should be washed by hand in hot water and mild soap as a general rule, since running a boning knife through the dishwasher may cause it to dull. Drying the knife on a soft cloth immediately after washing is a good idea, since it will prevent spots and marks on the blade. It is also important to sharpen a boning knife regularly, because the knife will lose effectiveness as it dulls. Wooden handles should be periodically oiled to keep the wood in good condition.

When selecting kitchen knives, try to purchase them individually, rather than buying a set. Many knife sets come with unnecessary blades which you will never use, making the knife set ultimately rather wasteful. Seek out knives with a solid construction, and try to avoid cheap metals. Carbon and stainless steel are both good choices for boning knife blades. Always keep knives out of the reach of children and curious pets, or purchase blade guards.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By aplenty — On Jan 31, 2011

@ Framemaker- I have been using a wusthof boning knife for about six years now. It is one of the most vital pieces in my knife kit, jockeying for time with my chef.

I have the flexible 6-inch classic boning knife, but I have been eyeing the flexible 6-inch Classic Ikon knife. The Ikon has a straight blade that is better for delicate meats (fish, poultry), and the handle is better for long use. If you are buying your first, I say buy the Ikon. The price difference between the two is only about ten dollars.

By FrameMaker — On Jan 30, 2011

Can anyone recommend a good boning knife? I am looking for something forged that I can take with me to work (I work in a kitchen). The knives we have at work are not that comfortable to hold, and they are too stiff. I think it is because they are made from stamped steel, and the handles are made of bulky plastic. I spend about two hours per shift prepping meats for the dinner rush. I mostly cut Statler breasts and different steak cuts so I want a flexible boning knife.

By Amphibious54 — On Jan 28, 2011

This was a great article. Another thing to look out for when purchasing a boning knife is the handle construction. Since you are cutting meat, you want a knife that has a very smooth handle that will resist bacteria buildup. Rivets should be flush and tight, and handles should preferably be made from composite materials.

The best boning knife should also become more flexible as you go towards the tip. You want your knife to be able to trim and cut all types of meat from bone.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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