If you’re in a hurry and want to know which is the best fillet knife we recommend, then check out the Dalstrong 6″ Fillet Knife with Black Titanium Nitride Coated German HC Steel.
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Deciding which knife is the best fillet knife took me a while to discover. It never occurred to me until I realized how hard it is to fillet something when you don’t have the right one for the job.
I also never understood why it would be valuable in a survival situation.
But when you understand that your survival depends on maximizing the water and food you have, then having a knife that will give you the most yield from your kill or catch makes complete sense.
You never know when you will need to survive. You could be out on a fishing trip with your pals, and the motor dies. Or you hit a reef.
The system breaks down, and you have to revert to living off the land and hunting or fishing for your protein.
Whatever the case may be that calls for you to kill another animal and eat it, you’re going to want to have the tools to get the job done right.
Among those tools should be a good fillet knife.
In this article we will review the following fillet knives:
- Mercer Culinary Millennia 8.5-Inch Narrow Fillet Knife
- Rhinoreto 5-inch and 8-inch Fillet Knife
- Dalstrong 6–inch Fillet Knife Shadow Black Series – Titanium Nitride Coated German HC Steel
- KastKing 6, 7, and 9-inch Fillet Knife Series
- Morakniv 6-inch Fillet Knife with Sandvik Stainless Steel Blade
You can jump to our top choices using the table of contents below.
Or read on to understand how to choose the best fillet knife for yourself.
Why A Fillet Knife May Be Right For You
I remember when I got my first fillet knife.
After tearing up my kill with my big bushcraft knife, I went into the kitchen and got a longer, thinner knife.
It looked like it would get through the meat better.
After seeing how it went through a duck like butter, I never went back. And neither did the knife.
Tired of her husband not putting the knife back where he found it, my wife finally bought me my own fillet knife for my gear bag.
Now it’s important to distinguish why certain knives are better than others.
They all cut, right?
Yes, but some cut better than others in certain situations.
For example, I found that many people complain that their fillet knives snap when trying to break down a big catch.
What they don’t realize is that a fillet knife wasn’t made for that job.
Just as a boning knife is not made for filleting.
It’s important to note here that a boning knife is not a fillet knife.
They may appear similar, but they are not the same.
A boning knife is, as the name suggests, designed to remove large flanks of meat from the bone.
It is a more robust knife that can make quick work of removing tough cartilage, ligaments, and large bones.
A fillet knife breaks down larger pieces of meat into smaller pieces of meat, or fillets.
Yes, you are removing meat from the bone when you use your fillet knife to clean a small fish. But you wouldn’t want to use the same fillet knife to break down a 500-pound tuna.
Fillet knives are more delicate than boning knives and can break if misused.
Now, because a boning knife is flexible, you could fillet with it, but again it would not be wise to debone with a fillet knife.
And you may not be able to fillet as well with your boning knife because it will not get as flat across the surface as a fillet knife would.
It’s frustrating when you try to fillet with a boning knife and the knife snaps.
Do yourself a favor, and get yourself a proper fillet knife to do the job.
What To Look For In The Best Fillet Knife
The most important aspect of any knife is, of course, the blade.
As we mentioned before, a fillet knife has a particular blade specialized to break down large pieces of flesh into smaller pieces.
The thinner the blade, the easier it will get through the meat.
Too thin, and it won’t be able to pierce thicker hides or scales.
Too thick and it won’t be able to flex flat enough to the correct angle to separate the meat from the carcass.
A fillet blade should be 1-2mm thick for a nice balance between flexibility and stiffness.
The next aspect is the blade’s shape.
Fillet knives come with straight or curved blades.
A straighter edge is useful to make precise incisions and trim bones and cartilage from meat.
While a curved edge provides for long gliding slices to remove flesh from the carcass and unwanted skin.
Both will get the job done, but as you gain experience, you will want to have one of each to use for the appropriate job.
The length of the blade also depends on what you’re trying to do.
If you are separating a large piece of flesh from the carcass, then a longer blade will get the job done with fewer strokes.
If you caught a few fish, hacking through them with a tiny knife may not be a big deal.
But when you’re bringing in a few stringers, then it can make all the difference.
If you need to cut at strange angles and maneuver around joints, then a smaller blade will give you the agility you need.
The type of steel used in the forging of the blade is also important.
You may be familiar with German and Japanese steel knives but may not know what’s the difference other than geography.
Generally, German steel has a lower carbon content, which makes it softer steel.
Softer steel, especially in a fillet knife, allows for more flexibility.
Whereas a Japanese knife will have a higher carbon content and give you a more stiff blade.
But, what you lose in flexibility, you gain in sharpness.
Harder steel retains its edge longer, while softer steel dulls much faster.
Softer steel knives dull faster, but they also sharpen quicker.
But you must do it more often.
Whereas the harder steel knife will be a real PITA to sharpen, it will hold its sharpness longer.
Neither one is better than the other. It depends on your personal preference and the job.
For example, if you need a knife to get very flat to separate the flesh from the bone when cleaning a fish, then you’ll want softer steel that will withstand the pressure of you bending it.
Whereas if you were to take that same fish flesh and fillet it into thin slices of sashimi, then you will want a stiffer fillet knife to give you more precise cuts.
You may see some brands advertising Rockwell ratings. But, they are of little importance.
The Rockwell score tells you a hardness rating, typically between 56 and 60. Having a higher score does not make it better.
Especially since the degree of difference between most scores is negligible.
How hard the steel is of the blade you choose should be dependent upon how you intend to use it.
When talking about the makeup of the steel, you will learn about the amount of chromium used in its forging.
The common way to see this displayed is if the steel is “stainless.”
Stainless steel has to have a chromium level of at least 5%.
This is important if you use the knife in humid or salty environments, and you want to prevent it from rusting.
The higher the chromium level, the higher its resistance. But, too much chromium and the steel becomes brittle, losing its edge and prone to snap.
Some knife manufacturers will opt for lower chromium levels and thus sharper blades. But to avoid corrosion, they will add PTFE/Teflon coating to the blade to protect it from the elements.
This coating also reduces friction and provides for smoother cutting action.
The final aspect you want to consider is whether you want a folding or a fixed blade knife.
The benefits of a folding knife being compactness, while a fixed blade is sturdier for tougher jobs.
After the blade, you will want to consider the handle.
You will want a handle that is ergonomic and easy to grip. It should fit and feel comfortable in your hand.
Knife handles come in a variety of materials, the most common being wood or plastic.
Wood, while being more beautiful, has the added benefit of distributing more weight to your hand. But if not treated, it may rot and be more difficult to clean.
Whereas the plastic handle will be lighter in your hand, avoid rot, and easier to maintain.
The second and more important aspect of the handle is its construction.
You will see the word “tang” often when talking about knives. Yet, few explain what it means in the same conversation.
Tang refers to how far the blade extends into the handle. There are various tang types, such as “full-tang,” where the blade is the handle. The wood or plastic is molded around the blade of the knife to create the grip.
A partial or “hidden tang” means there is less steel in the handle. Less steel means lower cost, but less durability.
Finally, depending on the tang of the blade, the handle will be molded to the insert of the blade with glue and maybe riveted to hold the handle in place.
Again, full tang, with rivets, equals more steel with stronger binding, which equals a higher cost, but higher durability.
Last but not least is the NSF rating. The NSF is an independent public health and safety organization. They rate the factory and manufacturing process of consumer products.
If you want a knife certified to be the highest standard of public health, then an NSF rating will help you identify these knives.
It’s more for commercial situations where public health is of the utmost importance.
But It can also give you peace of mind at home if you know you are preparing the food you eat with a knife certified to be safe.
I know that’s a lot of information for a simple instrument like a knife.
But the devil is in the details.
In a nutshell, the best fillet knife will have a stainless steel blade. It will be thin enough to bend, and not break, and a full-tang riveted handle to ensure durability.
How To Use A Fillet Knife
Field dressing a deer is a little different than filleting a fish. And every situation will call for the use of a different technique.
But in general, there are some basic techniques to understand when using a fillet knife.
The fillet knife is made to bend.
Flatten the knife with about 6 pounds of pressure across the surface to get even slices across a long piece of flesh.
Use a longer blade to reduce the number of strokes and avoid tearing the flesh.
Use a shorter blade to trim and remove unwanted bits like cartilage and skin, and for removing flesh from tougher angles.
Here’s a short instructional video to visualize basic techniques.
More Questions About The Best Fillet Knives
What Do I Do If The Knife Is Not Sharp When I Get It?
Don’t pout. This is common. Either return it before the return window closes or sharpen it. I understand you want a sharp knife out of the box, but sometimes you get a dull one. This is not to excuse the manufacturer, just a warning to you that this is not uncommon. If you don’t want to wait or don’t have the ability to return the knife, then get a stone and sharpen that bad boy. You’re going to have to sharpen all your knives at some point anyway. Even the ones that come sharp out of the box.
Why Does A Fillet Knife Lose Its Sharpness?
Losing its sharpness does not mean it’s a cheap fillet knife. Again this comes down to the makeup of the steel used in the knife blade. Steel with lower carbon content will be softer than steel with higher carbon content. Softer steel dulls faster with use but is easier to sharpen. Whereas, harder steel retains its edge longer but is more difficult to sharpen once it is dull.
What’s The Best Steel For A Fillet Knife – Japanese Or German Steel?
Other than geography, German steel tends to have a lower carbon content, and thus makes it softer, easier to bend, and sharpen. But it dulls faster. Whereas Japanese steel will have a higher carbon content, be more rigid and slower to dull. But more difficult to sharpen. One is not better than the other. It comes down to the intended use.
Are All Fillet Knives The Same?
Unfortunately, no. Depending on the hardness of the steel, and the construction of the handle, you can find an infinite number of variations. Examine each aspect to find the right fillet knife for the job you intend to use it.
Is There A Fillet Knife Better For Use In Saltwater?
Most modern fillet knives are safe to use in saltwater environments. You need to check if the steel is stainless and it should resist rusting and corrosion.
Are Fillet Knives Dishwasher Safe?
No. A dishwasher works like a sandblaster and can cause the knife to knock around and damage the teeth of the blade. Don’t soak them either. It can cause pitting in the steel and ruin the handle if not treated.
Our Choices Of The Best Fillet Knives
The Best Fillet Knife To Get Any Job Done
Mercer has been synonymous with quality knives for the past 30 years. If you’re looking for a no-frills fillet knife at an affordable price, then look no further.
Whether you’re breaking down a deer in the field or prepping your catch, this knife will get the job done.
It features an 8.5-inch long blade that is long enough to make smooth cuts and avoid tearing the flesh, while short enough to maneuver around corners and tight spaces.
The molded handle is a combination of Santoprene and Polypropylene, giving it the perfect balance of hardness, comfort, and grip.
This combination is low maintenance and prevents the handle from warping. It also prevents bacteria from forming within the handle to maintain a high level of sanitation.
The handle is also designed with convenient finger grips to prevent slipping. It also widens at the end to serve as a bolster to protect your fingers from coming into contact with the blade.
Its hidden tang construction keeps it light in your hand and more weight in the blade. This makes for smoother cuts and less fatigue when prepping a full stringer and also makes it a great big fish fillet knife.
The swell at the heel of the handle will also prevent it from slipping out of your hand and give you a better grip when slicing.
The high carbon Japanese steel makes it stiffer and thus more brittle and delicate. This may make it difficult to rib your fish. But it will be easier to sharpen and maintain that razor edge you want to get through the flesh with the least amount of friction.
Though it is Japanese steel, it is stainless, and you don’t have to worry about rusting when using outdoors or on the sea.
If you’re maintaining a garden, you can think about cutting your greens with this as well. Compared to a blunt scissor, this will prevent damage and give your harvest longer shelf life.
Or if you just like slicing through paper all day to see how sharp your knife is, then this will do that too.
- Price to quality ratio.
- Safe handle and grip to protect you from cutting yourself
- Plastic handle increases durability and keeps it low maintenance
- Japanese steel that makes it sharp and keeps it that way longer
- Hidden Tang makes it lighter and easier to maneuver
- Stainless steel prevents oxidation
- Japanese steel makes the blade more stiff and brittle, and thus prone to break if not careful
- Hidden Tang is less durable than full tang, and is not suited for heavier applications
- Does not come with a protective sheath or sharpener
The Best Fillet Knife For Efficiency
The Rhinoreto’s long, curved and tapered point blade, similar in appearance to that of a rhino (clever), makes filleting a breeze.
Whereas some fillet blades are straighter, the “s” curvature of the Rhinoreto enables you to use long sweeping slices. It allows for quick processing with fewer strokes of the blade.
The blade is a softer semi-flex stainless steel to give you the bend you need to get flat against the bone. You can do this without the fear of it breaking like other higher carbon-content steels.
But, the softer steel makes keeping an edge more difficult for longer periods and calls for more frequent sharpening.
It comes with a free honing plate to assist with keeping the teeth straight between jobs. But you will need to have a proper sharpening stone to make sure the edge is sharp.
Its Teflon coating prevents sticking to get through flesh quicker and also protects it from corrosion and rust from saltwater use.
The ergonomic handle is ideal for getting a solid, comfortable grip on the knife even if you are wearing gloves.
The non-slip rubber compound with finger guard will keep the knife in your hand and your fingers away from the blade.
The manufacturer also gives you a ventilated sheath for safe transport and to prevent damage in storage and corrosion.
It’s available with 5-inch and 8-inch blade lengths. We recommend getting both.
A shorter blade is ideal for maneuvering in smaller spaces and tough angles. At the same time, the longer blade will help you get through larger amounts of flesh with cleaner strokes and less waste.
- Long “S” curved blade for easy slicing
- Flexible blade
- Stainless steel
- Teflon coated blade to reduce friction and corrosion
- Rubber compound ergonomic handle for better grip
- Ventilated sheath and honing blade included
- Low cost
- Various blade lengths
- Higher flexibility of blade leads to quicker dulling and more frequent sharpenings
The Best Fillet Knife For The Survivalist Chef
All fillet knives are flexible. Otherwise, they wouldn’t fillet very well. But, the degree of flexibility and hardness varies from one knife to another.
The Dalstrong 6″ Fillet Knife Shadow Black Series fillet knife is nitrogen-cooled which gives it a harder balance and makes it useful for more precise work, yet still flexible enough for the more delicate needs.
The high-carbon steel imported from Germany gives the blade its strength. This hardness also maintains a sharper edge for longer periods of use.
Where most cheaper competitors use glued hidden tang wood handles that tend to rot, this full tang handle stamped from a single piece of German steel gives superior durability and peace of mind knowing it will never separate.
The Titanium Nitride coating not only gives it a beautiful design that you will be proud to show off to your dinner guests but makes it strong against corrosion and prevents sticking when working in the field.
Dalstrong polishes their edge to a precise 15-degree point for optimal sharpness and frictionless slicing.
Over 75,000 chefs claim to use Dalstrong, and it’s growing to be a well-known brand among professionals.
While the 6-inch blade may be too short for some jobs and too long for others, it could be just right for all-around use if you only want to carry one knife.
We find it’s the perfect fillet knife to keep in your survival kit to make sure you make the most of your meals and look good in front of your friends.
Because, c’mon, that’s what’s really important.
- High-carbon German steel provides a harder blade to keep an edge longer
- Full tang and triple-riveted handle construction give it optimal durability
- Polished and laminated pakkawood handle make it aesthetically appealing, yet able to remain safe from rot
- Includes two protective sheaths, one for the drawer and one for the road
- Harder steel makes it less flexible than others and more prone to snap
- The 7-inch blade may not be long enough for larger jobs, yet too long for smaller jobs
The Best Fillet Knife For Versatility
I always found it frustrating to have a knife that was either too long or too short.
KastKing solved that problem with its triple threat fillet knife series.
Coming in 6, 7, and 9-inch lengths, the KastKing knives help you make the most precise work of the job no matter the size.
The blades are German 4116 stainless steel, also known as “Marine Steel,” as it’s the go-to choice for nautical knives.
Whether on land or at sea, the coated finish will protect your blade from the elements and keep it rust and corrosion-free.
This German steel is softer and thus gives them their higher flexibility to get you right up against the surface of what you’re slicing.
But because of the softness, you will also need to sharpen the blade more often.
KastKing thought ahead to solve this problem as well.
For those of you looking for a stiffer blade to pierce tougher skin or hide, they provide a 9-inch stiff blade fillet knife.
It will flex less, but provide more precise cuts, and give you a sharper edge for a longer period.
Nice move, KastKing. Nice move.
With every length and type of blade covered, the KastKing series also keeps in mind function.
They design their blades with a fine contour for smooth cuts that will glide through the flesh and prevent unwanted tearing.
The handle’s non-slip super polymer grip and molded finger guards feels comfortable and secure in your hand.
You will not lose your grip on this knife in even the slimiest of situations.
Finally, as if the German 4116 steel and the super-polymer no-slip grip weren’t enough, they include a ventilated protective sheath to keep your knife dry and your fingers intact.
Be careful opening the package on this one.
- Soft and Stiff flex blade options for your style
- Various lengths of blades for every situation
- High-grade German stainless steel will keep the knife from corroding
- Coated finish to protect the steel in even the salties of environments
- Non-slip super-polymer grip handle and finger guard feels secure in your hand
- Includes protective ventilated sheath to keep you safe and your knife dry
- Lower carbon content steel makes it softer and more flexible but loses edge quicker
The Best Fillet Knife That’s Compact
The Swedish Morakniv brand has become a household name in the survival and outdoor world.
They’re known for high-quality, dependable products. Now they’ve teamed up with Sandvik Steel to provide yet another great tool.
Unlike the mystery stainless steel most knife makers market, the Sandvik steel in this knife is a high-grade 12c27. It’s well-rounded hard steel that gives you an excellent edge and razor sharpness.
While it will come with the sacrifice of some flexibility, it will give you a sharper knife longer.
But what makes the Morakniv fillet knife special is its compact size.
Some prefer to go with longer blades for long strokes through larger pieces of flesh. This smaller 6-in blade calls for more strokes to get the job done, but gives you the fine precision of a scalpel.
It’s size and lightweight material make it a virtual extension of your hand. You can maneuver between bone, ligament, and cartilage without hesitation.
It’s angled tip makes sliding it along bone a breeze.
Its high-friction grip handle makes sure the knife stays in your hand and does not absorb odor.
If it’s not short enough for your taste, it has a 3.5-inch little brother for even tighter spaces.
Don’t let its size fool you, though. This will make easy work out of most freshwater fish and yet is still robust enough to get through a Mahi or Kingfish.
What once was a chore now is a joy with this little knife.
- Compact sizes for precise cuts
- Angled Tip
- High-grade steel for sharper edges that last longer
- High-friction grip handle
- Comes with a protective ventilated sheath with belt fastener
- Stiffer than most fillet knives, but still bends enough to give you the angle you need
- The sheath is of lower quality and can get caught or fall off when trying to move. But acceptable for tossing your knife in your tackle box
Other Considerations When Looking For The Best Fillet Knife
Now that you have an idea of which knife you want to get, there are some other things you want to keep in mind before you finish your budget.
Think about how you will store this knife. A fillet knife is not like other knives that you can toss in a drawer or slide into a block.
Not if you want to be safe and prevent unnecessary wear.
Remember, you want your knife to be sharp when you need it, and that means preparing ahead of time to keep it that way.
Consider using a protective sheath to keep the blade from getting damaged if you keep it in a drawer or a tackle/toolbox.
If you use it more often in the kitchen, then a good knife magnet will protect the teeth of your blade from wearing down when sliding it in and out of a woodblock.
If you use a woodblock, make sure the knife fits into its housing, and the tip does not rest on the bottom, causing it to bend.
Also, be sure not to drag the blade against the wood when returning or removing it from the block.
Wherever you decide to keep it, make sure it’s out of reach of those who shouldn’t be handling it.
If the knife is as sharp as it should be, you may even want to keep it in your gun safe.
Speaking of sharpness, there’s nothing more dangerous than a dull knife.
A dull knife requires more pressure to cut and increases the likelihood of the blade slipping and cutting something it shouldn’t.
We know keeping your blade sharp is a chore.
Some brands give you a free “sharpener” for convenience.
But those cute little things that grind your blade’s teeth down to dust will not get the job done.
You need three tools to keep your blades sharp: a honing steel bar, a sharpening stone, and a leather polishing strop.
Contrary to popular belief, a honing bar is not made to make a dull knife sharp. It is designed to realign the teeth of a sharp knife to keep it sharp longer.
If the blade is already dull, honing it with the bar will not give it an edge again.
This will call for a good fifteen to twenty minutes on a proper stone to get the blade back to where it needs to be.
Then a quick polish with the strop to give it that razor sharpness with which your grandfather would be proud to shave.
Finally, consider adding a pair of cut resistant gloves to your tackle box to use, especially with your fillet knife.
Breaking down an animal into smaller parts is not easy, especially if you’re still learning.
Surviving by having to hunt or fish for your food is hard enough.
Don’t endanger yourself and your loved ones by getting severely injured in the process.
There you have it. Our top five choices for the best fillet knives on the market today. None of which will break the bank.
If you haven’t considered it before, adding a fillet knife to your survival kit will not only change your life but could also save it.
If we had to choose one knife, the Dalstrong 6-inch fillet knife would be the best fillet knife all-around.
It’s a full tang fillet knife stamped from a single piece of German steel, making it a durable option that will withstand abuse.
Its 6-inch blade is long enough to make efficient slices, while short enough to maneuver in tight spaces.
It comes with a protective sheath to make sure it stays sharp.
It’s robust enough to take with you on a fishing trip and delicate enough to use in the kitchen to prepare a beautiful meal for your family.
Dalstrong provides great customer service and a 100% satisfaction guarantee that we appreciate, and think you will too.
You may want to have two knives, one to keep in the kitchen and one in your kit to make sure you don’t have a dull knife when you need it most.
If you know you will use the knife more on the boat than in the kitchen, you may want to consider getting a knife more appropriate for those conditions.
Although the Titanium Nitride non-stick coating on the Dalstrong will help it resist corrosion.
Whichever fillet knife you choose, make sure to keep it sharp.
It is not uncommon for blades to come out of the box duller than expected. It’s just an unfortunate fact in our mass-production world.
But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for it. Send it back before the return policy is up if you don’t have the desire or means to sharpen it yourself.
Although, if you are investing in superior knives and want to achieve superior results, then you should learn how to sharpen your knife.
No matter how sharp the knife comes out of the box, you will need to sharpen it eventually.