8 Best Fish Fillet Knives of 2023
Apr 05, 2023
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These knives will help you fillet a whole fish, remove the skin from fillets and more.
Fish fillet knives are the key to pristinely portioning fish. They can also be used to dress a whole fish — a.k.a. remove the guts, head, tail and fins — as well as to remove the fillets and the skin from the fillets. They're often used by fishmongers, but they're useful for home cooks who like to fish or to buy their fish whole.
In the Good Housekeeping Institute, we test all sorts of knives including the best chef knives, the best Japanese knives, the best bread knives, the best butcher knives and the best electric knives. When we test, we keep the home consumer in mind and come up with tasks that mimic how someone would use their knives at home, while making sure we can evaluate important factors like sharpness, edge retention, comfort, cleanability and more. For fish fillet knives, we sliced tomatoes, as we do in all of our knife tests, to assess how sharp each blade was. Then we filleted whole fish and removed the skin from a piece of salmon.
Fish fillet knives come in an assortment of sizes, often from 5 to 9 inches, and a few different styles. Most have long, thin blades that are flexible and sharp (great for smaller or more delicate fish and fillets), but some are more rigid and sturdy (ideal for heartier fish). Curved blades allow for long, smooth strokes so you can get the cleanest cut, while flexibility helps get in and around bones. Straighter blades and more sturdy blades are usually good for removing the head and tail and removing skin from fillets and can often be used for meat as well.
Read on to learn more about how we tested and what to look for when buying a fish fillet knife. We also share answers to other questions you may have, like what is the best length for a fish fillet knife.
Wusthof knives often top our best knife tests for a reason. They're German knives, which means they're sturdy and sharp, and they're designed to last a long time. Like the other knives in Wüsthof's Classic line, this fish fillet knife offers a full tang (meaning the blade runs the length of the handle) and is designed to feel balanced in your hand. Its bolster, the area where the blade meets the handle, encourages a proper grip so you can easily control the knife and get good cuts.
Wusthof knives always slide through tomatoes in our tests and are able to make paper thin cuts, which is why we're confident in ranking it our best overall even though we didn't get to test this one in this round. The skinny tip on this fish fillet knife allows the knife to easily get into the fish and over delicate bones. The length is an excellent size for making smooth cuts and removing the skin from fillets.
This fish fillet knife from Made In performed well in our tests. It has a solid feel to it with a comfortable textured handle that allows you to get a secure grip. Our tester described it as wide and flattened with a defined bolster and butt.
The long, thin blade is relatively straight and has some flexibility to it, but not much. It was able to remove the head of our whole black sea bass easily, but it struggled a little with the fins. It worked well to remove skin from a fillet, but its length makes it better suited to narrow fillets.
This knife comes in a set with a serrated utility knife that's helpful for harder tasks. The brand recommends it as a good tool for prepping bait or cutting frozen fish. The set offers a great value as the two knives cost less than almost all of the other single picks on our list.
Cangshan knives are not only stunning to look at, but they're also proving to be top performers in our tests. Their 6-Piece Tai Knife Set won a Kitchen Gear Award for being super sharp.
This flexible fish fillet knife is also incredibly sharp and scored high marks across the board in our tests. It sliced tomatoes effortlessly and removed the skin from a wide wild salmon fillet neatly. Our tester noted that it did a particularly good job removing the fins from a whole black sea bass and made clean-cut fillets.
It comes with a leather sheath that can be attached to a belt.
Salt can corrode steel over time, which is why people often look for fish fillet knives that are specifically designed for saltwater fish. This Controller from Gerber Gear is made from a type of alloy steel that is known to be strong, tough and better at resisting corrosion than other types of steel used to make knives.
In addition to being durable, the blade offers some flexibility. While we didn't get our hands on this knife, it has several features that make it stand out: The knife has an oversized plastic handle with rubber grips that offers a strong, secure hold that's ideal for outdoor use but might be too bulky for kitchen use. It also features a protective finger guard to minimize slippage in wet environments. It comes with a plastic blade cover that features a honing rod and vents that prevent moisture collection and buildup.
Being able to safely store a blade — whether out on the water or just in your home — is helpful. This blade of this fish fillet knife from Toadfish folds securely into its handle and also has a built-in clip so you can wear it or attach it to your gear.
It wasn't the sharpest blade in our test, but it was sturdy and made for a good portable option. It was able to fillet a whole black bass and remove the skin from salmon like the other knives we tested, but it took a little more effort. It has a rugged feel to it and is comfortable to hold. The brand suggests that it can be used to clean fish as well, which seems likely given that it has minimal flexibility and a relatively straight blade.
Shun knives are among our favorite Japanese knives, which are known to have thin and sharp blades. Our tester described this fish fillet knife as extremely sharp and nimble. It produced "surgically thin" tomato slices, she said, with no smashing.
This knife has a thin, sharp blade that's surprisingly rigid. The curved design made it easy to slice through the flesh with long strokes, and it yielded neatly portioned fillets. It also removed the tail from the whole fish nicely and cleanly removed the skin on the salmon fillet.
Another unique feature is this knife's slightly triangular handle; the shape assists with holding it properly but can be slippery.
This Japanese fish fillet knife from Shun offers a flexible alternative to the stiff version we feature above. Like its counterpart, it's sharp and excelled in all our tests. It cleanly removed the head, fins and fillets from a whole fish, and it smoothly cut through the tomato. Our tester noted that the flexibility added better ability to navigate around the bones.
At 7 inches, it's longer than Shun's 6-inch options, which made it easier to remove the skin from a wider piece of fish. Like other Shun knife handles, it's a little thin and slick, but it was still comfortable and allows for cooks to get a good grasp on it for control.
Fish are slippery by nature and larger versions can be hard to cut through. While it's important to always have a sharp knife on hand, electric knives give you a little leeway: They normally feature serrated blades that move back and forth when on to easily cut through skin, bones and flesh. While we didn't try this knife in our tests, we know that the thin blade on this Bubba electric knife makes it good for fish, which is usually smaller and more delicate than the hunks of meat you'd typically use your electric knife for.
The oversized handle allows you to get a comfortable grip so you can stay in control over the cutting process, though some may find the hefty handle too bulky. It's cordless, so you don't have to worry about being close to an outlet. It comes with an assortment of blades — a 7- and a 9-inch that are flexible and a 9- and 12-inch that are stiff — for even more versatility as well as a zippered storage case.
Before we started testing fish fillet knives, we first researched what type of fish fillet knives people were looking for and buying. Then we reached out to many of the companies featured on our list to learn about their top-selling or upcoming fish fillet knives. We then tested an assortment of fish fillet knives in our Lab, keeping the home cook in mind.
We evaluated the features of each knife and took note of how comfortable it was to hold and use. We used the knives to fillet a whole black bass and evaluated how well it was able to remove the head, tail and fins, as well as how neatly we were able to remove the fillets. In addition to filleting fish, we used the knives to remove the skin from a salmon fillet, which is a common fish-prepping task. We also sliced tomatoes, as we do in our chef's knife and serrated knife tests, to test the sharpness. We, of course, cleaned the knives as well and noted whether we noticed any rusting or wear.
✔️ Indoor vs outdoor use: Many of the knives on our list are ideal for indoor (i.e. kitchen) use, but if you're looking to use your fish fillet knife outdoors, consider a more rugged design that has an oversized handle, slip-resistant grip, sturdy blade and protective covering. These features will stand up better in an active environment, while thinner, more delicate blades with polished handles are better for use in the kitchen.
✔️ Electric vs non-electric: Electric knives can help make filleting a fish easier since they're powerful, which means you don't need to ensure your blade is as sharp as it can be. They typically have two serrated blades that move back and forth so they cut through food easily. They're bulky, however, and can require access to an electrical outlet for use or for charging between uses. Non-electric fish fillet knives need to be kept sharp, but they're easy to store and allow for a more controlled and familiar cutting experience.
✔️ Blade length: Blades for most fillet knives used by home cooks vary from about 5 inches to 9 inches. Smaller blades are better for smaller fish and longer ones are better suited to bigger fish. Also, the shorter the blade, the more control you have over it. Longer blades are better at cutting through fish in one slice or removing the skin from wide fillets. Most of the blades on our list are about 7 inches long, which we found to be useful in the kitchen.
✔️ Material: Most knife blades are made from a type of steel. "Made from alloy steel" is likely a term you'll see a lot when shopping for fish fillet knives. A knife made with alloy steel usually means the blade is stronger, designed to last longer and less prone to corrosion.
✔️ Flexibility: Fish fillet knives can be flexible or sturdy. Flexible blades allow for delicate cuts and maneuvering, while sturdy blades are good for hacking through skin and bone.
✔️ Blade width and design: You'll often see that fish fillet knives are thin and curved. The thinness contributes to the flexibility and works well with delicate fish. The curve helps make sweeping strokes so you can fillet more easily.
✔️ Handle: Handles can be made of all different materials, but the most important thing to consider is how it feels in your hand. It should feel comfortable and secure. Polished handles make for easier cleaning, while textured plastic or rubber ones help with security and slippage. Thicker handles will also be easier to hold onto, but thinner ones offer more control for a gentle touch.
Fish fillet knives are used for breaking down fish, filleting fish and removing the skin from fish fillets. They have thin blades and may have a curved blade design, and they typically offer more flexibility than a chef's knife, which allows more precision when navigating around bones. Because fillet knives tend to be used less often than your chef's knife, they are prone to staying sharper longer, which helps when removing delicate fillets.
Most non-serrated knives can be sharpened using a whetstone or knife sharpener. Some may find it more difficult to sharpen a fish fillet knife because the blade is typically thinner and more flexible — when in doubt, taking your knives to a knife sharpener is a great and safe bet. But if you sharpen at home, be sure to consult the manufacturer about the blade angle so you can match it; Western and Japanese knives often have different angles on the blade.
Nicole Pappantoniou is the director of the Kitchen Appliances Lab, where she oversees all testing and content related to kitchen gear, including tools like knives. She's been testing knives for Good Housekeeping since 2019, and she uses multiple knives on a daily basis in her kitchen at home and in the Lab at work.
Sarah Wharton is a deputy editor with the Good Housekeeping Institute, where she tests, writes and edits content for the Kitchen Appliances Lab. She's a trained cook with seven years of experience in professional kitchens. She's a former food editor and recipe developer. She developed the methodology for the fish fillet knife test and conducted the test.
Nicole (she/her) is the director of the Good Housekeeping Institute's Kitchen Appliances and Innovation Lab, where she has overseen content and testing related to kitchen and cooking appliances, tools and gear since 2019. She's an experienced product tester and recipe creator, trained in classic culinary arts and culinary nutrition. She has worked in test kitchens for small kitchen appliance brands and national magazines, including Family Circle and Ladies’ Home Journal.
Sarah (she/her) is a deputy editor for the Good Housekeeping Institute, where she tests products and covers the best picks across kitchen, tech, health and food. She has been cooking professionally since 2017 and has tested kitchen appliances and gear for Family Circle as well as developed recipes and food content for Simply Recipes, Martha Stewart Omnimedia, Oxo and Food52. She holds a certificate in professional culinary arts from the International Culinary Center (now the Institute of Culinary Education).
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Zwilling Pro Utility Knife 5" #38400-131-0 ReviewThey're German knives, which means they're sturdy and sharp, and they're designed to last a long time. The set offers a great value as the two knives cost less than almost all of the other single picks on our list. Cangshan knives are not only stunning to look at, but they're also proving to be top performers in our tests. made from a type of alloy steel that is known to be strong, tough and better at resisting corrosion than other types of steel used to make knives. It has a rugged feel to it and is comfortable to hold. Our tester described this fish fillet knife as extremely sharp and nimble. Our tester noted that the flexibility added better ability to navigate around the bones. the thin blade on this Bubba electric knife makes it good for fish, which is usually smaller and more delicate than the hunks of meat you'd typically use your electric knife for. ✔️ Indoor vs outdoor use: ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ Electric vs non-electric: ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ Blade length: ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ Material: ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ Flexibility: ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ Blade width and design: ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ Handle: ✔️ ✔️ ✔️