Boning Knives Buying Guide
Before we even begin to delve into any sort of advice for purchasing a great boning knife we should be absolutely certain than you know what a boning knife is. If you think this sounds crazy and are very familiar with boning knives, feel free to skip ahead to the next section of this page.
A boning knife is typically used for removing meat from a bone or removing bones from your meat. It is not meant for cutting through bones. If you are looking to cut through bones you may want to look into purchasing a clever or some other type of butcher-specific knife.
Unbeknownst to many people, the boning knife is actually the knife most commonly used by butchers. Using this blade, they are able to meticulously remove cuts of meat from carcasses with absolute precision, leaving almost nothing behind but the bones. Similarly, they are able to remove smaller, more delicate bones from inside cuts of meat. For example, the boning knife is used to remove bones from chicken breasts and fish.
The shape and construction of a boning knife also makes it perfect for opening a fish or a chicken breast, allowing you to section it off or stuff it with any desired foods. My personal favorite is goat cheese, spinach, and garlic-stuffed chicken breast.
Now that you have a better idea of what a boning knife is and have decided if this is, in fact, the type of knife you are in search of, you can proceed with reading through this guide. This guide was created to assist you in selecting your next boning knife by teaching you a little bit about the features and specifications you will want to search for in that knife.
It is essentially important that your boning knife features a sharp blade. It will be impossible to get as close to the bone as you need to without a sharp blade. A dull blade will leave behind chunks of meat and force you to apply extra pressure while slicing.
Removing meat from the bone, or vice versa, should be a simple task, not a workout. You want to be able to do it with as little effort as possible. For this reason, I suggest purchasing a knife with a blade pre-sharpened to a cutting angle of 12 to 18 degrees. Of course, a lower number is better in this case.
A Mid-Length Blade
You want your blade to be long enough to slice into meat without requiring you to hack your way through something. At the same time, you do not want a blade which is so long that you find yourself struggling to control it. I suggest a blade of about five to six inches in length. Such a blade should be long enough to slice through most carcasses and slabs of meat without much effort while still allowing you optimal control as you make your way around curved bones.
Heavier in the Handle
The weighting ratio for most knives should be rather even. If you have read other buying guides or knife reviews on this website, you may have realized that I often suggest purchasing a knife which is equally weighted between the handle and the blade. This rule does not, however, apply to all knives. The boning knife is one of the exceptions to that rule.
Since it is a relatively small knife which requires finesse and precision, it is best to purchase a boning knife whose handle is heavier than its blade. A heavier handle places more control in your hand as you work, allowing you to make movements and cuts which are more precise than they would be if your knife was evenly weighted or heavier in the blade.
Finding a boning knife with a heavier handle shouldn’t be very difficult. The slim design of the typical boning blade reduces its weight; meaning that what would often create an even balance in the handle will actually make the handle slightly heavier than the blade in these cases. I suggest finding a knife which is full tang and features both a steel bolster and a steel end cap.
Protective Pinch Bolster
A bolster is an additional piece added to the knife between the handle and the blade. We have already discussed how the incorporation of a steel bolster can help to bring more weight in to the handle portion of the knife. Here, we will look at two other important functions of the bolster – safety and control.
As you work at some rather difficult tasks, work with slippery fingers, and sometimes find yourself exerting substantial force on your boning knife, you will want to be sure that your fingers will not slide forward on your handle. If they were to slide far enough, they could slide right past the handle and onto the blade itself. While non-slip handles are very helpful in keeping fingers off of blades, so too are protective bolsters. A protective bolster is one which flares outward or downward so that it is wider than the handle, thus stopping your fingers if they were to slide forward.
A pinched bolster is one which, though it projects downward past the handle, is slimmer than the handle. It is called a pinched bolster for two reasons. Firstly, it looks as though it was pinched when the steel was still hot. Secondly, it allows you a place to pinch if you need to make a strange sort of cut which requires a little more control. The closer to the blade you are able to grip the handle; the more precision you gain in your slicing.
Flexible Steel Blade
Let’s begin with the obvious here. You do not want a ceramic blade. Ceramic blades are brittle and can snap, chip, or shatter if they come into contact with bones. Though I have advised against ceramic blades for certain other knives in the past, I must go one step further and say that I absolutely do not recommend a ceramic blade for any boning knife, ever.
That leaves you with steel. Of course, you will want to select a strong form of steel. Personally, I prefer high-carbon steel. What is interesting is that while you will want a strong type of steel, you will also want one which is flexible. Therefore, instead of defining the blade’s strength by its rigidity, we will have to define it by the blade’s ability to flex without snapping.
I realize that I have already stated the importance of a non-slip handle, but I thought it would be good to include a heading for this topic since I am well aware than many people simply skim through things as they read them.
When you are working with meat there is a high likelihood that you will end up with slick and slippery fingers. When you combine those slippery fingers with the pressure you are likely to place upon this knife at certain times you have a recipe for danger. It wouldn’t take much for your fingers to slip forward toward your blade or for your knife to flip around in your hand. It is for these reasons that I strongly suggest purchasing a boning knife with some sort of non-slip handle. Even better, I suggest a non-slip handle which has also been textured and contoured for optimal grip.