Last Updated on
OUR TOP CHOICE
OUR TOP CHOICE
Materials: AUS8A steel (blade), pakkawood (handle)
Blade angle: 16 degrees
Rockwell hardness: 57 to 58
Blade length: 7”
Filleting a fish is an important process for doing most things with it that aren’t a simple grill and eat. Whether you plan to make fish steaks, make a stew, or fry them up good, you need to get all those little bones out of the meat, and get rid of that tough skin as well.
In comes the fillet knife, a slender knife specialized for the purpose. In that already specialized realm, we’re going a bit deeper, looking for knives that are great for salmon in particular; an easy to fillet fish that lends itself well to certain types of blades.
So, let’s hop right to the criteria, and then the reviews.
For the complete product list, please continue reading…
Top 7 Best Fillet Knives for Salmon (2020 Reviews)
Excellent blade shape, perfect for large fish
Hard but flexible steel is perfect for filleting and can take and retain a keen edge
Comfortable D shaped handle fits well in the hand and provides good control
Thick blade is perfect for skinning and filleting large fish
Can take some getting used to as it is a heavier blade designed for fairly delicate tasks.
- Materials: AUS8A steel (blade), pakkawood (handle)
- Blade angle: 16 degrees
- Rockwell hardness: 57 to 58
- Blade length: 7”
This would not be my first choice to fillet a lot of fish. It’s a fairly heavy and thick blade by fillet knife standards, and could take a lot of getting used to if you plan to wield it for more delicate purposes.
However, for salmon and other large fish? It’s a powerhouse, able to use its razor sharp blade and tip to slide under the skin of the fish and flick it off with a few practiced motions.
It’s the perfect heft for control; not so light that you can overexert force easily, but not so heavy that you can do the same just trying to get it to move along. The thick blade slides along and gives it a durability and inflexibility perfect for peeling off large skins with ease, while the sharp fairly flat tip remains the perfect size to pull bones out.
In terms of price, it’s fairly expensive, but the blade quality in terms of both shape and materials speaks for itself. AUS8A steel isn’t as good by some metrics as AUS10, but it’s softer and therefore more flexible, perfect for making sure you don’t accidentally score the delicate flesh of a fish. The handle is likewise one of the most comfortable I’ve ever held, a classic D shaped Japanese handle that feels weird at first, but soon feels more natural in the hand than anything else.
This is my favorite knife here by a long shot, and if you’re not scared off by the price, it will serve you well for a long time.
High quality steel is flexible but durable
Wickedly curved shape glides under skin with ease
Holds a keen edge for a long time
Very comfortable handle and balancing
Great price for the quality
Depending on your cutting style, a straight backed blade may be preferable
- Materials: high carbon stainless steel (blade), pakkawood (handle)
- Blade angle: 14 to 16 degrees
- Rockwell hardness: 56+
- Blade length: 7”
- Dimensions: 12.68” x .79” x .06”
- Total weight: 6 ounces
Dalstrong knives can be hit or miss, with the Gladiator series in particular containing a good mix of some of my favorite knives of any kind on the market (like the chef’s knives) and ones I’m more mixed on (like their santoku knife or butcher’s knives).
This one, thankfully, falls closer to the former category. While not my absolute favorite fillet knife, obviously, it’s a close second, and represents the contingent of slender, curved, and flexible fillet knives that make up the bulk of the market.
In terms of those, it hits everything we look for. It’s a solid 7 inches in length, and has a great high carbon stainless steel blade, with one of the most comfortable pakkawood handles on the market. It looks excellent and is wicked sharp, holding a comfortable but effective edge that you need for filleting purposes.
It’s also, as an added bonus, significantly less expensive than our winner, so if you want a top notch blade but want to save a little money, this is an excellent option for your consideration.
Straight blade makes some tasks easier
Strong, hard steel makes a great blade for filleting salmon
Comfortable but slender handle
Excellent thumb grip
On the pricier side of things
- Materials: German high carbon stainless steel (blade), polymer (handle)
- Blade length: 7”
Zwilling brings us a straight bladed fillet knife, opposed to the general trend of curved bladed knives we’ll see.
This has some upsides and drawbacks, but mostly comes down to personal preference. You might experience a bit more difficulty getting this knife to slide under the skin in the first place, but when it comes time to draw it across and remove it entirely, you’ll probably be able to do it a bit easier, since your knife won’t be trying to slip off at an angle.
Ultimately, the job will get done at about the same time either way.
What matters a bit more is the overall quality of the knife, which is as good as you might expect from this manufacturer. The high carbon stainless steel is well forged and extremely hard; good for cutting into salmon and similarly large fish, though it may struggle a bit with more contoured fish with smaller bones.
The handle is a simple polymer, but comfortable and slip resistant (if a bit small, as is common with fillet knives) and it comes with an excellent oversized thumb grip that really makes it easy to lock your hand in there and ensure you keep steady.
All in all, you can do a lot worse for the price on offer, even if it is getting up onto the steeper end.
Great quality steel
Good straight backed edge is good for a certain style of use
Comfortable pakkawood handle
A little too lightweight
Loses out to more expensive knives in overall blade design; you can feel how much less comfortable it is
- Materials: AUS10 steel (blade), pakkawood (handle).
- Blade angle: 15 degrees
- Rockwell hardness: 56+
- Blade length: 6”
- Dimensions: 11.02” x .59” x .08”
- Total weight: 5.1 ounces
If you want an inexpensive alternative to the Zwilling knife above, this shares many of the same good qualities at a far more reasonable price.
This is an AUS10 blade; extremely hard and able to take a keen edge, at the cost of a bit less good edge retention than similar “super steels” like VG-10 and VG-Max.
Like the Zwilling knife above, it’s a straight backed knife that’s perfect for making straight, sharp pulls under the skin of fairly delicate things and shearing it off with ease.
The handle here is a lot more comfortable than Zwilling’s outing, a thick and sturdy pakkawood, though this knife ultimately loses out in terms of length (it loses an inch over that model) and overall design, with a less satisfying thumb grip and overall blade profile and flexibility.
Still, if you want a good steel at a reasonable price, this should be a strong contender for our affection.
Fairly stiff blade cuts along flatter surfaces easily
Very slender and easily gets under salmon skin
Good quality steel
Nice simple look
Tiny handles may feel uncomfortable in larger hands.
- Materials: German high carbon stainless steel (blade), wood (handle)
- Blade length: 7”
- Dimensions: 11” x 1” x 1”
- Total weight: 8 ounces
Even as far as fillet knives go, this is an exceptionally slender variant, making it perfect for our purposes. Salmon skin can be a pain to remove, but the bones are pretty easy overall to get out. To that end, a slender knife like this that can get under that skin easily is ideal.
The steel here is quite good; a high carbon stainless steel with relatively little flex. It can get in under there and swiftly slice through without needing to flex around a whole ton, since that functionality isn’t as strongly needed.
My only real gripe is the handle. Like most Wusthof fillet and boning knives, it is very small and slender to fit the smaller blade. In theory this is great, and should work quite well for a large number of people. However, it feels quite uncomfortable in large hands, and it may make it difficult to use if you have thicker, stubbier fingers like my own.
Extra long blade aids in removing the skin in a single long cut
Slender blade allows for easy bone removal from more delicate fish
Good mix of hardness and flexibility
Takes a good edge, and holds it well
Very high price for the materials used
- Materials: high carbon stainless steel steel (blade), hollow steel filled with sand (handle)
- Rockwell hardness: 56 to 58
- Blade length: 8”
This is a bit of a bizarre one. Unlike most knives I’d consider good, this is not a full tang blade.
Instead, the handle is a separate piece, and is separately weighted; hollow and filled with sand to perfectly counterbalance the blade. It feels very comfortable in the hand as a result, and maneuvers naturally.
The blade itself is also longer than average, and is made from a middling hardness high carbon stainless steel, giving it good flex overall. The blade is straight backed and has almost no curve. While this would make it less than ideal for a lot of fish, for something like salmon it’s perfect, and the longer than average blade can slice through the whole skin in one fell swoop if you do it right with relative ease.
My only gripe is the price, and a lot more than many other knives on this list. It has a top end knife price, as though it was made from the best quality materials with semi-luxury components…but everything about it is fairly basic. Not bad, but it’s hard to justify the price as-is.
Excellent blade sharpness
Stiff with a bit of flex, perfect for all kinds of fish
Good steel quality
Comfortable handle adds a bit of heft to the otherwise nearly weightless knife
A bit too expensive to be able to truly recommend
- Materials: German high carbon stainless steel (blade), resin (handle)
- Blade length: 7”
Another Wusthof, this one in many ways better than the last we covered.
The first thing that stands out is the infinitely more comfortable handle. It’s ergonomic and a little thicker; not so much to make it uncomfortable in small hands, but gives it a little bit more heft to help feel out what you’re doing with it.
The blade is still very slender and exceptionally sharp, with a much better lock (or thumb grip) on the tang to improve grip even further.
The blade is a similarly excellent German high carbon stainless steel, with a little more flex this time, so it’s better as an all purpose fish knife while still being perfect for filleting salmon.
So why is it further down on the list if it’s so much better in every way? The short answer is price. It costs quite a bit more than double what the last Wusthof would cost you, and in terms of raw performance I don’t think it’s anywhere near twice as good. If you can find this knife on a good sale, snap it up instantly; it’s an exceptionally high quality knife. But otherwise, I’d sleep on it.
Shun takes the cake this time, with a very nice looking and highly usable knife, albeit for a quite high cost. Dalstrong’s Gladiator series instead comes in as the still quite good midrange budget option, that provides better than average performance for a reasonable price.
The other knives here generally pale in comparison to those two, either due to being lesser knives in my opinion despite sharing the same price, or due to just being overpriced in general; the Gladiator fillet knife is half the price of some here, but boasts better performance than most of those.
How Do I Pick the Right One?
Salmon are simple fish to debone and fillet, as already mentioned. The bones are fairly large and easy to find, unlike smaller river fish which always carry the danger, no matter how you cook them, of getting little bits of fish bone stuck in your gums. Even professionally prepared store bought fillets run afoul of that problem on occasion.
The main challenge with salmon comes from the skin, and even that is fairly simple due to the large surface area (and therefore easy gripping area) of the fish’s body.
As a result, salmon can be prepared, with practice, using a single long pull of your knife. To that end, you want to make sure your fillet or boning knife has a fairly long blade; 7 inches on average. None of those 5 inch blades here.
The shape of the blade is negotiable, with the shape typically falling into two camps: straight blades and curved blades.
Curved blades are as they sound, and the majority of fillet knives fall into this broad category. Japanese knives will be a bit thicker than the average if curved, while most commonly found knives will be slender and wickedly sharp.
A curved blade makes it easy to slip your blade under the skin initially, the gentle flex getting in there and loosening it so you can just draw the blade across and rip it off with your hands. But a curved blade will also tend to pull a bit towards the tip, so you may find yourself needing to make two long strokes from either direction.
A straighter blade combined with stiff construction lets you easily make that one long pull, but might give you some problems getting the knife to slip under in the first place.
Largely, this is up to your preference, and blade shape is negotiable.
What isn’t as negotiable is steel type. Most kitchen knives prefer a high carbon stainless steel with a solid hardness. For a fillet knife, this is still mostly true, however you should consider carefully HOW hard you want your blade.
It should have some flex so it can mold itself subtly to the contours of the fish. To that end, rather than preferring a hardness somewhere around 60 to 62 for the highest quality blades, we bring that down to about 56 to 58 on average, That means steels like AUS8 or the equivalent instead of steels like VG-Max.