A good boning knife can save you money at the meat counter. Which is best?
Published Sept. 1, 2018. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 19: Grilled Steak and Ceviche
A chef's knife and a paring knife are all you need for most cutting jobs in the kitchen. But a boning knife can make it easier to perform certain tasks, as its thin, narrow, razor-like blade is ideal for getting in between joints and for carving around larger bones. Since bone-in meat is typically cheaper than boned meat, this can translate into money saved at the supermarket. And because we often use a boning knife to prepare expensive cuts—removing the silverskin from a beef tenderloin or frenching a rack of lamb—it can also help protect your investment, hewing closely to the valuable meat and allowing you to trim away only what you don't want, with little or no waste.
Boning knives come in different lengths and levels of flexibility: stiff, semistiff, semiflexible, and flexible. Each type and size excels at different tasks, but a 6-inch flexible boning knife is the most versatile option for those we most often perform at home, such as removing bones from smaller cuts of meat and poultry. We wanted to know if our longtime favorite, the Victorinox Swiss Army Fibrox Pro 6” Flexible Boning Knife, still held up to the competition. We pitted it against five other flexible boning knives priced from about $20.00 to about $120.00, each with a blade roughly 6 inches long.
We're pleased to report that you can't go wrong with any of the knives in our lineup. All did a serviceable job of boning chicken breasts, trimming tenderloins, and removing the bones from cooked pork shoulder roasts. But a few factors made some models slightly easier and more enjoyable to use.
The first and most important characteristic: sharpness. Because the blade of a boning knife is comparatively light, thin, and narrow, it can't use its heft to force food apart the way a chef's knife can. Instead, it relies almost entirely on the sharpness of its edge—particularly at the tip—to slice or make incisions. Some blades were sharper than others, effortlessly stripping away silverskin or scoring the fat cap on raw pork shoulders. We preferred models that had narrow edge angles of 14 or 15 degrees; one knife with an 18-degree edge angle felt less keen. And we liked very thin blades—0.84 millimeters or thinner when measured halfway between the spine and the edge. Surprising as it may seem, even a difference of 0.1 millimeter can make a blade feel less sharp. We also liked blades that maintained their sharpness over time; some started off sharp but felt duller over the course of testing.
Flexibility was critical. Unlike a chef's knife or paring knife, a flexible boning knife has a certain degree of give so that it can bend an...
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Miye is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She covers booze, blades, and gadgets of questionable value.