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I recently took part in a knife skills workshop and during part of that workshop we were taught how to cut up a whole chicken into different sections.

I was expecting to use a boning knife for this task, but in fact our instructor had said that the best knife to use was in fact a paring knife as it is easier to use and handle when getting around the chicken. As a group, we typically worked around the joints, rather than trying to cut through them, to keep the cuts as neat as possible.

From looking online, almost all advice seems to advocate using a boning knife. I would like to go through the exercise of cutting up a chicken a few times at home, but I am now unsure which knife I need to be using for this task?

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    Why not just try using both and see what works better for you and your needs?
    – dbmag9
    May 16 at 8:46
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    Fair question, because I don't own a pair of either knives currently, and would rather buy one good knife than two average ones. I've been told that with knives if you buy cheap you buy twice.
    – JoshWigley
    May 16 at 10:50
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    @JoshWigley: Maybe, but it's also possible to take that advice too far. I don't really know much about kitchen knives (all I know is that the cheap set I have has served my fairly limited needs just fine for the past 20 years), but consider an analogy… a good hammer is surely a far better tool than a cheap hammer, but if what you need to do is drive a screw, even a cheap screwdriver will do a much better job than any hammer. If I couldn't afford both a good hammer and a good screwdriver, I'd rather settle for slightly cheaper ones than give up either tool entirely. May 16 at 21:46
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    When in doubt, use the sharp one.
    – MonkeyZeus
    May 17 at 17:06
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    Just as a general comment: you can do a whole lot worse than Ikea to test out a decent but cheap version of any knife type you want to 'audition'. They tend to make them in common forms, copying the expensive ones. A lot of them are actually made of decent steel. I got a santoku about a year ago as I didn't want to jump in with a £150 damascus steel on a whim, so £12 from Ikea… & I'm still using it. It holds its edge far better than I imagined it would, it is actually comparable to my £100 knives, & has become my most-used veg knife.
    – unlisted
    May 18 at 10:30

3 Answers 3

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Boning and jointing are two different tasks. Cutting up a chicken into pieces is jointing, removing the meat from the bones entirely is boning, it sounds like you were jointing the chicken to me. Either knife will do the job, it's partly down to personal preference and what you have to hand. I've found that knowing where to cut is far more important than what you use to do it, and I've used used virtually every type of knife to joint chicken one time or another.

I've found that the flexibility of a boning knife is not helpful for many tasks, and between the two I would use a paring knife for boning as it's more direct. In my own kitchen I would use neither, instead I would reach for my 12cm (4.5in) utility knife, which is a slightly scaled up paring knife, it has more reach but it's still easy to handle. Boning knives are great for boning fish, but really not that much else.

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    Thank you for responding. Yes, I was jointing the chicken, apologies still fairly new to it all! I think your suggestion of a utility knife is the way to go for me and will suit me better with this and other activities in the kitchen.
    – JoshWigley
    May 16 at 11:22
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    Glad it's useful! What knives to buy is open to opinion, but if you want mine it's better to get a good utility and chefs knife than a whole set of mediocre knives. You can do anything with those two. A good paring knife is also very useful.
    – GdD
    May 16 at 12:49
  • Bonig knives are for stripping meat off of bones. So they have uses, but many people aren’t ever going to use them as we can buy boneless meat when we need it. They’re useful for when you are going to strip a chicken carcass or debone a hunk of meat, like breaking down a pork shoulder into bits to fit in an instant pot. And I prefer a longer knife for jointing, so I usually grab a boning or even a chefs knife if I’m going to be splitting the breast into two
    – Joe
    May 16 at 13:14
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This is a little bit of a frame challenge, but--you should own a paring knife even if you don't end up using it for this task. Paring knives are close to the top of the essential list (chef's knife, paring knife, serrated knife) and in particular of the essential knives they are just incredibly cheap.

Once you've corrected your situation so that you own a paring knife, you can just try using it for your task...if you aren't satisfied with how it does that particular task, then buy a boning knife. But you will use the paring knife for so many other things that it will certainly be worth it.

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  • Thank you, I will take this on board, and do some reading on how I can tell a good knife to a bad one so that I'm able to build up a small set to suit my needs.
    – JoshWigley
    May 16 at 20:29
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    @JoshWigley Let me put it this way--I have one of the Victorinox paring knives which is on many "best paring knife" lists and it is under 10$. Even if I have to replace it much more often (have not so far) the total price is still perfectly reasonable, plus I don't feel any need to treat it like glass. The paring knife is the "I need to get stuff done" knife, the chef's knife is the one you spend money on. (The Victorinox is quite light and has a narrow handle which isn't to everyone's tastes, but there are also competitively priced heavier knives on "best paring knife" lists, as well.) May 16 at 20:48
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    It deserves to be on the best paring knife lists. I got a 2 piece Victorinox set of a paring knife and chefs knife over 20 years ago, and they're still go-to knives. Only my Wusthoff utility knife gets used more. Some of the best value around.
    – GdD
    May 16 at 21:59
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Just want to point out a possible safety issue I've run into when using my paring knife for this job. It's so slim and sharp that it will actually slice the tip of a joint clean off if the knife isn't going precisely between the bones — even when I'm not using much force. It's just the thinnest piece of bone you'll ever see, but it's razor sharp, and I worry that it could do real damage in the bellies of my three little kids. It's also not exactly a common occurrence, but it's enough to make me use a different knife.

Like @GdD, I use a significantly thicker but still short-ish and sharp utility knife. The extra thickness means that it can still cut into a bone, but will get wedged just that little bit — enough to give me feedback telling me I'm in the bone.

(FWIW, I also agree with @user3067860's advice of just buying a Victorinox paring knife because they're so useful, cheap, and good. Just not for this job.)

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