There is a possibility that my job could change here in the next few months, and I could end up breaking down a lot of fish as part of my duties. I'm way rusty on my fish fabrication skills so I'm going to be buying and eating a lot of whole fish around the house to get my skill at this back.
My question is, in the collective opinion of the readers of this post, would a deba with appropriate technique be faster/cleaner/superior in any way to the flexi filet knife? I use single ground knives for other tasks, and have experience sharpening them. I just have never actually held a deba.
This leads to if yes, a deba can be superior to a western filet knife, then what would a good one be to get my feet wet, but would still hold up to a poly board busy kitchen beating?
Bring on the learning.
For large fish or anything with tough bones I prefer a deba, but for small (round) fish I use a 24cm nogent flexible fillet knife.
For example, I don't do much fish prep now, but in my last job we'd do a couple kilos of King George Whiting, Rock Flathead and John Dory, and the odd Salmon, Kingfish, Barramundi every few days. For the big guys I found it easier and cleaner to use a deba and for the dory due to it's short/tall frame but for the flathead and whiting it was just so much faster to use the sab. I'll admit the fillets weren't as nice as they would have been with a deba, but with time restraints and what not, it just made more sense to sacrifice a miniscule amount of meat to get the job done much faster.
I'd prefer to use a deba for every fish, but that particular kitchen was understaffed so we were regular short on time (just the chef and myself).
That's my experience anyway.
A deba would give you a lot more control, even if it's not flexible. You would also get much cleaner results since it's single sided. If you're going to be working is a variety of fish sizes, I would recommend getting two sizes. Also have you considered whether you would want a stainless or a stain resistant? Western style knives occasionally have single edged stain resistant debas with western handles. I tend to recommend those who are interested in debas, but have never used them.
From what I have read and seen it seems like it does provide if not more, than at least as much control as a western fillet knife. As for getting two sizes, would it ruin the technique to get a large one and just use the tip for a smaller fish? Obviously this won't work for something like sardines, but the smallest fish I should be working with are things like mullet or some smaller drum species. On the big end maybe a mahi or a big boy cobia, standard Gulf Coast fish. As far as steels go I have used several varieties of stain resistant steel and none of them have ever reacted enough differently from stainless for me to care much. In this situation edge retention and resistance to chipping would probably be paramount in the steel decision. I'd like it to stay sharp after going through a pile of fish, and not end up serrated from cutting spines. As handles go I'm pretty ambivalent. I don't like Wa handles for gyuto, but have had a few boning knives with both western and japanese style handles and did not favor one over the other. I hope this narrows things down some. I would also not object to second hand if anyone has anything laying around