When I first learned to fillet a fish in culinary school, I fell in love with butchery. Fish, especially a round fish, is a great place to start if you’re looking to test your knife skills and impress your family. Not to mention, buying a whole fish is actually less expensive than buying individual fillets. Easily butcher a whole round fish into two fillets by following these simple steps below. So here’s how to fillet a round fish!
Remember, this technique is specifically for round fish (i.e. arctic char, trout and branzino) and will not work for flat fish.
What You’ll Need:
Flexible Filleting Knife
Needle Nose Pliers or Tweezers
1) Start by cleaning the fish. Make sure it has been gutted, the scales have been removed, and the fish has been washed under cold water. It’s also important to cut off all of the fins with kitchen sheers. The fins can be sharp, so removing them will make it easier and safer to remove the fillets.
2) Once it is clean, lay the fish on a clean cutting board. Using a filleting knife, make a cut along the backbone under the dorsal fin (about 1/4 inch deep), running from head to tail.
3) Starting at the head, insert the tip of the knife at a shallow angle into the incision. Slowly begin to cut the flesh away from the spine, as close as possible to ensure the most meat, lifting up the flesh as you cut along the whole fish. Cut all along the side of the fish, completely through to the belly.
4) Once you reach the tail, make an incision so the fillet is no longer attached to the tail. At this point, the fillet should only be holding onto the head of the fish. Flip the fish over and repeat this process on the other side.
5) Once both fillets are removed, make an incision behind the head and gills so the two fillets are completely removed from the carcass. If there is some belly meat still attached to the fillets, don’t worry! Simply run your knife along the bottom of each fillet to remove any excess belly meat and/or bones.
6) To finish, remove the tiny pin bones in the fillets. The size and amount of pin bones vary from fish to fish, but you will be able to feel them with your finger if you run your finger against the grain. There you have it!
* It’s important to use a flexible knife so you can run it smoothly along the tiny bones in the fish. It’s also important to dry off the fish with a clean towel because a slippery fish will only making this process more difficult. Remember, practice makes perfect! Filleting a fish is challenging, so the more you practice, the easier it will come and the better your fillets will be!
When shopping for a whole fish, remember these characteristics of a fresh fish:
– The skin should be shiny and firm
– The gills should be bright red
– The eyes should be clear and convex
– The fish should also smell like the ocean rather than a stinky fish