This is a guide to taking a freshly caught (or bought) fish, and preparing it to be cooked. It will cover gutting (removing the entrails), scaling (removing the scales) and filleting (cutting the fish into thin pieces ready to be cooked), all essential skills if own a fish farm or just like to buy and eat fish.
TYPES OF FISH: ROUND vs. FLAT
There are two types of fish we must become familiar with: round fish and flat fish. Round fish are round and thick in nature, while flat fish, as you might have guessed from their name, are flatter in nature.
Examples of Round Fish: Seabass, Seabream, Cod, Haddock, Smoked Haddock, Hake, etc.
Examples of Flat Fish: Halibut, Plaice, Dover Sole, Lemon Sole, Turbot, etc.
PREPARING ROUND FISH
Here’s a guide to preparing round fish. I’ve included a video tutorial to help you out.
Gutting the Fish:
1) Place a few layers of newspaper over a cutting board, and place your fish on top.
2) With a sharp knife, cut along the underside of the fish, from tail to head.
3) Put your hand in, and remove the guts and entrails. Use a knife to remove the trickier parts.
4) Wrap what you have removed in the newspaper, to be discarded later.
Scaling the fish:
1) Place your fish over some newspaper, or inside of a sink.
2) Cut off the fish’s fins with scissors, to avoid puncturing yourself later.
3) Grab onto the fish’s tail.
4) Using the dull end of your knife, scrape from tail to gills. The scales will fly off.
5) Flip over and repeat the process.
Wash the fish in a sink. Wash both the outside to get rid of any scales holding on, and on the insides to clean out the area we gutted.
Filleting the Fish:
1) Cut along the head, just behind the fin. Repeat on other side. Remove the head.
2) Using your knife, cut along the top of the fish, just above the fin line. Cut from head to tail, splitting the fish in two.
3) Remove your fillet, first inspecting it for bones, then placing it into a tray.
4) Flip the fish over, and repeat step #2, this time cutting from tail to head. Remove all flesh from the bones.
5) Remove your fillet, first inspecting it for bones, then placing it into a tray.
6) You will be left with the carcass (tail, spine, etc). Use as you like, or discard.
Skinning Your Fillets:
1) Place a fillet onto the cutting board.
2) At the tail end, fleshy side up, cut down through the flesh to where the skin begins.
3) Hold onto the skin on the tail end.
4) Holding your knife parallel to the board, cut from back to front, removing the flesh from the skin. Discard the skin.
5) Cut your fillet into the sizes you like.
6) Repeat for your second fillet.
PREPARING FLAT FISH
Now, let’s move onto preparing flat fish. Here is another video tutorial to help you out:
Filleting the Fish:
1) Place your fish on the cutting board, and pat it dry.
2) With flat fish, the entrails are contained in a cavity behind the head of the fish. This makes things somewhat easier, as we can just separate the head area from the body of the fish by cutting around the head with a sharp knife.
3) Find the center line (backbone) of the fish, and cut along it with your knife.
4) Keeping your knife parallel, slice along the bone in long, sweeping motions from the middle to the outside of the fish. Remove the top of the fish and place it into a tray.
5) Repeat on the bottom of the fish.
6) Flip the fish over, and repeat steps 4 and 5. You should now have 4 fillets ready.
Removing the Skin:
1) Take one of your fillets and place it on the cutting board.
2) Make an incision with your knife on the tail end.
3) Hold onto the skin, and keeping your knife parallel slice from tail to front, separating the flesh from the skin. Using a cloth will help with keeping a grip on the skin during this step. Discard the skin.
4) Remove the edges of the fillet.
5) Repeat all these steps for the other 3 fillets.
FOR RELATED ARTICLES, CHECK OUT HOW TO MAKE A FISH FARM and Emergency Food Recipe of the Week #5: Savory Salmon and Potato Salad
Good luck and stay prepared!