How To Clean and Fillet Fish

Tools Needed:

Sharp Fillet Knife
(blade a few inches longer than the width of the fish)


Fillet Glove
(optional but recommended as it protects against accidental cuts and makes it easier to grip the fish)


Pliers and/or Tweezers
(for removing skin and bones)


Fish Scaler
(optional, to help remove scales)


Kitchen Shears
(to remove fins)


Large Tablespoon
(to remove innards)


Plenty of Newspaper
(for easy cleanup)




Cleaning the Fish

1. Wash the outside of the fish under running water.

Scale the fish under running water if convenient, or on a cutting board (with newspaper under the board for easy cleanup.) Hold the fish by the tail and run the back of the knife (or scaler) from tail to head over entire fish, both sides. Note: if skinning the fish, it's unnecessary to scale.

Place a finger in the gill holes and pull out the gills.


2. Place the fish on its side with the belly facing you, and press down with your gloved hand to hold the fish in place. With the fillet knife, cut the belly from head to tail, being careful not to cut too deeply into the "viscera", or intestines.


3. With a spoon, scrape down from head to tail, scooping out the innards. Look for the kidney ? a small white sack attached to the backbone ? and scrape out using the knife.


4. Remove fins with scissors. If desired, make a V-cut in the tail for presentation, or remove.
Rinse the fish under cold running water. If you're preparing the fish whole, it is now ready to cook.





Filleting the Fish

A fillet is the most common cut of fish ? offering great versatility and variety in preparation. Preparing fillets yourself assures better freshness and flavor.


1. To remove the backbone, hold the fish firmly by its mouth using your gloved hand ? its back facing up and tail facing toward you. Cut from head to tail along the entire length of fish in long strokes, on both sides of the top dorsal fin. (To keep your fillets neater in appearance, avoid a back and forth sawing motion.) Remove the fin and the attached bones.


2. Remove the fish head with the fillet knife ? cutting in a semi-circular motion from the backbone toward the throat. It may be necessary to turn the fish over and cut through that side as well.


3. To separate skin from flesh, lay the fish on its side and grip the tail. Hold the knife parallel to the board and cut through the side of the fish at the tail end ? with the edge of the blade facing forward and angled down toward the board. Using a gentle sawing motion, cut from the tail toward the head. Turn fish over and repeat.


4. To separate flesh from bone, hold the tail portion and run your knife from tail to head right above the center rib bones. (This will produce one fillet.) Turn fish over and repeat.

Check both fillets for bones by running your finger over the fillet. Remove any bones with pliers or tweezers.

If fillets are large, cut into portions. Rinse under cold running water, pat dry and you're ready to cook.