Fish Filleting

Nowhere is freshness more important than with fish. For best results, learn fish filleting for yourself. It’s easier than you might think.

Fish meat perishes quickly once its removed from the body, degrading both taste and texture, so being able to fillet your fish at home is very useful. At the very least, understanding more about fish filleting, the anatomy and the properties of the meat will help you get the very best from your fish.

Round fish

To gut the fish, place the point of the knife inside the anus and cut at an angle along the lower abdomen, keeping your cut shallow and piercing just the flesh, not the internal organs. Remove the guts and make sure you clean the inside.

Mark the edges of the fillet by slicing down to the bone, just behind the pectoral fin and across the tail. Then start to cut along the back, just above the dorsal fin, pushing down firmly with your other hand so the skin stays tight. Use steady, sweeping strokes and you should hear and feel a scraping or clicking as the knife moves over the ribs.

Be careful once you reach the spine – guide the knife over the ridge, and then down again to avoid losing any meat in the other half. Finally, cut all the way through the pin bones, which may take some pressure.

Clean the fillet by cutting off the belly section. Repeat this process on the other side of the fish.
Remove the pin bones, which run about 3 or 4 centimetres from the head end – you can feel for these with your fingers first. Cut a v-shaped valley into the flesh where the pin bones are, but avoid piercing the skin – only go as deep as the pin bones themselves.


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Flat fish

Follow some of the same initial steps as above (see video). Then, using the same sweeping strokes, cut the flesh away from the ribs. Once you reach the skirt you may be able just to pull the fillet free, but do not force it. If it does not come away easily, just slice through the skin.

Follow the same procedure for the other fillet on this side, then turn the fish over and repeat. Again, you can discard the carcass now or keep it to make stock.

Remove the skin by inserting the knife near the tail end at a 45 degree angle – be prepared to lose a little stump of meat from the end of the fillet. Press the knife down hard so it stays flat on the surface, moving it back and forth as you push away from you.