How to fillet a fish

Filleting a fish takes a little amount of touch, but spending a little more time at the cleaning phase means less or no bones when eating, for a more enjoyable meal. Once you get skilled with filleting, you can slice and debone almost any species of fish, especially if you have the right tool for the job like the Rhinoreto Filleting Knife.

Sharp blade, sharp results

First, before starting to slice the fish, make sure the knife is up to the task, that means its blade should be as sharp as it can be. If it’s not, please use the sharpener to hone the edge. It only takes a few minutes but the sharp results will speak for themselves.

Pass the blade with the edge down, through the ceramic plates of the sharpener, in one continuous move, from the knife guard to the tip. Repeat this movement for about 2-3 minutes, while applying moderate pressure on the blade.

Once you’re happy with the blade’s edge, rinse the knife with tap water.

Set up a working area

Fish filleting is a messy operation, so a large cutting board will help. Place a large paper sheet underneath the board and have a clean plate for the fillets at hand.

Prepare the fish for filleting

Rinse the fish in cold water and dry it with a paper towel. Place the fish on the cutting board, with the belly towards you.

There are more than just one way to fillet a fish and we’ll present you the faster, easier methods.

It’s OK if you don’t get all the meat off the fish with the first fillets. Practice makes perfect! If you skin the fish, you do not have to scale it first. If you are going to use the skin, scale it first, then proceed with filleting.

Filleting whole fish – small to medium size

Make a vertical, deep cut right behind the gill cover. Then insert the knife, blade parallel to the fish body, from the tail end. Keeping it as close to the backbone, run the knife towards the head of the fish, in one continuous movement, while applying steady pressure. The idea is to meet the first vertical cut made at the head, to complete the fillet. When done right, you will be able to remove the fillet right away.

Then, turn the fish upside down, repeat the vertical cut behind the gill and proceed once again with a longitudinal slicing motion, from the tail end to the head, to obtain the second fillet.

Filleting whole fish –  large size

Larger fish are usually thicker and they require a few extra-steps to ensure you get the best fillets out of them. First, make a deep cut just behind the gills (halfway through the thickness of the fish), then cut a slit a few inches in length along the dorsal of the fish (topside). Use the tip of the knife to separate the flesh from the bones and the fish should open just like a magazine. To finish the fillets, run the knife along the spin of the fish, from the head are to the tail.

The above-mentioned filleting methods work well for saltwater fish.

Filleting partially sliced fish (no head and tail)

Remove the fish head and the tail first.

Begin cutting the fish from inside out: insert the tip of the knife between the backbone and the side and work your way out to top or dorsal. Run the knife along the ribcage – separating the ribs from the backbone is the toughest part of the whole filleting process.

Continue slicing the meat off with the knife in the ventral area (the vent is the small hole found underneath the fish, where its belly ends). Use the hand to take apart the filler as you proceed further on. Go with the slicing motion until the tail end, to finish the first fillet.

For the other fillet, turn the fish over and insert the knife once again behind the gill cover. The idea is to separate the backbone from the flesh in the dorsal region. This will require cutting the bones of the ribcage clean from the fish’s backbone. After that, continue on the ventral area and cut the fillet towards the fish tail.

This method of filleting works well for most of freshwater species of fish, from walleye to panfish, perch, salmon or trout.

Final touches on the fillets

Remove the ribcage bones by using a needle-nose plier if you wish. You can also use the pliers for removing other tiny bones found along the fillets. Some fish have tender flesh, so this operation may damage the fillet’s look. Be extra careful when doing this step.

Skinning the fish is an optional step, since some people consider fish skin quite a delicacy. To remove the skin in the best possible way (minimum amount of flesh left on it), position the knife between the skin and the flesh, at one fillet’s end. Put the blade at a slight angle and slide it the entire length of the fish. When slicing, hold the skin firmly with the other hand.

Congratulations, you’re done! The more filleting you do, the better you will become at it.

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