Filleting fish the right way: how to get to the bones of the fish

Filleting fish is super easy – if you know how to do it. With a few simple tricks, plaice, trout and salmon can easily be freed from annoying bones. The necessary technique for filleting fish can be learned by anyone in a few minutes. It doesn’t matter which fish it is.

© HLPhoto – Fotolia

Filleting fish – the tool

For the right cut, not only the right technique, but also the right "tool" is very important. You basically need five things to fillet fish professionally:

  1. a sharp knife with a long, not too flexible blade
  2. a pair of fishbone pliers for pulling thick fishbones. Simple models are available for less than ten euros. A pair of tweezers with wide gripping ends will also do the job.
  3. a knife with a long, flexible blade (filleting knife) to remove the fish skin
  4. a spoon
  5. a large non-slip board on which the fish can be filleted

Filleting fish in five quick cuts

First wash the gutted and scaled fish thoroughly on the outside and inside under cold running water before filleting it. Then it can go to the filleting:

Cut 1: For round fish such as redfish, herring, salmon and monkfish, the head is the first to go. To fillet the fish, place it on one side and to do this, place the knife just behind the head and cut in to the middle bone. Do not cut through the middle bone, otherwise the knife will become blunt and unusable for filleting the fish!

Cut 2: Now begins the removal of the two fillets to the right and left of the middle bone, i.e. the actual filleting of the fish. To do this, the fish lies on its side again. Place the knife behind the head on the underside of the fish and run it flat above the middle bone to the tail fin. If possible use the whole length of the blade and cut slowly. Turn the fish and use the same pattern to separate the second fillet from the middle bone.

Cut 3: Now use a spoon to scrape the remaining flesh from the center bone and the fish is filleted – almost.

Cut 4: Bone check! It is especially recommended for salmon and in general for all amateur cooks who do not have much experience in fish filleting yet. Here’s how: Run the back of the knife across the flesh side of the fillet from the head to the tail fin to raise any remaining bones. They are pulled with the fishbone pliers. Now the fish is ready to be filleted.

Cut 5 is a matter of taste. If you prefer to enjoy your fish fillet with the skin on, you can now fry it in a pan. If the skin should be removed, the fillet is placed on the skin side. Now hold the tail end, place the filleting knife there and separate the meat from the skin.

Filleting plate fish: The subtle difference

Flatfish such as plaice or turbot are cut in a similar pattern. With one important difference: you have four fillets, two on each (flat) side! First, this fish is literally filleted with a circular cut around the head. Place the knife exactly where the hard head transitions into soft flesh.

Now cut right and left of the bone in the middle of the flat fish body to the fin, and then carefully push the first two fillets from the bone with the knife. Do the same on the back side – and the fish is filleted. Bon appetit!

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