How to fillet your fish

Filleting

When filleting a whole finfish, it is better not to gill and gut it first. It is essential however to use a sharp knife.

There are two main filleting methods for roundfish.

  1. Method A is the more common but it requires separate removal of the bones. This can cause some flesh to be wasted.
  2. Method B is the preferred technique, especially for larger finfish, but pin (lateral) bones remain in the fillet.

Filleting roundfish — Method A

For Method A:

1. with a sharp filleting knife, cut diagonally from just behind the pectoral fin towards the head, until you reach the backbone.

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2. turn the blade to lie flat on the backbone.

3. run the knife the length of the finfish from head to tail, using as few as possible smooth, slicing strokes.

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4. turn the finfish over and repeat.

These fillets will still contain the pin bones and the rib bones.

To remove the bones from the fillets:

5. place the fillet skin side down. Run the knife under the rib bones and ease them out of the fillet.

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6. using your fingers, feel the pin bones down the centre of the fillet. This can be done with the skin side down but is often easier with the skin side up. Cut into the flesh on either side of the line of bones, making a V cut through the fillet.

7. lift out the V-shaped strip of flesh containing the pin bones.

Alternatively, the pin bones can be removed from larger fillets with tweezers, although this can be difficult, especially on fresh fish.

Note:

Larger and heavier-boned finfish call for a larger knife, but the knife must still be slightly flexible so that you can feel the bones. Different types of knives are used for filleting and steaking or gilling and gutting.

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Filleting roundfish — Method B

For Method B:

1. cut diagonally from just behind the pectoral fin towards the head until you reach the backbone.

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2. insert the knife at the dorsal (top) edge. Follow the backbone while touching the pin bones with the tip of the knife until the knife is beyond the ventral opening.

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3. ease the knife straight through the body until the point of the knife protrudes beyond the ventral opening, close to the tail.

4. following the backbone, remove the tail end of the fillet with a slicing motion towards the tail.

5. lift the fillet near the head and cut through the pin bones towards the rib bones. Continue cutting the flesh away from the rib bones.

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6. cut over the rib bones.

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7. slice off the fillet along the ventral (bottom) edge.

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8. repeat on the other side.


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Filleting flatfish (for four fillets)

It is possible to produce two fillets from a flatfish, but is easier and more common to produce four fillets.

  1. With the point of the knife, score or cut around the edge of the finfish to outline the shape of the fillets.
  2. Make a cut along one side of the backbone.
  3. Keeping the knife almost flat, cut the flesh away from that side of the backbone, slicing along the top of the bones towards the edge. Use a slicing action from the head end towards the tail.
  4. Repeat on the other side of the backbone (shown here with a sole).
  5. Repeat on the other side of the finfish. Either side can be filleted first.