How to Fillet a Fish

Learn how to fillet a fish in five easy steps.

Fillet a fish: Striped Bass

Photo: Randy Mayor

Why fillet your own fish?

Unless you're an angler, why would you fillet your own fish? Two reasons: better quality, lower price. Buying whole is the best way to determine freshness and get the most from your purchase (the bones and scraps make great fish stock). Buy a fish with firm flesh that springs back when pressed; eyes should be shiny and clear; and it should smell like the ocean, not fish. Ask the fishmonger to scale and gut the fish, then use these techniques to fillet any kind of round fish, such as striped bass, shown here.

Kitchen Tip: Latex gloves will keep your hands from smelling fishy.

Remove Fish Head

Photo: Randy Mayor

Step 1: Remove head

Place chef's knife behind the pectoral fin; make a diagonal downward cut through bone. Repeat on opposite side; discard head.

Remove Fish Tail

Photo: Randy Mayor

Step 2: Remove tail

Place chef's knife where the tail fin joins the body, and make a straight cut down through the flesh and bone; discard fin.

How to cut a fish fillet

Photo: Randy Mayor

Step 3: Cut Fillet

Starting at head end, run a fillet knife along the backbone in a smooth motion. (This may take more than one cut.) Cut around the rib cage to separate the fillet.

How to trim a fish fillet

Photo: Randy Mayor

Step 4: Trim

Cut away the thin belly portion of the fillet. While fine to eat, it will cook quicker than the rest of the fillet and is higher in fat. It can also be reserved for making stock.

How to Remove Skin from Fish

Photo: Randy Mayor

Step 5: Remove Skin

With fillet skin-side down, place chef's knife at the tail end between the skin and the flesh. Run the knife slowly along the fillet with the knife blade angled ever so slightly downward, firmly gripping the skin as you cut.

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