A pictorial guide to filleting fish.
The size of your fish, will determine firstly where you are going to fillet it! Normally you can fillet the fish on a draining board, or large chopping board, if you were lucky enough to catch some as large as the Hake here, filleting on the pontoon or base of the boat may be an alternative.
I caught these two Pollock off Northern Ireland, but what do I do next, well here we go, let me show you.
The best advice I can give you is to have a very sharp knife at hand, preferable a filleting knife, which has a flexible blade, to assist in cutting neatly between the skin and the flesh, so that you don’t leave too much flesh attached to the skin.
You take a knife and cut directly hind the gills from the back of the head straight through, thus removing the head.
Now you need to remove the gut contents, roll the fish body onto its back, and you will see a small excretion hole, close to the tail end, place the tip of your knife into the hole, and slit up the body, this will expose the stomach contents. Pull these away from the body, and discard.
The fish will be slippery, grab hold of the tail and insert the knife into the flesh
just above the tail, angling the knife so that you are cutting between the flesh and the bone. You will need to use a slightly sawing motion. These fish obviously aren’t flat, so you will need to cut slowly over the back bone of the fish from one side to the other to make sure you remove the majority of the flesh.
To remove the meat from the skin, requires you to hold the ‘tail’ end with one finger, and insert the tip of the blade at an angle away from the tail end, running the edge of the blade against the skin, but be careful not to cut into the skin.
It is important to fold back the meat as you cut, so that you can clearly see where you are cutting, otherwise you will either cut into the flesh, leaving some attached to the skin, or you will cut through the skin, leaving some attached to the flesh.
Continue right along the length of the fish, you may find it easier to fold the skin over as you cut more of the flesh away, it really depends on the size of your fish to the length of your arms!
We can see here the folded skin , the fillet and the remainder of the fish, still to be filleted. (the bones and skin can be boiled for ten minutes with a bay leaf, some carrot, onion and celery, left to cool and the stock frozen in stock cube trays for future use – that’s if you have access to a freezer!)
Take a few minutes to run your fingers gently over the fish to look for any small bone you may have missed whilst filleting. When you find a bone, they can be easily pulled from the flash and discarded.
Laid out on the chopping board are the various stages of the filleted fish, to complete filleting one fish, turn the fish over on the bones and go back to removing the fillet from the bone, once the fillet has been removed from the bone, you can then remove the skin from the flesh as previously shown.
Here we have the completed fish fillets.
We cook ours as Coujons on the boat, cutting the meat into strips and then lightly coating in flour, egg and breadcrumbs. Dry fry them for about a minute on each side and serve with a crisp green salad and some tartar sauce….enjoy!
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