Cleaning a fish is surprisingly easy, even if it’s not the most glamorous activity in the world. You’ll find more info here about how to do it, regardless if you just caught it yourself or you have bought it from the market.
The Things You’ll Need
Although cleaning a fish is simple, you should prepare yourself for it by reading the following information. To participate in this hobby that has been around since the beginning of time, you’ll need a sharp fillet knife, a butter knife (or any other scale instrument), a bucket of water, newspaper, an ice refrigerator, and a dish for clean fish. The use of gloves is not required, however they can be beneficial if you want to feel less gross.
Preparing for the Main Event
If there is one thing you should be aware of when cleaning a fish, it is that it is imperative that you do so as swiftly as possible. If you’re on a fishing vacation and have one more day of fishing left, you can store your catch in water or ice until you’re able to clean all of your catch at the same time, which is ideal.
Cleansing a fish can be an unpleasant experience, which is why doing so outside is the most convenient option. If you are at a state park, there is a good chance that a cleaning station will be nearby if you just look for one. The other alternative is to spread out a newspaper on a table and make sure you have access to running water nearby because you’ll need it later on.
It is necessary to remove as much slime from the fish as possible in order to reduce the danger of mishaps — working with a sharp knife and something slippery does not always result in the best outcomes. It is possible to use some paper towels once you have finished rinsing it to help it dry more quickly.
How Do You Scale a Fish?
You will almost certainly catch fish with scales on them, which increases the likelihood of catching them. It goes without saying that the scales must be removed. Another reason why you should perform this task outside is that fish scales tend to fly everywhere as soon as you begin peeling them, creating a massive smear of debris in the process. If this is not a possibility, a bucket and a deep sink can be used instead.
As a result, the first step is to remove the fish from the chilly environment in which they were kept. Place it on the surface so that the head is facing the hand that is not being used. Grab the fish’s head with your non-dominant hand while using your dominant hand to begin removing the scales with a butter knife or a scaling tool, according to your preference.
To accomplish this, rapid and short strokes should be used. Repeat the procedure until the fish’s body is completely smooth. Now flip the fish over and repeat the process on the other side of the fish. There will be some scales left over, which you can remove by rinsing well with running water. Just make sure you put it underwater with medium pressure so that it doesn’t destroy the meat while you’re doing it.
For fish that do not have many scales (such as catfish or eels), things are a little easier because you can just cut along the pectoral fin and then peel off the skin with some pliers if the fish has a thin skin layer on it.
How Do You Gut a Fish?
The following section is a little more gruesome, but since you’ve already started, you might as well finish it.
Position the fish on one side of the plate and use your non-dominant hand to place it flat on top of the plate with the other. Take the fillet knife and insert it into the anus of the fish, making a single continuous line all the way to the fish’s lower jaw until the fish is fully cooked. You must exercise caution not to dig too deeply so that you do not come into contact with the intestines. If you do get to contact them, you’ll be able to tell because of the foul odor.
It is then necessary to open the cavity and begin removing the fish’s internal organs and organelles. In some instances, the knife may be required once more in order to successfully separate the base of the head from the gill filaments. We warned you that it isn’t the most glamorous activity on the face of the planet!
Start scraping the insides of the fish with a spoon, making sure to remove all of the organs. The black stomach lining that you’ll observe in the cavity should also be removed because it’s not at all appetizing in the least.
Rinse the inside of the fish thoroughly with the hose that was stated earlier and connected to the source of running water. (Optional) Keep the water pressure as low as possible or at a bare minimum to avoid damaging the meat.
Even while a sharp fillet knife appears to be a potentially deadly tool, it is actually a safer choice than a conventional knife. When using a conventional knife, you will naturally be inclined to use a little more force, which may result in damage to the fish. Of course, you should always check to see that the knife’s handle is not too slippery.
How Do You Fillet a Fish?
Following completion of the unpleasant task, you may begin thinking about how you will prepare your fish, and you have a variety of possibilities to choose from. After you’ve finished gutting and scaling the fish, you may either bake it or cook it on the grill.
If you plan to roast or fry the fish, we recommend that you fillet it beforehand before cooking it. In some cases, it may not be necessary to gut them before filleting them, but if you’re just getting started, it is preferable to gut them first.
Place the fish so that the dorsal fin is facing you and the tail is facing away from you. Start by cutting behind the pectoral fin and the gills with a sharp fillet knife to remove the fish’s flesh. Cut all the way down to the spine, taking care not to sever it in the process.
When you believe the knife has reached the backbone, you can begin cutting along the backbone by flattening the knife and rotating it. The purpose of this entire activity is to create a flap that extends from the top of the head all the way to the bottom of the tail.
Now, lift the flap and continue slicing away at the fillet until it is completely gone from the fish. The fillet will have more meat if you keep it near to the backbone while you’re cooking it. Cutting through the rib cage is not an issue because the bones may be removed after the procedure. Then flip the fish over and repeat the process on the other side of the fish.
Place the fillets on the table skin-side up, skin-side down. Beginning with an incision into the area between the flesh and the skin, begin to remove the skin. If you plan to roast the fillet, you may skip this step and just leave the skin on the fillet while cooking. Remove it from the oven and rinse it with water once more.
How Do You Steak a Fish?
Salmon or tuna steaks can be made if your fish is on the larger side (such as salmon or tuna). Just like with a typical beef steak, you can just place the meat on a hot grill for a couple of minutes and it will be ready before you know what hit you.
Starting after you’ve scaled and gutted the fish, make a series of slashes perpendicular to the fish’s spine. This is completed from top to bottom. Each steak will be approximately one inch in thickness. Remove all of the bones and fat from all of the steaks, but leave the skin and the backbone on the steaks as they are.
Make a point of cleaning everything as soon as you possibly can. The insides of fish are notoriously foul-smelling, which means that as soon as you are finished gutting and filleting the fish, you should begin cleaning the surrounding area immediately. If you’re out fishing, you may use the leftovers as bait, and if you’re at home, you can store the leftovers in the freezer until you’re ready to toss them out completely.
Now It’s Your Turn
Having the ability to clean a fish is something that can be useful while you’re out fishing, camping in a distant place, living in a rural area, or if you prefer your fish to be fresh when you’re eating it at home. Of course, if you’re training to be a chef, these tips and tricks will be quite useful to you.
While our handbook does not cover all sorts of fish (we anticipate that few people who read this will go out and hunt sharks), it does cover the vast majority of these animals that may be caught in a river, lake, sea, or ocean, among other places. We hope you find our manual useful. And, if you do happen to get lucky, at the very least you now know how to prepare it for consumption.
Charles Reynolds is an engineer from New York University with a passion for fishing. His earliest memories of fishing go back to the days spent on the lake with his grandfather who taught him the sport. Reynolds spends a large part of his holidays fishing with his son and passing on the skills to the little one.