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Whether it's your own catch of the day or a market purchase, armed with this guide you'll no longer be at the mercy of the fishmonger. As long as your knife is sharp enough to shave with…
Filleting your own fish
You'll be left with fish bones with which to make stock and, of course, perfect fillets ready for the pan. Well, perfect after a little practice that is.
Commonly, beginners find they are left with too much flesh on the bones and not enough fillet. One of the most important things to remember when filleting a fish is that you should use the fish's bones as your guide. If you run your knife along them when removing the fillet, you can't really go wrong.
Using scissors, remove the dorsal fins first - this makes the job much easier and you won't prick your hands in the process. Using your knife to cut behind the head and along the top of the fish is the next step, followed by the final cut along the bones before removing the fillet. The job is then repeated on the opposite side - remember this doesn't need to be done with any great speed, you're not working in a commercial kitchen. Take your time to avoid ending up with a mangled fillet and don't worry, with practice you will eventually get faster.
The filleting process shown over the page is for a round fish such as snapper, bream, mullet, blue-eye trevalla and so on. Flat fish, such as flounder or sole, use a slightly different technique given they have four fillets rather than two. Despite the extra fillets they are actually easier to work with because the structure of the bones is flat rather than curved. Cut first along each side of the backbone, which runs straight down the middle of the fish. Then, starting at the backbone, cut away the fillet along the bones. It's easiest to do this with a thin, flexible filleting knife that you can lay flat against the bones. Lift up the fillet as you go so you can see the bones and your progress. Remove the fillet and repeat with the other one on that side. Then turn the fish over and repeat.
If you'd like skinless fillets, lay them skin-side down on a chopping board, hold the tail end down with a finger and, starting at the tail, run your knife along the fillet between the skin and flesh with the blade ever so slightly angled towards the skin. Once again, practice makes perfect. And finally, don't even think about trying this at home without a super-sharp filleting knife.
Filleting a round fish
1 Using a pair of kitchen scissors, remove dorsal and pectoral fins and discard.
2 Using a sharp filleting knife, cut behind the head towards opening near gills.
3 Run filleting knife along top of fish just deep enough to expose the backbone.
4 Starting at the tail, with filleting knife flat against the bones, cut from tail to head using bones of the spine as a guide. Hold the fillet as you cut until completely removed.
5 Turn over fish and repeat. The finishing touch is pin-boning (this is important for large fish). Using fish tweezers, remove pin-bones from fillets, dipping tweezers in water to rinse as you go. For smaller fish fillets, it may be easier to trim the pin-bones by making a V-shaped incision around them, using a knife.
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