We didn’t eat a lot of fish when I was growing up, mainly because Dad wasn’t into fishing. However once I started hunting and fishing as a teenager I caught a few trout which my Mum cooked.
After I got married, we would fish for trout and generally eat it after it was smoked. Then I learned to fillet properly and now fillet almost everything I catch.
Fillets are much easier to cook and the family enjoys the trout better to me than fish cleaned any other way.
Filleting fish is fairly easy. The following step by step process works for me.
1. Catch a fish, trout or snapper. I prefer a fish weighing about 2-3 pounds and rarely keep anything larger, letting the bigger ones go to catch again, unless they are damaged in some way.
2. Ice fish down over night. Fish left on ice overnight produce bloodless fillets the next day and are much less "fishy" tasting, I think. Fish filleted and cooked on the lake bank right after catching them are best, but if I am going to wait till I get home to clean them I always ice them down. And don't use party ice.
3. Get a good fillet knife, sharpen it and find a flat table to use. I like a big fillet knife and I sharpen it just before starting. Many people use electric knives and they work well, but I often cut thru the backbone when I use one and hate cleaning them!
4. Flatten the fish out on the board and make a slit through the belly of the fish, from just under the jaw down past the anal fin. I like to cut on either side of the anal fin - this helps guide the knife later. You need a sharp tip on your knife for this step.
5. Lay the fish flat and cut across the body just behind the head. Cut down to the backbone but be careful not to cut through it. When your blade hits the bone, turn it sideways and cut toward the tail, following the slit in the belly and cutting as close to the backbone as possible. Your knife needs to be extremely sharp to cut through the rib bones during this step.
6. Follow the backbone to the tail, stopping the cut without cutting through the skin at the tail. Let that skin hold the fillet to the carcass and flip it flat. Cut between the skin and the meat.
7. You now have a fillet with rib bones. Many people like to leave them in but I cut them out, ending up with a boneless, skinless fillet. I usually put my fillets into a ziploc bag with some salt and fill it with water, squeezing out all the water, and leave them in the refrigerator for a day or so. Take them out, rinse in cold water, pat dry, roll in cornflour and fry. Or, you can freeze them in the ziploc bag. White fish like snapper will keep many months.
Oily fish like kahawai start to get rancid in a few months so I try to cook them within two months. They usually don't last that long! Take care of the fish you catch and they will taste much better when they are cooked. And take care that when you cook it that you don’t overcook the fish.
1. Put fish on ice immediately after catching them.
2. Fillet or clean fish as soon as possible.
3. Put fish in zip-loc bags with a table spoon of salt as soon as cleaned.
4. Fill bag with water and squeeze all air out before sealing.
5. Keep bag in refrigerator until 1 hour before cooking.
6. Drain salt water.
7. Cook your favourite recipe!
1. Fillets are not as strong tasting as whole fish.
2. Be sure to mix salt in water completely before sealing.
3. Soaking fish in fresh water just before cooking removes most of the salt.
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