How to Fillet a Whole Fish

Adding fish to the diet is a delicious way to get lean protein and healthy antioxidants compared to meat and poultry. Many cultures such as Japanese and Mediterranean insist on fish in their diet for many reasons: most fish are a powerhouse for antioxidants, omega-3s, and lean protein. In addition, fish goes with almost anything. When adding fish to the diet it is important to buy the freshest fish on the market.

The freshest fish comes whole, preferably straight from the lake, ocean or stream, but not all of us are that lucky. If you are of the less fortunate, aim to buy whole fish from the market. The first time you buy a whole fish with the intention of eating it and not hanging it on the wall, it can be frightening to look at the fish while it sits on your cutting board. You wonder -- should I cut it here, or there, praying that you don't butcher the poor thing. Not to worry, filleting a whole fish can be simple if the proper steps are followed!

Tools of the Trade

Here is what you'll need to make the perfect cut:

1. Sharp, flexible serrated knife

2. Cutting board

3. Sharp, flat knife

Filleting the Fish

Okay, lay your fish on the cutting board with its back toward you. Using a thin, flexible knife cut through the back part of the head and then turn the knife toward the tail so that it is parallel to the backbone. Hold the fish's head with one hand and run the knife along the backbone to the tail(try to keep the knife as close to the backbone as possible). Pull the fillet away from the body being careful not to damage the fillet itself!

Remove the fillet from the rib cage. Once you have carefully removed the bones from the flesh, turn the fish over and repeat the same process with the other half.

Removing the Skin

The skin can be tricky to get off, but once you have mastered this skill you will be pulling off fish skin like it's your job. With a flat knife make a small incision between the flesh and the skin, just big enough to fit a finger in (like a pocket). Slip your finger in the slit and remove the skin. It's the same process as removing the skin from a turkey. Use the knife to hold down the fish while you are removing the skin.

Once you have done this to both sides, examine the fish guaranteeing that there are no loose bones are scales.

Tips and Ideas

So now that you have fillets, what should you do with them? Here are a couple of great ways to cook fish fillets:

* Take a fresh Halibut fillet and broil it with some Herb Compound Butter. Take 2 fillets, 2 tbsp of butter, and some herbs of your choice, like tarragon. In a foil line baking sheet, rub a tad bit of olive oil, add the fish and 1 tbsp of the compound butter on top of the fish. Broil for 4 minutes, serve hot on a bed of arugula.

*Bake salmon fillets with fresh dill and lemon

* You can make a healthy version of the fish and chips classic using Panko crumbs (Japanese bread crumbs) and baking them instead of frying them. For the chips, switch it up by making baked sweet potato fries. Serve with homemade tartar sauce. The best types of fish to fillet are salmon, halibut, cod, tilapia, trout, and bass, especially if you are new to it. Remember to take your time, preparing fish is a delicate process; once you have the skill you will understand the enjoyment of eating freshly caught fish!