Many customers struggle with the question, “how would you like your fish cleaned”. There are a myriad of ways to clean our fresh fish so here’s 8 different styles.
Cleaned / Scaled and Gutted:
This is a very common way to clean a whole fish. The fish will be scaled, meaning the scales will be removed. The fins of the fish, the pectoral, dorsal, anal, and pelvic fin, will all be removed. The fish will then be split open in the stomach and the organs and intestines will be taken out. A typical “cleaned” fish will have it’s head still on. You can choose to have the head cut off in you so prefer.
Options: you can ask for your fish scored on the sides (slices in the flesh), here you can add a tapanade or fresh herbs and spices.
A filet of a whole fish will not include anything but meat, and skin. A filet is a cut down the length of a fish, removing the fleshy meat on the side. Small bones remain in the filet, and are usually removed with a small pair of pliers. Skin can be removed as well.
Head off and Split:
Usually this is a style of cleaning for smaller fish such as croakers, porgies, whiting, and your typical smaller frying fish. I have seen this method done on larger fish such as sea bass, red snapper, blackfish, and branzino. The fish is scaled. Then the head is removed, and the body is split from the back or from the stomach. It is cleaned out, and the guts are removed.
Head on and Split:
Head on and Split is a very rare form of preparation. The fish is split from the back, typically, and is cut until there is a butter fly like opening of the filets. The head stays on.
A butterfly cut on your whole fish is a very difficult cut to do properly. Usually a butterflied fish has the head still on. It is scaled and gutted. It is cleaned out from the stomach, and the guts are removed. From the opening in the stomach we cut along the spine and separate the meat from it. The fish is not cut all the way through, and the final result is a fish that is opened enough for stuffing.
Butterflied and Deboned:
This style of cleaning starts with the butterflied fish but instead of cutting one side of the fish, the fileter cuts both sides of the meat. With the spine fully exposed, and the meat laying to the sides, the spine is cut with utility scissors, and is removed. The pin bones inside will also be removed so there are minimal bones remaining. This is excellent for stuffing as well.
Cut in Chunks:
For this method, we clean the fish like we would if we were scaling and gutting it. Then we usually cut the head off behind the pectoral fins. With the remaining fish, we cut the fish directly across its body, through the spine. This is typically good for a seafood soup, stew, jambalaya, or to cook down to make stock.
Cut in Steaks:
When we cut a fish into steaks, we start by cleaning the fish (scaling and gutting). We then cut the fish directly across the body like we would with the chunks. The difference is steaks usually have a “belly” section of the fish, and larger fish typically fall into the “steak fish” category. Fish that make really nice steaks are artic charr, salmon, swordfish, king fish, and halibut.
Hopefully some of these different ways to clean fish have you excited to try new things! Always experiment with new items; one of my favorite things in the world is a steak from a salmon. The meat in the two tail-like sections in the belly are filled with a delicious fat that is more succulent than steak, and tastes better too.