The Best Method to Fillet a Fish

Posted by Steven Tuckey on

Many prefer to eat filleted fish because it saves them from the hassle of separating the fishbone from the edible parts. If you have kids at home, you might be afraid that they will choke on the fish bones. That’s why serving a fish fillet is a better way to let them enjoy eating fish dishes. 

However, whenever we think of a fish fillet, it always comes to mind that only a pro can perfectly fillet a fish. Well, I would like to bust that myth and show you that you can actually do it at home.

Advantages of Filleting Fish

Before heading to the primary process of how to fillet a fish, I would like first to enumerate some benefits that it can give you.

It Keeps Freshness for a Longer Time

When you buy an already filleted fish at the market, there’s a high chance of getting easily spoiled because of bacteria exposure and contamination. That’s the reason why you need to consume immediately or else you’ll end up wasting your money. That’s why it’s highly recommended to buy a whole fish, then just fillet it whenever you cook it.

It saves you money

Buying a filleted fish is not surprisingly more expensive since you need to pay for the labor cost. Therefore, it’s good to say that you can save a couple of bucks when you opt to fillet it yourself.

Best Knife to Fillet a Fish

Aside from preparing your knife, I guess there aren’t any other tools you need to properly fillet a fish. Regarding that, I would love to enumerate the best knives you can use to fillet a fish.

Fillet knife. 

A Western fillet knife might be the best choice if you're looking for a beginner-friendly knife for filleting. You can maneuver this knife quickly, and with its thin blade, you will be able to cut through near the fish bones with no hassle. Also, the comfortable handle will allow you to use it safely and control it easily. Its best feature is in it flexibility. The thin blade allows the knife to flex, so when removing the fillet from the ribs the knife can conform to the shape of the fillet, making it much easier to not leave meat on the fish frame when done.

Honesuki knife. 

Honesuki knife means bone lover in Japanese. It has a sharp tip and a slim blade, commonly used for poultry. You can easily use the Honesuki knife to fillet a fish as its design will aid you in swiftly thinly cutting through the flesh.

Deba Knife 

Deba knife is a well-known knife in Japanese kitchens for its multi-functional role. This knife is easier to lift due to its average length. Using its sharp edge, you can quickly separate the flesh from the fish bones. Unlike western knives, the Deba knife has a thick spine, so it's not as flexible but certainly a good option for filleting.

Sujihiki Knife

Also known as the flesh slicer in Japanese, this blade is one of the main recommended knives for Japanese chefs. If you want a fillet knife that glides easily and has less friction to cut smoothly through the fish, this one is an ideal option for you. Using a Sujihiki knife, you will achieve an effortless, precise, and clean process of filleting a fish.

Yanagiba knife 

The Yanagiba knife is a firm fillet knife typically used by chefs to cut down a whole fish. However, you can use the Yanagiba knife to cut smoothly through the bones and spines of fish. You'll also love the comfortable vibes that the unique shape of its handle provides. 

Steps in Filleting Fish

Now, I would like to move to the most critical part of our topic, the best way to fillet a fish in your kitchen. Simply follow, practice, and master these steps and say goodbye to filleted fish in the supermarket.


  1. Rinse first and prepare. Rinse it first under running water before you cut through the fish, and then dry pat it. Make sure your hands and the knife handle are dry so that it won't slip from your grip.

  1. After that, cut the gills and side fin of the fish. Cut all until half of the fish's backbone. Don't leave out the meaty spot you'll feel on the top of the back of its head.

  1. Angle your knife parallel to the board and cut starting from the head along the fish's body until its tail. You will have to press firmly so your cut will be steady throughout. Then use gloves to remove the fish guts and rinse them with cold water. This time you'll have a clean fish in your hands.

  1. Next, chop the head of the fish right at the gills by laying it on its side. Then cut by the fish's spine and put pressure so the cut will be steady. You can decide whether to dispose of or use the fish head for other purposes.

  1. Then, you'll have to cut the fins on the fish's side, top and underside. This ensures that there will be no parts hindering your work later on. Use your fillet knife to cut away from the spine, beginning at the head to the fish's tail, using a gentle slicing motion. Remember not to see through the rib cage and work with its shape instead. Do this to the other side, and you have two fillets now.

  1. Remove the bones, fat, and skin. Feel along the fillet and drag the tiny fish bones with clean tweezers. Just like when you remove a splinter, do it in the direction they are pointing. Then skin it using a fillet knife. Also, cut out the excess fat left. However, you can leave them if you prefer, but fillets are typically lean.

  1. Lastly, rinse the fillet with water, then dry it using a paper towel. Put it in a plastic wrap and put it in the freezer if you aren't planning on cooking it yet. 

Enjoy Your Fillet

Filleting a fish yourself might be overwhelming at first, but knowing the proper process could help you achieve it quickly. If you carefully follow my seven simple instructions and use suitable knives such as Wusthof's Fillet, Honesuki, Deba, Sujihiki, and Yanagiba knife, then filleting a fish will never be as easy as it could be.

← Older Post Newer Post →