Introduction: Preparing a Whole Fresh Fish
For those that haven't before processed a whole fish, I've prepared this tutorial to guide you along the way.
It's a messy job...there is blood and guts and the first time you do this it may be unsettling. But you will enjoy the fact that you use as much of the fish as possible, even boiling the bones and head to make a nice fish stock.
You can use the cooked fish meat in many ways. We made delicious Fish Cakes and enjoyed them hot with a little sweet chili sauce.
Step 1: Prepare Your Knife
A sharp knife is a safe knife. I've used my damascus kitchen knife and honed the edge with a piece of ceramic rod to get it razor sharp.
Step 2: Removing Fish Scales
The fish we're preparing is jack mackerel, but the following process applies to most fish.
Using the back of your knife remove the scales by pushing from the tail towards the head. There are lots of scales so keep going, covering all areas of the fish.
Step 3: Opening the Belly and Removing Organs
Locate the exit point of the fish (the anus) and inserting your knife blade up, carefully cut the belly open right up to the area between the fins.
Step 4: Getting Messy
Insert your hand into the cavity and grasping the organs begin to pull them out. The organs are tough and well attached so you'll need to pull hard. Continue working until the cavity is empty. You may want to rinse the area under running water to clear away some of the fluids.
Step 5: Removing the Head
Use your knife to cut just behind the head and front fins. Slice through the flesh on the top and both sides. You'll need to apply a bit of downward force to cut through the spine...use a heavy knife or clever and keep your fingers out of the way!
Step 7: Cook Your Fish
Place the fish in a pan with a little water and boil for around 20 minutes or until the flesh has turned white. Allow to cool then carefully remove the flesh from the bones, keeping an eye out for small bones throughout the body. We cooked the whole fish including the head and once we had removed all of the meat we made a lovely fish stock from the bones and head.
Now you can use the fish meat in numerous recipes including fish cakes and Fish Risotto.
I hope you learned how to prepare a whole fresh fish. It'll get easier and quicker the more you do this, and you'll perhaps be able to save some money by buying fresh fish and preparing it yourself. A whole baked salmon or trout is a wonderful centerpiece to a meal.