Filleting a Fish




(or how a Steenbras became supper)

I work at a hotel in Pondoland near the Wild Coast in South Africa, which is a couple of
minutes walk away from the beach and we are fortunate enough to have a ready supply of
fresh fish from the local fisherman.

This is the tale of me turning a whole fish ( a 5kg Steenbras) into fillets which where then cut into
220g portions to be grilled and served at supper to our guests that night.

(Unfortunately my brain works in metric, hence the measurements)

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Step 1: Slicing Behind the Gill Plate

Taking a sharp knife slice behind the bone on the back edge of the gills all the way to the
spinal column and the through the belly.

Step 2: Starting to Loosen the Fillet

With the top of the fish facing away from you, make a cut across the tail and
then on the upper side of the fin from the tail to the body cavity, all the way to the spinal column

Step 3: Loosen the Fillet (part Two)

Turn fish so top faces you.
Following the top fish, slice from the "neck" cut, along the bone till the tail.
(first picture)
When you get to the ribs (second picture) you'll need to cut through them to free the fillet
I either use a knife, as in the third picture, or on larger fish, a pair of pruning shears I keep
specifically for this purpose ( if it cuts through 20mm diameter branches, it will happily go through thinnish bone)

Step 4: Now What?

Now that the fillet is off the fish, you can either go about removing the bones, as in the photo,
or flip it over and remove the other fillet and then remove the bones.

Step 5: Final Result and Other Stuff

Now we have two nice big fillets, ready to be sliced on the bias into smaller portions, and a carcass
with meat on.

I normally boil the carcass with onions, carrots and bay leaves until it cooked and have one of
my staff strip off the meat for soup (use the stock you cooked it in) but thats a story for another day.

For the inquisitive, I get about a fifty five percent yield of fillet off a fish, and then about fifty percent
of the carcass ends as cooked meat so its pretty economical to do this.

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    9 Discussions


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Hey - does this work on most fish? I watched some guys filet some Alaskan halibut and silver salmon - my question is: will it work on rainbow or brown trout? Thanks!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    This definitely might be improved with a video. Still pictures hardly tell the tale. Thanks anyhow.

    3 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I'll try get a walkthrough video of me filleting a fish soon, no promises on the timeframe though.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    very interesting, and a nice job! However... did you skip the part of removing the guts? I was curious about that.

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I didn't skip it, we buy our fish ready scaled and gutted from the local fishermen. In all it works out as less waste for me to deal with.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I love this I don't ever want to do this, but I like that now I have the knowledge. I never would have been able to follow this without the clear, instructive pictures. I think this is a perfect use of this site. Great Instructable!

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks. Unfortunately I struggle to explain how to do it. Normally when I'm teaching my staff something like this, we all have a fish and a knife and I demo the step and wait for them to do it before moving on.