How to fillet a fish

Follow this step-by-step guide on the simplest way to fillet a fish, and learn what the best tools for the job are

Essential kitchen kit

Filleting knife - A knife with a flexible blade allows you to move easily between the flesh and bones of the fish - and the sharper the knife the easier the job.

Scissors - You'll need sharp scissors to snip off the fins.

Need to know

This is the most effective way to fillet round fish such as sae bass, mackerel, trout, sea bream, john dory, cod, pollock, coley, mullet, salmon and sardines. Ask your fishmonger to scale the fish for you.


Step 1 - Put the scaled fish on a chopping board and, using scissors, trim off the fins by the head on each side, and any fins that run along the top and on the underside of the fish.


Step 2 - With the tip of the knife, pierce the stomach of the fish using the small hole by the tail as a guide. Run the knife from the tail to the head, cutting open the stomach. Clean out the contents of the stomach and rinse the fish in cold running water.


Step 3 - Return the fish to the chopping board and make a long cut around the head and just below the gills on both sides: remove the head.


Step 4 - Tail towards you, run the knife down the spine to the tail in a gentle slicing - not sawing - action, working the blade between the spine and the flesh. Repeat until the fillet begins to come away - lift the fillet to see where you're working.


Step 5 - When you get to the rib bones, let the knife follow the shape of the fish and slice over the bones. Once you've removed the fillet, set it aside.


Step 6 - Turn over the fish and repeat with the second fillet, this time starting at the tail and working towards the head. Be careful - the second fillet may be a little trickier to remove.


This article is from Waitrose Kitchen, March 2012.