Bone Removal For Cleaned Fish And Filleted Fish

While the terminology is often interchanged and loosely used, a cleaned fish and a filleted fish are actually two different things. It is important to point that out before describing simple methods for bone removal. A cleaned fish is essentially a whole fish carcass, while a fillet is the whole meat that has been separated from the rib bones of one side of the fish.

If the fish is to be cooked whole, you would obviously clean it first. Begin by slitting the fish from the lower belly to the gills, and remove the entrails. The gills and membrane should also be removed. Scale the fish, rinse, and wipe dry, washing it as little as possible.

On the other hand, to fillet a fish, you do not actually have to cut into the body cavity. Simply cut around the top of the head to separate the cartilage behind the gills from the flesh. Then make a cut from the head to the tail along one side of the top fin. Work this cut down and along the rib cage to separate the back of the fillet, and then work forward to cut away the rest of the meat from the ribs. Do this on the opposite side as well.

This is all fine and good, and odds are if you’ve ever caught a fish, you already know this stuff. But what about bone removal? In particular, the freshwater fish that I am accustomed to cleaning and filleting, tend to be loaded with a bunch of tiny bones. Here are a couple of simple methods depending upon whether the fish has been cleaned or filleted.

For a cleaned fish, lay it out on the grill. As the fish cooks, the bones will curl upward, away from the meat. When finished cooking, you should be able to gently run a fork or knife along the surface of the meat to separate it from the bones.

If you’re working with a fillet, you should be able to get most of the remaining bones prior to grilling. What I like to do is to soak the freshly cut fillets in a brine of sea salt and water for about twelve hours. Not only does this tenderize the fish and help work out the remaining bones, but it also brings good flavor to the meat. After the fillet is removed from the brine, you should be able scrape the blade of a knife against the flesh to release the bones. You may need to pick at a few or use a clean pair of pliers to free them, but the brine definitely helps. Then just rinse the bones away, and you’re good to go.

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About The Author, Nick Anthony offers grilled fish recipes, grilling tips, and stories from the grill.