When it comes to fresh fish, they can usually be classified as either round fish or flatfish. Round fish have their spine running along the top of their cylindrical shaped bodies. There are two filets; one on either side of the spine. Bass, swordfish, catfish, cod and salmon are just a few in this category.
You’ve heard me say it time and time again. I guarantee this isn’t going to be the last time I say it either. Butchering your own proteins at home is an incredible money saver, and it’s much easier than you might think. This beautiful Norwegian salmon was only $6.32/lb and is better than any of the stuff you’ll find in most grocery stores.
A little about these beautiful fish. There’s been a revolution in sustainability with the fish industry. With this revolution also came a great improvement in flavor. While this fish is still farm raised, it’s done in a fashion that previously hadn’t been done.
Salmon used to be kept in cages that were so crowded, the salmon used to eat each other. They also ate their own waste. Tasty right? They were fed sardines, which are a very fatty and oily fish. This in turn made the fish taste fishy, giving the salmon a bad reputation.
Now, salmon like these Norwegian salmon, are kept in cages that are 97% water and only 3% salmon. They’re being fed whitefish, which are much less oily, and it’s natural food source. These fish are healthy, sweet, almost fruity in flavor. Best of all, they’re not fishy!
I’ll show you here, how easy it is to break one down yourself. This particular beauty was 16 lbs.
First step is to make sure you’re getting a fish that truly is fresh. To do that, the easiest way is to look at two things. The eyes and the gills.
Looking at the eyes, you want them to be clear, moist, and full. If they’re sunken in at all, then the fish is far from fresh.
The gills, should be beautifully feathered, and deep red to purple. These are what filtered the oxygen from the water after all.
The first cut is going to be behind the pectoral fin and along the collar, going back to the spine. Everything in filleting a round fish comes down to the spine.
The next cut is going to be down the center of the back along the spine. With this cut we’ll go above the dorsal fin. Follow the spine all the way down to the tail.
Now, take your knife and cut along the spine, staying in contact with it the whole time. This may take some force, as you’ll be cutting through the pin bones.
That is one beautiful filet!
Flip the fish over and repeat the process. There will be some meat left on the bone. We’re using a straight bade to cut something round. Take those bones and use them for fish stock, or “Fume”
Now we need to clean those fillets up.
Along the belly cavity, there’s a fatty membrane that keeps everything in place. We’ll need to remove this to reveal the beautiful pink flesh underneath. To do this, we’ll first trace underneath the rib bones that are still in the filet. Follow the rest of the membrane, keeping the tip of your knife as close to the membrane as possible.
Remember all those pin bones you cut through earlier? Now we get to remove them…I’ll be using fish tweezers for this, but you can also use small needle nose pliers. Start with the ones in the head of the filet. Grab the end firmly and pull in the same direction it’s facing. If you pull in any other direction you could tear the flesh. Move the entire way down the filet, removing the bones as you go.
Now we’re going to remove the thick fat line from the top of the filet. Insert your finger between the fat and the flesh and trace along the length of the filet. Cut the fat line off.
Next we cut the belly off. The belly is the fattiest part of the salmon. It’s best used in soups or for salmon cakes.
Remove the tail. Since this part isn’t an even thickness, it’s better used for things like gravlax…that’s another post.
Now since the side of the filet that’s closest to the back is thicker than the belly side, I like to do what’s called, “blocking” the salmon. Cut the filet in half lengthwise. Next, cut portions that are between six and seven ounces. If you don’t have a scale, cut the filets into portions that are appropriate to your preference.
That’s it! Easy, cheap, and fresh!