How To Properly Clean A Fish

Seafood or fish is a staple in many people's diets in Singapore. And thanks to the marvels of modern refrigeration and shipping, buying seafood has never been easier. Whether you are looking for frozen fillets, half-sides, or steaks, they are all readily available from any supermarket or wet market near you. Since we have fresh fish all year round, it’s important to know how to scale, clean, and store fish properly. 

There are many different kinds of fish, with each type requiring a somewhat different method. However, certain broad characteristics are common to most fish despite the variations. Hence, a general approach to cleaning and filleting a fish can be applied with much success. 

Here’s how you can clean your fish in four easy steps: 

Scale Your Fish Thoroughly 

If you want to scale your fish, we recommend doing it first before the gutting process. This is because when the fish’s body is slightly more rigid, it can withstand the vigorous scaling action better. While most fishmongers are in the wet market or supermarket, it is still handy for you to know how to do it on your own. All you need is a fish scaler or just the back of your knife: 

  1. Lay your fish on its side, with the tail facing your dominant hand. 
  2. Use a kitchen towel to protect your other hand as you hold the fish by its head near the gills. With your tool of choice in your dominant hand, scape against your fish's scales, starting from the tail side. The scales should easily fly off. Flip the fish over and repeat this process until all the scales have been removed – the fish should feel smooth to the touch. 
  3. Once your fish is completely scaled, rinse it under cool running water before patting it dry with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel. 

Cleaning Or Gutting

Fish is mostly made up of muscles and flesh, with the bulk of their organs and the digestive system gathered in the softer front section, below, and behind the head. While this step is rather self-explanatory, it is crucial to note that gutting should be done before freezing the fish to ensure that there is no stale fishy smell after it is cooked.

Grab a sharp, thin-bladed knife and follow these steps below to clean or gut a fish properly: 

  1. Place your scaled fish on a cutting board with its belly facing you. Locate the fish’s anal fin (the big fin closest to the tail) and insert its tip into the belly with the edge of your blade facing the head.
  2. Work carefully to cut the belly to the centre of the fish’s gills. Most of the innards should now be exposed. Pull the knife out and set it aside. 
  3. To remove the guts from the fish’s cavity, you can hold its body down with one hand. With two fingers from the other hand, reach into the head-end of the cut and grab the tubes. 
  4. In one fluid motion, push your fingers up into the back of the fish and pull your hand toward the anal fin to scoop out as much loose matter as you can. Discard these innards away. 
  5. Repeat step 4 until the cavity is empty. You should now be able to see and feel the bones of the fish – the spine and ribs that run down its body.
  6. Rinse the cavity under cool running water. Be sure to use your fingers to scrape away any remaining bits of tissue, organs, and blood. 
  7. If you plan to cook the fish whole, it is best to cut out the gills. Insert the point of the knife into the part of the gills that is closest to the fish’s mouth. 
  8. Carefully cut into and around the gill structure until you can remove the whole gill. Repeat this on the other side. In addition to the gill, you should cut off the other fins to be discarded. 
  9. Rinse the cavities under cool running water, use a clean kitchen towel or paper towel to pat the inside and outside of the fish dry. 
  10. If you intend to fillet the fish, you must cut off its head. Resting the fish on its side, place your knife behind the gill cavity. With a little more force, cut through the backbone to sever its head from the body.

Fillet Your Fish 

Now that you have cleaned your fish, it’s time to slice it into edible cuts. You will notice that the flesh is thickest where the head has been severed and gradually slims down to the tail. Hence, fish fillets are one of the more versatile ways to fire up fresh fish. 

To fillet a fish, you can place your non-dominant hand flat on the fish to keep it steady. Using your other hand, position the centre part of your knife lengthwise slightly above the backbone and ribs of the fish. In long sweeping motions, cut the flesh from head to tail, letting the blade slip out the narrow end just before the tail. The meat should come off in one piece. This is your first fillet. You can flip the fish over and repeat. 

Many varieties of fish like salmon have a series of fine bones, otherwise known as pin bones, that run through the flesh. You can sometimes see or feel them by gently running your fingertips along the bottom half of the fillet. These bones must be removed, and you can do so by either pulling them out with your fingers or a pair of tweezers. 

Save The Hassle Of Cleaning Fish And Order Online From All Big

Don’t be discouraged if you cannot clean or fillet a fish properly. With practice, you will develop a “feel” for it and gauge the angle and pressure needed to make the different cuts. Scaling and cleaning a fish can take up a lot of time, hence, if you are looking for something hassle-free and convenient, you can always check out All Big for frozen fish fillets. As an online seafood grocer, All Big allows customers to place their orders and buy fish online, and have them delivered right to your doorstep. Offering a wide selection of seafood like salmon fillets, sea bass fillets, or even a whole cleaned red garoupa, they’ve taken the trouble of cleaning out of your hands!

Shop a wide variety of frozen fish fillets, finger food, and even steamboat ingredients at your convenience on our online store today!

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