Most people who have tried it would agree that filleting a fish is harder than it looks. We won't lie to you, it does take some time to master. We do think though, that with proper instruction and a bit of practice, anyone can learn how to fillet a fish neatly with a minimum of waste.
Here is some advice that should help you get started.
When you fillet a fish you are really slicing a razor sharp knife through a slippery bag of sharp bones and spines. Be smart and approach the task with the care it deserves.
We have filleted countless tonnes of fish over the years and have managed to come out relatively unscathed, so please read our tips on how to cut the fish and not yourself.
Your main goal when learning how to fillet a fish should be to take off nice neat fillets and leave clean bones with very little waste. In the seafood industry this is referred to as getting good recovery.
We are very passionate about recovery rates and we cringe when we see good fish butchered. We have seen a lot of fish processed over the years, both by professionals and amateurs, and we can safely say that many tonnes of good fish gets left on the bones and thrown in the bin each year in Australia!
We really hope that our videos help in some small way to reduce this awful waste.
Good recovery comes with good technique and practice. We go into detail about calculating recovery as well as the approximate recovery rate you should expect from different species on this page.
Sometimes new filleters watch a video like this one, and wonder what it takes to get that fast. Our advice is to forget about speed completely when you're learning. Trying to race the clock when you're still learning is very dangerous and also quite counterproductive. Your priorities should always be:
Your speed will improve naturally with practice, don't force it. If you are interested we have a bit more to say about this topic on our FAQ page.
You need to have a very sharp knife to fillet fish cleanly. Just because your knife is sharp enough to cut through an orange doesn't mean it's sharp enough to fillet with. When we say sharp we mean like a razor, and that's not just an expression. You should literally be able to shave the hairs off your arm. Safety disclaimer: Don't use your filleting knife to shave the hairs off your arm.
Any skill worth learning is going to take some time to master so don't be discouraged if learning how to fillet a fish seems difficult at first. Just keep practicing and watch as many of our videos as you can to pick up new tips and insights - good luck!