How to Clean a Fish (with Images)

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How to Clean a Fish (with Images)
How to Clean a Fish (with Images)

Cleaning a fish is quite simple, though not always pleasant. But once you've done this for the first time and tasted the glorious taste of fresh fish, you'll no longer mind dealing with blood and guts. Remember to work in a very clean environment and properly dispose of fish waste after you finish.


Method 1 of 2: Cleaning the Fish

Clean a Fish Step 1

Step 1. Keep a bag or bucket nearby to dispose of viscera and bones, and cover the surface with newspaper to keep it clean

It is important to set up the disposal system in advance so that you can dispose of giblets and leftovers without having to abandon your position. And the newspaper lining absorbs the fluids that the fish will inevitably get rid of during cleaning.

Clean a Fish Step 2

Step 2. With a blunt knife or spoon, quickly scrape the skin to remove scales

You must work in the opposite direction from which they project, from the tail to the head. The gesture should be short, superficial and with the utensil at an angle, so that it infiltrates under the scales, pulling them out quickly. It is also possible to use the back of the blade at an almost perpendicular angle to scrape the fish.

  • Do this on both sides of the fish.
  • Placing the fish under running water or simply immersing it in water can make the task easier and lessen the mess.
  • Don't worry if you leave some scales behind - they're not tasty, but they're harmless.
Clean a Fish Step 3

Step 3. If you are dealing with hulls, catfish or other thick-shelled fish that live at the bottom of the water, consider skinning them

Its thick, unpleasant skin is discarded by most people before cooking. To do this, make a 2.5 cm cut right at the junction between the fish's head and body. And, holding the animal's head, pull the skin towards the tail. Carefully rinse when finished.

Clean a Fish Step 4

Step 4. Make a shallow cut from the anus to the head

The small hole in the fish's belly, near the tail, is the anus. With a sharp knife, cut from this point to the base of the gills.

Don't push the knife too far, or you will end up opening the fish's intestines. Make a shallow cut so that you can remove them intact later, preventing the leakage of the contents they keep and a big (and unappetizing) mess

Clean a Fish Step 5

Step 5. With your fingers or a blunt spoon, remove the fish entrails

Remove from the fish cavity all its slender and gelatinous viscera, which should come out without much effort. Once that's done, check the inside of it to make sure you haven't forgotten anything, like the kidney - a large, dark mass near the back - or the filamentous giblets that cling to the cavity walls.

Clean a Fish Step 6

Step 6. Scrape off any dark membranes you find inside the chest cavity

Not every fish has its interior covered by this thin membrane, but it is important to remove it from the species that have it. It has a strong flavor and gives off an oily and fishy odor that are undesirable in the preparation.

Clean a Fish Step 7

Step 7. Cut off the head just behind the gills if desired

It is not necessary and, depending on the species and method of preparation, it is not desirable to cut the head of the fish, which gives the dish more flavor and complexity. Furthermore, the meat in the "cheeks" is considered the best part of the fish in certain cultures.

Clean a Fish Step 8

Step 8. Remove dorsal fins by pulling firmly from tail towards head

This part, like the head, doesn't need to be removed if you don't want to, but it can help you remove some small, delicate bones. Simply catch the fin at the point closest to the tail and quickly pull it towards the head to tear it off completely.

Clean a Fish Step 9

Step 9. Rinse the fish, inside and out, in cold water

You need to wash both the outside, which helps to remove any scales stuck to the leather, and the inside, which washes away the blood and small pieces of giblets. The fish is now ready to be cooked!

Method 2 of 2: Filleting a Fish (Quick Preparation)

Clean a Fish Step 10

Step 1. Place the fish on its side on the bench and cut it well behind the top of the head until you reach the spine

But don't cut through the spine, just get the blade to it.

Clean a Fish Step 11

Step 2. Continue to cut around the fish's head

Remember: you shouldn't cut the spine. You will not remove the head; it will only leave it partially separated from the body.

Clean a Fish Step 12

Step 3. Leave the blade parallel to the table and cut the fish up to the tail, running the blade across the side of the fish

Basically, you'll cut the entire side of the fish to remove the flank, skin and all. The knife should move perpendicular to the spine, which you can use as a guide for a smooth, horizontal cut.

Clean a Fish Step 13

Step 4. Turn the fish over and repeat on the opposite side

Repeat the process on the other half of the fish to remove the other fillet.

Clean a Fish Step 14

Step 5. With a smaller knife, lift and remove the rib cage from inside the fillet

It is the set of small, almost transparent bones in the bottom third of the fillet, and must be completely detached from the flesh.

Clean a Fish Step 15

Step 6. Remove scales from fish or skin

Anyone who wants to cook the fish with the leather can remove only the scales, scraping them with the blunt side of a knife. Make short, upward gestures from the tail to the head to quickly remove all scales. If you don't want the skin, you can simply slide the knife between it and the fish's flesh to skin it.

Clean a Fish Step 16

Step 7. Another solution would be to cut the fillets into fillets, using a sharp knife to slice them lengthwise

To do this, just slide the knife perpendicular to the spine, from one end of the meat to the other, to cut fillets of approximately 2.5 cm thick. This cut is common in large fish - such as trout and salmon - and leaves the spine in the center of the fish.


  • If you don't know the species of fish, don't eat it. If you still want to eat it, remove all the fins. There are fish that have dangerous spines on their fins!
  • Only clean and eviscerate fish larger than 7.5 cm in size.
  • In brook trout, all fins are edible. When fried with flour in butter, they taste similar to potato chips.


  • Some people accidentally eat the wrong kind of tropical fish. The rule for fish consumption is this: "seasoned, released; tropical, risky". Do not feed on tropical fish unless you are sure they are not poisonous.
  • When eating fish, keep in mind that no matter how expertly the spine is removed, there may be ribs in the middle of the meat. The ribs, also called spines, are edible, but care must be taken so that they don't end up in the trachea.

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