When watching a talented Japanese chef construct exquisite sushi plates, it is clear that there is an art to fish preparation.
It’s tough not to be impressed by their precision and talent when they gut, clean, slice and scale a fish with superb knife skills. Most chefs work hard to grasp the art and technique involved in the preparation of fish, determined to develop this skill as well.
Understanding How Fish Differs From Meat
Before starting the process of preparing fish, it’s important to know the difference between fish flesh and meat. This is mostly due to their muscular appearance.
Meat muscles and connective tissues are often stiff and sinewy, and as a result, slow cooking procedures or those requiring a high amount of heat favor them. Muscle and connective tissues in fish, on the other hand, are significantly more sensitive. This necessitates adjusting the cooking process and treating the protein with caution so as not to damage the delicate fish flesh.
Another aspect for chefs when preparing fish is determining which flesh group the fish belongs to.
There are three major groups:
Scale a Fish Technique
Scale a fish is a relatively simple procedure, but it may be a dirty one. Gather and set out all necessary tools before commencing, as well as safeguard the cleaning area from flying fish scales.
Recommended Scale a Fish Equipment
- Specialty best fish scaler (a butter knife can also be used if preferred)
- Clean garbage bag if working indoors (this can be handy to help catch flying scales)
- Large cutting board
- Gloves (optional)
Scale a Fish Steps
- Lay out a large section of newspaper underneath cutting board
- If using a bag, spread it wide open on top of cutting board & place fish flat inside bag
- Hold fish tail
- Using the scaler (or butter knife) run it up and down the fish body, using small back and forward motions. This should lift all the scales off
- Repeat on the other side
- Wash fish thoroughly on both sides
Technique When Gutting and Cleaning a Fish
To protect the safety of diners, all fish innards must be removed before cooking. Gutting and cleaning a fish is an important stage in the preparation process.
Because there are so many different shapes of fish, the gutting procedure varies slightly. Regardless of the size or shape of the fish, the general stages of cutting a huge gash, removing the innards, and washing remain the same.
Set up the necessary equipment before starting the operation.
Recommended Fish Gutting and Cleaning Equipment
- Large cutting board
- Gloves (optional)
- Fish filleting knife
Gutting & Cleaning Steps
- Lay newspaper down on the bench
- Place cutting board on top
- Lay fish down on board
- Insert tip of fish knife into the belly near anal opening/vent/tail end
- Run the knife up and along the belly, slitting it open, finishing the cut at the head
- Ensure this cut is very shallow, using only the knife tip so as not to pierce the innards
- Spread the body open
- Pull all innards out
- Discard in bucket
- If the fish has a bloodline, scrap this out with thumbnail or knife, being careful not to pierce flesh
- Slice off all fins and discard in bucket
- Rinse the cavity out under running water
How to Clean Mackerel
In many nations, this is a very popular fish type. Mackerel is an oily fish that can be smoked, salted, grilled, or stewed. The texture is medium to firm.
Despite the fact that mackerel have relatively small scales, they do not require scaling. However, a thorough cleansing of the skin is advised.
Follow the same procedure for gutting and cleaning as mentioned above. Because mackerel have pronounced bloodlines, pay special care to scooping out the bloodline.
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