Kitchen Tips

Pro Tips: How to Clean and Cook a Whole Fish

Whether you’re handy with a rod and reel or have just snapped up a freshly caught fish from your fishmonger, our step-by- step guide to cleaning and cooking a whole fish will have you prepping that fish like a pro.

whole fish

Buying a whole fish

1. Look for fish that have bright skin or scales.
2. Your fish should have a clean, fresh sea fragrance. It shouldn’t smell “fishy”.
3. Give your fish a poke: it should feel firm and slippery, but not sticky.
4. Check to see that it has nice bright pink-red gills.
5. The eyes should be bright and clear, not cloudy

Scaling a whole fish

1. Be sure to clean your whole fish as soon as you get it home and plan to eat it that day. Keep it in a bucket of icy water or in the fridge until you’re ready to clean it.
2. Now, things are going to get messy, so if possible, set up a table outside, covered in newspaper. Have a garden hose handy so you can rinse the fish and the area once you’re done.
3. Equip yourself with a bucket, a sharp filleting knife, a butter knife or scaling tool, rubber gloves and a tray for your cleaned fish.
4. To scale the fish, hold the fish firmly by the head, then use the butter knife or scaling tool to scrape the scales from the tail towards the head. Take care not to puncture your skin when working near the fins, and be
sure to remove the scales on both sides of the fish.
5. Gently rinse the fish with a hose – make sure the pressure isn’t too hard, otherwise you may damage the delicate flesh.

Two trout fishes on wooden plate prepared for lunch

Gutting a whole fish

1. Take your sharp filleting knife and insert it into the anus, near the tail. Firmly hold the head, then draw the knife towards the head, slicing the fish through to the gills.
2. Use your fingers to prise open the abdominal cavity, then carefully remove and discard all the innards.
3. Rinse the cavity and exterior of your fish using your hose.
4. If you want to remove the head, cut directly behind the gills at a diagonal angle through the bone, then flip and make another cut.
5. Your whole fish is now ready to cook.

Cooking a whole fish

1. For a whole fish with the head on, try this steamed coral cod with goji berries on lotus leaf.
2. If you don’t want to be wasteful, follow these four simple steps to making Malaysian fish head curry.
3. Or, fillet your fish then try your hand at these nine tasty Asian fish recipes that are ready in no time.

For more professional cooking tips, discover the best cuts of meat for Asian beef recipes.

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