How to Clean Fish | Best Guideline For Beginners Before Cooking

Fish is among the best type of food that is consumed in the whole world. In fact, the world's per capita fish intake has been rising constantly from a mean of 9.9 kg in the 1960s up to 11.5kgs in the year 1970. By 1990s, the amount had hit 14.4 kg and by 2005, it was 16.4 kg. Though the increase has not been uniform. It clearly indicates that people continue impressing fish eating around the world.

Knowing how to clean fish is the key thing about having an appetizing and an awesome fish. To help you know ​that, this article outlines the significant things that you should know about cleaning a fish.

​The first point in cleaning a fish is gathering all the necessary tools. You will require a fine filet knife that is sharpened, a flat surface like a table or kitchen counter. Make sure that you have a dustbin close to you so that you can dispose of anything that is unwanted as you continue with the cleaning. Before you begin, it is recommended that you dip the fish in cool flowing water to eliminate any lime.

How many methods can you use to clean a fish?

We have three major ways of cleaning and making a fish ready for storage in a refrigerator, and finally cooking and serving it. These are:

  • ​Gutting, gilling and scaling.
  • ​Gilleting
  • ​Steaking or cutleting.

Gutting, gilling and scaling

​This is the well-known and popular method of cleaning a fish. The method can be applied both as a first step before one of the other cleaning techniques discussed here or as final by itself (if you intending to cook the fish as a whole).

To gut, most of the fishes, dip a fine knife into the vent and start slicing all the way up to the gills. After the gut cavity is fully open, remove all the gill assembly as well as the entire entrails with a lot of care. You may require to slice around the areas of the gill arches to aid in removing them. I have noticed that many fish have a blood-filled section hidden at the back of a membrane going along the upper part of the gut cavity just under the backbone. If you didn't know, this is where the kidney of the fish is located. For best results, completely remove this particular gland with the aid of a stiff-bristled brush or an old teaspoon before fully cleaning, draining and finally drying the hollow stomach cavity.

Note that you should be cautious while inserting the knife into the fish. If you insert it so deeply, you might end up bursting open the stomach or other glands and scattering their content.

Should the fish be scaled before or after gutting?

Fish can be scaled either after or before gutting, with the use of a specifically made scaler. Alternatively, you can choose to use the back of the knife. The knife blade can do it by lifting the scales away by stroking rapidly forward, starting from the fish's tail towards its head. Try not to use the cutting edge of the knife because it will dull so easily.


While is gutting, gilling and scaling is the popular method of cleaning a fish, filleting much popular technique. And may be done on an unimpaired carcass before gutting, gilling and scaling. It can also be used after the initial step has been undertaken. (In case the there is a plan to leave the skin on the fillet for the sake of cooking, the fish must be scaled before it is filleted)

Which is the best way of filleting?

You can best remove fillets by cautiously cutting down to the backbone simply at the back of the fish's gills. And head before putting the knife on its side and slicing towards the tail, holding the blade as close as possible to the bone fabrication to reduce wastage. Also, remember that some people like filleting from the tail to the head. Fillets can be skinned after the removal if you may need to do so, and extra lines of tiny bones can be scraped away or even eliminated using forceps or tweezers.

Cutleting or steaking

Some big fish are made for cooking by sawing or slicing right down into the fish and via the backbone at approximately 90 degrees to give cutlets or steaks. You can decide to use a commercial butchers' knife band saw, stiff knife (serrated or standard), or even hand saw. It is normally easier to freeze the fish first when using a band saw. Since the skin is left on cutlets or steaks in most cases, most fish should preferably be scaled before this process.

Storing the Fish

Once butchered or cleaned, raw fish may be kept in the fridge or on ice for about five or six days without notable decay, provided their temperature is kept lesser than 40° Fahrenheit (5° Celsius) and any liquid is drained away from the fish as soon as possible.

For the case of long-term storage, effectively seal then refrigerate the fish swiftly when it is still fresh. Keep it at a temperature of utmost 5° Fahrenheit. Use vacuum sealing fillets before freezing limits freezer burn and hugely prolongs their frozen shelf life.

​The period that frozen fish takes before a notable decay depends so much on the oil or fat composition of the fish. Thinner fish may be stored longer, however as practice, all frozen fish should be thawed, immediately cooked, and consumed within the three or four months of fishing, and should not be frozen again after thawing.

To be sincere, cleaning a fish is not such a simple or pleasant task. However, once you are done with one and tasted the outcome, you will enjoy doing it. Like any other job, it will seem so difficult at the beginning but with time, you will develop more skills and notice that it not like rocket science. Although there are be distinct types of fish, you will later realize that cleaning them is just the same when you are more experienced.

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