How to Gut and Scale Fish
Most of the time these days we simply buy fish fillets, with all the work done for us. Sometimes though, it is useful to know how to scale fish to prepare something a little more special.
This is a messy process, so you will want to do this outside, or in a place where you can clean up easily. Scales will fly everywhere.
The easiest tool to scale a fish is a butter knife. They make special scalers, but you don’t need one.
- Start scaling your fish by holding it firmly with one hand and scraping from tail to head with the knife. Make sure you get the scales on the top of the fish and near the fins — and don’t forget the tail.
- You start the gutting process by slipping the tip of your fillet knife into the “vent” and slicing upwards — away from the fish, and away from the guts — toward the head.
- You complete the cut by forcing the knife through the bony portion that lies between the pelvic fins (the ones that are paired up on the belly of the fish) and on up to the base of the lower jaw.
- You remove the guts by reaching in and grabbing them right at the base of the head, where you will feel everything connect. Pinch that spot and pull the whole lot out. On large fish you will have to cut this with your knife.
- The gills will impart a bitter flavour to your fish, and will make it spoil faster, so they need to go. You can most easily do this by cutting them where they attach at either end of the arc that they form. I use kitchen shears, but you could use your knife. On small fish, you can just rip them out.
- Once the attachments are cut, you can remove the gills easily.
Now wash the scaled, gutted fish well in ice-cold water, then pack on a bed of crush ice until you’re ready to cook it.