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How To Debone A Cooked Fish

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Remove head and tail: Cut into the flesh following the curve of the gill cover. Gently pull head away. Cut the tail and remove from fish. Discard both.
  2. Remove fins: Using a fork, gently pull away the various fins running across the top and bottom of the fish away. Discard.
  3. Nudge the cooked flesh off of the vertebrae and bones.
  4. Remove vertebrae and bones: Slowly lift the bones upwards and away from the body of the fish. Go back with a sharp knife and fork and remove any bones that might still remain. 
  5. Reassemble fish: Reposition the two pieces of flesh back in place. 
  6. Serve immediately with garnish of fresh herbs and lemon plus, suggested sauce.
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How To Debone A Cooked Fish

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A step-by-step guide on how to debone a cooked whole fish like a pro!

  • clock icon
    5 MIN
  • 4 SERVINGS
Step Five: Gently pull the spine and bones up and away from the fish

Here’s your step-by-step guide on HOW TO DEBONE A COOKED FISH. Hurray!

I’ll begin this post with a recap; it all started with this superior recipe for GRILLED WHOLE RAINBOW TROUT, where we showed you our easy, foolproof way of cooking up this beautiful fish. Next, we got the cooked whole fish ready to be enjoyed by deboning it. Lastly, we served our trout dinner with a tangy, flavourful HERBED BEURRE BLANC made with butter and fresh herbs. If you’re a lover of perfectly prepared fish, these recipes are for you!

After posting the recipe, we received a number of compliments about the way we deboned the trout. We figured it a good idea to post this standalone story on HOW TO DEBONE A COOKED FISH. It’s your step-by-step guide on a culinary technique that is easier than you might think. Better still, we’ve created a dedicated video to guide you as well.

One thing we need to clarify is the size of the fish that works best. We suggest a whole fish that weighs between one-half to three pounds – think small to medium-sized whole fish. We’ve had success with rainbow trout, bass, branzino, red snapper, sardines, salmon, mackerel, pike and rockfish. Anything larger is too unwieldy to both cook and debone.

Our goal to turn you into a pro takes just seven easy steps. Here’s HOW TO DEBONE A COOKED FISH:

Here's a perfectly prepared grilled whole rainbow trout
This is easier than you might think!

STEP ONE: COOK THE FISH

This method of deboning a whole fish will work on fish that has been poached, oven roasted, panfried or grilled. Make sure to click HERE for a suggestion on an easy lemon, onion and fresh herb stuffing; it will impart pleasing flavours to any fish you decide to cook.

Step One: Remove the head and tail
Have a side plate handy for the “discards”.

STEP TWO: REMOVE HEAD AND TAIL

To begin the deboning process, gently remove the head of the fish by cutting into the flesh following the curve of the gill cover. Carefully pull the head away. On the opposing end of the fish, cut the tail, also known as the caudal fin, and gently pull it away from the fish. Discard both.

Step Two: Remove the fins
Pluck the fins away from the cooked flesh.

STEP THREE: REMOVE FINS

Fish have a series of fins running along the top and undersides of their bodies. Using a fork, gently pull them free from the flesh. They come away with little effort, almost like plucking them off the meat.

Step Three: Cut down into the upper fillet
Make sure to use a sharp knife.

STEP FOUR: CENTRE CUT

Fish have a central run of vertebrae, the backbone, that runs lengthwise through the centre of the fillet. Using a sharp knife or straight butcher’s blade, carefully cut through the flesh of the top fillet on both sides of the spine from one end to the other.

Step Four: Coax the flesh away from the central spine
Nudging the flesh away reveals the bones.

STEP FIVE: MOVE FLESH

The next step is to gently nudge the cooked flesh off of the vertebrae and bones. We find the flesh moves easily and a fork is an excellent tool to accomplish this. Push the flesh so that quite a bit of the backbone is revealed.

Step Five: Gently pull the spine and bones up and away from the fish
Gently pull the bones up and away from the fish.

STEP SIX: REMOVE BONES

Lifting and removing the vertebrae complete with bones attached is quite easy. Lift the spinal column at the spot where the head used to be, then slowly lift the bones up towards you and away from the bottom fillet of the fish. Go back with a sharp knife and fork and remove any bones that might still remain. If preparing salmon, remove pin bones as well.

Step Six: Nudge the flesh back in place over the bottom fillet
Pushing the flesh back in place, it’s as if the fish arrived already deboned!

STEP SEVEN: REASSEMBLE

The final step is to reposition the two pieces of flesh that were coaxed away back in place. Prepare to be amazed at how simple this step is. The fish seems to come back together almost by magic and your perfectly deboned cooked fish is ready to be enjoyed. Add a squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of salt and a few slices of lemon for garnish and you’re good to go.

How to Debone a Cooked Fish
Beautiful!

Although this post focuses on the process to debone a cooked whole fish, we couldn’t miss this chance to promote our GRILLED WHOLE RAINBOW TROUT recipe. The recipe is hugely popular and easy to prepare. It begins with us sprinkling the cavity of the fish with salt and black pepper. Then we slice lemon and onion and place them inside the fish with sprigs of fresh herbs like chives, dill and fresh parsley. Last thing is to drizzle the trout with olive oil before placing it onto a hot grill to cook. The entire recipe is phenomenal.

How about a few side dish suggestions for when you make it? Serve your fish with our EASY SUMMER COUSCOUS SALAD, this SIMPLE BEAN SIDE DISH, our EASY MASHED SWEET POTATOES, or our BEAN, CORN AND TOMATO SALAD.

You just learned HOW TO DEBONE A COOKED FISH! Now, get to it!

WATCTV

Products used in this recipe

Just click on the below links to purchase items through Amazon.com and add them to your collection. Happy shopping!

How To Debone A Cooked Fish

Ingredients

  • 1 whole cooked fish

Directions

  1. Remove head and tail: Cut into the flesh following the curve of the gill cover. Gently pull head away. Cut the tail and remove from fish. Discard both.
  2. Remove fins: Using a fork, gently pull away the various fins running across the top and bottom of the fish away. Discard.
  3. Nudge the cooked flesh off of the vertebrae and bones.
  4. Remove vertebrae and bones: Slowly lift the bones upwards and away from the body of the fish. Go back with a sharp knife and fork and remove any bones that might still remain. 
  5. Reassemble fish: Reposition the two pieces of flesh back in place. 
  6. Serve immediately with garnish of fresh herbs and lemon plus, suggested sauce.

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