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What is the Right Way to Clean a Fish Before Cooking?

How to Clean a Fish Online Seafood Delivery seafood delivery in London seafood direct

Regardless of how you prefer to fish, nothing beats the satisfaction of reeling in a great catch. Cleaning it, however, may not be your cup of tea.

Fish preparation is messy, but it is worth it—fresh fish is delicious and cooks quickly. To prepare your catch for dinner, follow these steps:

Remove the Scales

  1. Rinse the fish and pat it dry with a paper towel to make it easier to grab and less slimy.
  2. Hold the head firmly with your hand, and with short, quick strokes of a fish scaler, remove the scales on both sides of the fish.
  3. Remove any remaining scales from the fish by rinsing it under running water. To avoid damaging the meat, keep the water stream at low pressure.

Gut a Fish

  1. Lay the fish on a chopping board.
  2. Insert the tip of the knife into the fish's belly and run the blade up to the head. Keep in mind: If you press too hard or dig too far, you will puncture the intestines. This will not affect your fish taste, but it will make it stink!
  3. Next, scoop out the entrails and any dark gut lining with a spoon, or the fish will have an intense, oily flavour.
  4. Remove the head and the gills with the knife if they are still attached. If you are cooking trout, you might want to skip this step.
  5. Lastly, using a low-pressure stream of cold water, rinse the inside and outside of the fish.

Cut into Steaks or Fillets

This is an optional step. After gutting your fish, you can cook it whole.

If you are cooking a big fish—such as tuna, salmon, or mahi-mahi—you might want to chop it into steaks. Fish steaks are ideal for grilling. After scaling and gutting your fish, follow these two steps:

  1. Slice the fish through the spine at a 90° angle. Each steak should be 1 to 1 ½ inches thick.
  2. Leave the skin and spine on the steaks, but remove any other bones and trim away excess fat.

Want fish fillets instead?

  1. Rinse the fish well with cool, low-pressure water. Before proceeding, ensure that the fish skin is not slick and that your hands are dry.
  2. Lay the fish on the chopping board on its side, with the dorsal fin facing you.
  3. Remove the fin and gills.
  4. Slide the knife down to the spine without severing it.
  5. Turn the knife to cut down along the backbone once it reaches the spine.
  6. When finished, it should resemble a flap that goes from the fish's head to its tail. Continue cutting the fillet away from the bones after lifting the flap.
  7. Keep the blade as close to the ribs and backbone as possible to get the most meat.
  8. Repeat these steps on the opposite side.
  9. Lay the fillets on a chopping board if you want to remove the skin.
  10. Slide the knife under the skin and cut it out.
  11. After rinsing with cold water, pat dry with a paper towel.


You can clean and gut a fish if you have ever cooked roast chicken or turkey. The prep work can get messy, but it is well worth it. Cooking fish takes less than half the time, and it is packed with nutrients. You don't have to wait till your next catch to practice. Pick up your fresh whole fish at Seafood Direct!

Do you have any questions about our seafood delivery service? Call us at 01472 566000 or write to us at One of our representatives will get back to you shortly!

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