How to fillet a flat fish

The thought of filleting a fish might seem like a daunting one, but following a few simple tips (and the video below) from Head Chef Lecturer at our Cookery School in Padstow, Nick Evans, makes it rather easy. Follow Nick's expert guidance to learn how to successfully remove all four fillets from a whole flat fish - ready to be cooked in any number of ways in your kitchen at home. Find lots of recipe inspiration here.

Buying whole flat fish like lemon sole, plaice or turbot tends to be better value than opting for fillets, and don't forget to keep the bones which make fantastic fish stock - another great cookery skill to master at home. 

Follow our expert guidance

How to fillet a whole flat fish

You’ll need

- Your favourite whole flat fish

- Sharp, flexible knife

- Chopping board

Follow this method to fillet a whole flat fish

1) Start with the fish upside down on the chopping board to remove the bottom two fillets. Take your flexible knife and cut around the head in a circular motion – cutting to the bone, not through it. Do the same at the tail end of the fish.

2) Next, cut down the central line of the fish, which you should be able to clearly see where the spine runs. Take your knife and cut through the skin and down to the bone – gently pull the knife down the spine towards the tail. If you put your finger into the cut, you should be able to feel the spine.

3) Insert your knife next to the spine and run it down the whole length of the fish to begin releasing the fillet – this is where the flex of the knife is important. As you do this you should hear the knife running along the bones (this means you’re not leaving any of the flesh on them). Continue smooth knife strokes to release the fillet and then cut through

4) To remove the second fillet on the bottom, repeat the skill of inserting your knife along the backbone, slowly and smoothly bending the knife and running it down from head to tail. Keep close to the bone and don’t be afraid to move the fish around to make it more comfortable for you.

5) Flip the fish over and repeat the process of releasing the
fillets around the head and tail before cutting down the backbone to begin removing the two fillets.

6) Keep the bones to make fish stock, which can be used to provide great flavour to fish stew, risotto, soup and sauces. Freeze the bones until you’ve got around 750g to make your stock – only use white fish bones though, those from oily fish like salmon or mackerel will create a greasy stock.

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