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Filleting Trout

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Filleting Trout
CoolI just tried to locate a post I put up last year about filleting trout and found that it was no longer in existence. Here it is again:

Once you master the basic arts of filleting fish, you can also fillet trout. You need sharp knives, because trout flesh is delicate and will just get mashed by dull tools. You also need to add an extra step, as opposed to filleting perch, walleye, bass or other warm water species. You need to slice out the row of flesh bones that run up into the flesh along the spine. It is a little extra work, but the end result is so much better you will be glad you did it.
This writeup is intended for use in conjunction with the series of pictures I took of the filleting process. The key to success is to practice…with good knives…until you can turn out good skinless and boneless fillets every time. You will appreciate the difference in the enjoyment of eating trout and being able to use them in different recipes by having no little pesky bones to worry about.

STEP 1: First get some trout. Any trout over about 10 – 12 inches can be filleted effectively. I use an electric knife for the basic filleting cuts, because it is much easier than using blade fillet knives, and usually produces more efficient fillets from the delicate flesh of the trout.

STEP 2: Begin by making a cut straight down behind the gills, until you reach the spine.

STEP 3: When your blade (standard or electric) reaches the spine, rotate the blade 90 degrees, toward the tail, and begin cutting the fillet away from the spine. Be sure to keep the blade absolutely flat…parallel to the surface of the cutting board. Move the knife slowly and firmly to avoid slipping and ruining the fillet.

STEP 4: Stop cutting before severing the final bit of skin at the tail. Flip the fillet over onto the skin side, still attached to the carcass, and prepare to start skinning the fillet.

STEP 5: Remove the skin from the fillet by running the knife between the flesh and the skin. Hold the blade down against the fillet board and keep it flat. Otherwise you will either leave meat attached to the skin, or cut through the skin before completing the skinning process.

STEP 6: Slice out the rib cage from the skinless fillet. Use a thin sharp blade to make a shallow slice. It is better to make a series of short slicing cuts than to just hack it out.

STEP 7: Remove and discard the thin bit of flesh containing the rib bones.

STEP 8: Using the tip of your index finger, feel along the length of the fillet to identify and locate the tips of the little “flesh bones” that remain in the fillet after removing it from the spine of the fish. By rubbing them a couple of times, you can often make them stand up and become more visible, for the removal process.

STEP 9: Using the thin sharp blade, make 2 parallel cuts, one on each side of the row of flesh bones, cutting clear through to the board. The bones run only about 2/3 of the way down the fillet, from the head, so you do not need to cut all the way down.

STEP 10: Lift out and discard the thin slice of flesh containing the tiny bones. Run your finger along the edges of the cuts left by the removal process, to make sure you did not miss any bones. “Leftovers” can be easily pulled out with pliers, fingernails or cut out with the knife. The remaining skinless and boneless fillet makes for some worry free munching.
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image/jpeg STEP 10.JPG (89.0 KB)
image/jpeg OVEN READY.JPG (82.4 KB)
image/jpeg FRESH BAKED.JPG (73.1 KB)
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Re: [TubeDude] Filleting Trout In reply to
Yep, Pat, that's a relatively easy way to do filets. Smaller children and even some adults are thoroughly disgusted with skin/heads/tails/fins still attached to the fish when they eat them. The kiddos often have an awful time with any sized bones that may remain from other ways of cleaning and cooking.
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Re: [TubeDude] Filleting Trout In reply to
plain and simple. i guess i will have to give a try.
thanks td
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Re: [TubeDude] Filleting Trout In reply to
Let's just call you Tube "Rachael Ray" Dude! (Or Julia Childs, for any old-schoolers).

Thanks for the good step-by-step!


image/jpeg rachael_ray.jpg (49.1 KB)
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Re: [lurechucker] Filleting Trout In reply to
MMM... That Rachel Ray is tasteier than anything she cooks. Man would I like to hit that...


For my take on this... TD is obviously a brilliant fillet artist. If I could do a job that good I'd fillet more fish (as my mother always begs me to do) instead of just old school gutting them.

While removing the skin is absolutley necessary on Bass, Perch, Walleye, Crappie, and Cat's. I'm of the opinion that trout (unless you are cooking them in the oven as showed in the above pics... looks delish) are a little easier to cook with the skin left on.

My favorite method of cooking Trout (or basically any other fish or meat) is on an outdoor bbq. Trout fillets on the skin seem to hold together better when grilled or panfried.
I usually cook'em whole, but fillets grill very well too. The key to the whole thing is to get a grilling basket. This nifty little invention will allow you to turn the fish for even cooking without turning the meat into an unattractive pile of flakes.
once the fillet (or whole fish) is cooked, the crispy skin will peel of the meat effortlessly.

Give it a shot...

Great post and lesson TD... Thanks.

When in doubt, do the right thing... The rest of the time, do whatever you think you can get away with !
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Re: [pinksnapper] Filleting Trout In reply to
I agree with pinksnapper.....That Rachel Ray is mighty tasty lookin!

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Re: [lurechucker] Filleting Trout In reply to
CoolWell, my fishing shirt does not have those bumps in the front, and my hair is somewhat shorter (and grayer).

As far as Julia Childs (I'm that old too) goes, I loved to watch her cook with wine. She got more inside the chef than the dish. Took three days to beat her liver to death when she died.

No doubt about it, a good recipe is even better when the "presentation" is attractive. I'm sure that a lot of the guys out there would rather "plate up" Rachel than whatever she is cooking at the time.

By the way, I have also posted a few other "pictorial tutorials" on filleting. Here are some links.



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Re: [pinksnapper] Filleting Trout In reply to
CoolI totally agree that there are times when the skin can and should be left on trout fillets. The most obvious are when they are being grilled or smoked. Trout flesh is delicate and tends to fall apart easily unless it is still attached to the skin.

It is also okay to leave the skin on smaller trout, for frying (with or without scales). But, the larger the fish the more likely that the skin will contribute to the fishy taste. This is especially true when the fish have been taken from waters that are weedy and/or alkaline.

I have TRIED to eat some trout that were absolutely terrible tasting, even after being skinned and soaked in mild salt water or milk. I suspect that many who profess to dislike fish in general have been fed some of that nasty trout and then judged all fish as being equally bad. As most of us know, there can be a world of difference in the color, firmness and taste of trout from different waters.

By the way, my mother decided she disliked fish after being served whole trout with the tiny flesh bones still intact. She got one stuck in her throat, while she was a small girl, and did not eat any fish for many years after that. Only after we moved my parents in with us, and she observed my filleting, would she consent to trying more fish. For the next few years, until she passed, she was always the first one at the table with a fork in the fish platter.

Yep, proper preparation can make a lot of difference to the ultimate enjoyment of any dish. No, I'm not talking about Rachel.
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Re: [TubeDude] Filleting Trout In reply to
When i first moved here and tried filleting trout i destroyed many a fish! But one thing that did help me out when i was beggining was that i kept the fish very cold. It did make it easier to fillet a stiff fish than a thawed out one. Personally i never freeze fish but about a half hour in the freezer does help.Just my experience. Tongue
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Re: [ocean] Filleting Trout In reply to
CoolSharp knives are probably the single biggest factor in getting good fillets. The blade has to slice smoothly through the flesh and bones. Otherwise, it just smashes through and "makes little ones out of big ones".

Good point about chilling the fish before using the knife. Fresh fish (especially trout) are more limp and can even be flopping around. Killing and chilling allows rigor mortis to set in too. Just make sure you lay them flat while they are "getting tight", or you will have to uncurl them to do the filleting.
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Re: [TubeDude] Filleting Trout In reply to
Thats a good method, I do them the same way. after the olympics someone gave me a whole box of restraunt trout whitch I smoked I sure would like to know the secret to how thay fillet them, the heads were still on, the spine was cut right behind the head, the flesh was cut to the skin down the back, all the bones were gone, thay weren't cooked at all, thay didn't cut the laterral line or the ribs thay were just gone mabie it was something thay soaked them in or just a little steam so it didn't cook I'd sure like to know, mabie it was aliens.
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Re: [ramp_tramp] Filleting Trout In reply to
CoolI have only done that a few times, but it is a popular method of deboning trout in some of the classy restaurants.

You start by opening the entire lower surface of the trout, from head to tail. Then, holding the trout belly up, you cut the spine just behind the head and just above the tail. Any good wire cutters will do the job. Then, using some good long-nosed (or other) pliers, grasp the cut spine near the head and begin pulling down and forward. If you have made the cuts right, the spine and rib cage will peel out fairly easily. The trick is to go back with the longnosed pliers and pull out the little flesh bones.

Some folks simply "butterfly" the fish, filleting from the top, cutting around the spine and ribs, but leaving the stomach strip intact. This is a good way to prepare them for smoking or grilling. They are deboned but hold together well, with the skin on.

All that stuff takes a good knife and some practice. Once you get the hang of it you can dazzle your friends. "Watch closely. Not once do my fingers leave my hand."

(This post was edited by TubeDude on Jan 2, 2006, 3:49 PM)