Not everyone likes to clean fish. Fresh fish is a type of seafood that carries essential nutrients for the immune system. Regular fish consumption can help prevent many illnesses. Therefore we should consider adding this vital protein to our meal plan.
Cooking seafood requires specific skills. Whether fresh or frozen, there’s always some cleaning needed. Scaling and gutting fish are often for whole fish that have not been cleaned. Some fish fillets may need light cleaning – a few fish scales may have forgotten.
Cleaning a whole fish requires some skills. These skills are not hard to learn. It would help if you had a good knife or a fish scaler. But first, let’s talk about how to buy fresh fish.
How to buy fresh fish
This can be an intimidating step for anyone. Looking at hundreds of fish and not knowing which one to buy can be overwhelming. Here’s what you need to do:
- Research the kind(s) of fish you want to buy, cook and eat. Here’s an excerpt from CookingLight.com about the different types of fish:
- Dark and oil-rich: anchovies, bluefin tuna, grey mullet, herring, mackerel (Atlantic, Boston, or King), Salmon, farmed or King (Chinook), sardines, skipjack tuna
- White, lean, and firm: Alaska pollock, catfish, grouper, haddock, Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, Pacific rockfish, Pacific sanddab & sole, striped bass (wild and hybrid), swordfish
- Medium color and oil-rich: amberjack, Arctic char, Coho salmon, Hawaiian kampachi, mahimahi, paddlefish, pompano, Sockeye Salmon, wahoo, yellowfin tuna
- White, lean, and flaky: Atlantic croaker, black sea bass, branzino, flounder, rainbow smelt, red snapper, tilapia, rainbow trout, weakfish (sea trout), whiting
- White, firm, and oil-rich: Atlantic shad, albacore tuna, California white sea bass, Chilean sea bass, cobia, lake trout, lake whitefish, Pacific escolar, Pacific sablefish, white sturgeon
- Once you know the type of fish you want to buy, visit your fish market and start browsing. I would recommend buying a sea bass, red snapper, or bronzini. These types of fish are easy to clean and easy to cook.
- Let’s not be afraid of touching the fish. Y
- You must look for freshness by making sure that the eyes are clear and not cloudy.
- The flesh must be firm to the touch and shiny.
- The fish must be bright in color and not look dull.
- The gills must not be slimy or dry, and lastly
- Make sure the fish doesn’t smell bad or have a foul order. The fish should smell fresh and a bit like the freshwater where it came from.
Now that we have gone through the different types of fish, let’s dive into cleaning fish.
How to clean fish using a plastic bag
The plastic bag method is a technique I use very often when the fish is the right size. By size, I mean small to medium size fish. Here are the tools you will need to clean your fish:
- A large bowl or bucket if preferred
- A large clear bag or large Ziploc bag
- A fish scaler or a knife
- Kitchen shears
- Cutting board
- Vinegar spray bottle
- Platter or bowl for cleaned fish
- Gloves, if preferred.
- First, rest the fish on the cutting board and insert the knife tip into the fish’s belly near the anal opening. Gently move the knife up along the belly up to the head of the fish.
- Open the belly and remove all the entrails and the anus of the fish. You may want to use a spoon if that will make it easier.
- Place the fish inside the bag. Place the bag with the fish in the large bowl or bucket.
- With the knife or fish scaler, remove all the scales.
- Take your time to make sure that you have completely removed all the scales. Remove the head if preferred.
- Rinse the fish. I usually spray the fish with vinegar and give it a good rinse.
- Then prepare your fish for cooking.
Why I use a bag to scale and clean the fish
I like the idea of using the bag to scale the fish because it makes cleaning much more manageable. The scales are not flying all over the place, and all I have to do is make sure that most of them stay inside the bag. I also use the bag to discard the entrails and fins.
Why cleaning is important
Cleaning and disinfecting your sink and countertop is necessary to avoid cross-contamination and the growth of bacteria. Don’t forget to clean your cutting board, knife, kitchen shears. Everything you use to clean the fish must be disinfected and cleaned. Discard the bag, guts, fins, and scales immediately and adequately.
You are officially ready to cook your fish! Here are some fish recipes ideas for you to try.