How to fillet a fish

Learning how to fillet a fish is a key kitchen skill and we want to inspire all kids to give it a go. Whether you’re going to bake it, pan-fry it or barbecue it, with this new skill you can whip up a delicious family dinner in no time.

Filleting a fish can be tricky the first time you do it, so make sure you have an adult with you to help. And the more you practise this skill, the easier it’ll be. In this video, Buddy is using mackerel, but you can apply this method to any round fish.

Fish is very nutritious — it’s a good source of protein, which we need for growth and repair, as well as a source of vitamins and minerals that help us stay healthy. We should be aiming to eat two portions of fish a week, with at least one portion being oily fish (which is a good source of omega 3 fatty acids).

You’ll need:

  • 1 whole mackerel, cleaned and gutted
  • A flexible, sharp knife – to help you get around all the bones
  • A chopping board (put a damp cloth underneath it so it doesn’t move)
  • A tray to put the finished fillets in 
  • A bowl for discarded bones and trimmings
  • Pliers for removing bones
  1. First, place the knife behind the fin and cut down firmly to remove the head.
  2. Next, use the length of the knife to carefully cut down one side of the spine in one long motion, going about halfway through the fish. Gently, but firmly, hold your hand flat on the top of the fish to keep it steady, keeping your fingers out of the way.
  3. Now, find the small hole at the bottom of the fish – its anus – and carefully stick your knife through the fish from the spine to the hole. Holding your hand flat on top of the fish again, tilt the knife down slightly, and in one movement cut down to the tail.
  4. Following the cut along the spine you made earlier, use the middle of the knife to make gentle strokes, follow the bones closely to remove the rest of the fillet.
  5. To tidy the fillet, cut off the tail and run the tip of the knife down the entire length of the fish at the side, being quite firm, to trim the belly off.
  6. Run your finger along the middle of the fillet to find the bones and use pliers to pull them out.
  7. Now, turn the fillet over, pinch it between your fingers and use the knife to make small, shallow cuts in the skin at regular intervals of 1-2cm. This will help get more seasoning and flavour into your fish. 
  8. Repeat the process on the other side of your fish.

Tip: Make sure you wipe down your surfaces as you go, and clean your knife between uses to prevent your knife slipping.

Check out Buddy’s recipe for cooking crispy mackerel here and find out more about why fish is so good for us here.