How to Fillet Salmon: Chinook-King, Sockeye, Coho-Silver
As owner and head guide of Lance Fisher Fishing, I’ve had the pleasure of filleting a few Salmon in my career. In the past I’ve created posts on How to Freeze Fish and How to Remove Pin Bones. Over the course of the last few months I’ve been getting requests on how I fillet my Salmon and so I thought I’d put together a quick post on a very simple way to make your Salmon fillets look fabulous. This method will work for Chinook/King Salmon, Sockeye and Coho/Silver Salmon. For that matter it will work for just about any fish as the principal remains the same.
I pulled this Chinook Salmon out of the freezer yesterday and let it thaw overnight in it’s wrapper. Of course you can use this same process with a fresh fish, so you’re covered either way with this pictorial. Prior to getting going, I like to lay out 5 gallon freezer bags to keep the kitchen counter clean. I’ll also pull out an extra bag for my garbage. A sharp, 8″ plus fillet knife is a must. A dull or short knife, unless you’re an experienced filleter will make a mess of your beautiful fish.
After unwrapping the fish I like to give it a thorough rinsing in the sink. I don’t want the slime anywhere near the meat and a good hand/water scrubbing should get it all removed.
Start your first cut right behind the gill plate. Make the cut angle towards the head as there is plenty of meat right under the gill plate. Push the knife clear through to the spine and stop.
Turn the knife on it’s side and begin working the knife along the spine, back towards the tail. I like to lift up on the stomach cavity so as not to push the knife through the rib meat that may be in the way of your cut. When you get to the end, simply flop the fillet over on it’s skin side.
Flip the carcass over and repeat the process on the other side.
At this point you’re ready to remove the rib bones. I like to start on the end where the head used to be and work back towards the tail. A pliable knife is critical to being able to preserve as much meat as possible and not make a mess of your fish. The best tip I can provide is to make sure that your knife edge is always pressed upwards towards the rib bones, not down into the meat. Use the rib bones as your guide, not the meat. Use numerous strokes that start at the head and move towards the tail. On every stroke make sure you’re cutting against, but not through the rib bone.
Work your way all the way back past the anus. In this case, I’m removing all of the inner stomach membrane because the fish was frozen. If it were fresh, it wouldn’t be as important, but leaving it on in this case would affect the taste. Even if it were fresh, I’d still remove it for appearance.
If you have a fresh fish, you can step by this step as I believe every bit of the belly meat, apart from the membrane, to be prime. If your fish was frozen however, you should remove a small amount of the belly that has been exposed. Start up towards the head and work your way back past the pectoral fin located under the belly and past the anus. Your fillet will be perfect at this point. Repeat on the other half and in a matter of no time, you’ve created a very professional looking fillet.
I proceed from this point and always remove the pin bones as we have small kids and have come to enjoy the bone free meals. If this is of interest to you, check out my pictorial on How to Remove Pin Bones from Salmon. If you’re interested in the best way to freeze fish, you might want to check out my other very helpful pictorial.
Let me know how you do!