How to Fillet a Salmon

For many people, the thought of filleting a salmon is a daunting task. That shouldn’t be the case so I’ve included some pictures along with instructions to make this process very easy. The whole process shouldn’t take more than about 5 minutes. This method is very straightforward and should produce good results on your first try.

Preparing to Fillet a SalmonAfter the fish has been cleaned, lay the salmon on a clean dry cutting board. I prefer using two knives for filleting salmon. I use a 10 inch butcher knife to cut through the bones and a fillet knife to remove the ribs. It is also handy to have a towel nearby to wipe your hand and/or to hold the salmon during some portions of the cutting process. The towel will absorb the fish slime and will give you something to hold the fish firmly with.
Start by laying the fish with it’s back toward you near the edge of the cutting board. Start just behind the head and begin to cut toward the tail with the knife blade in contact with the vertebral column and at a slight incline to cut as much meat as possible along the back. You will be cutting through the ribs as you perform this process. Continue cutting until you reach the tail end. Place the newly cut fillet aside.
After completing the cutting on one side, flip the fish over and now begin at the tail and perform the same process by cutting from the tail toward the head. As you approach the dorsal fin, take special care to cut around it and then continue cutting until you’ve reached the head.
You should now have two fillets. Go ahead and discard the salmon carcass, or use it for crab bait or fish stock.
The next task is to remove the rib bones. Start by slipping the fillet knife gently between the rib bones and the flesh. You’ll want to keep the fillet knife as close to the ribs as possible, making sure not to cut too deeply or you’ll be removing more flesh than necessary. Once the ribs have been removed, trim the fillet to remove any fat around the belly area and/or around where the fins once were.
The last step of the process is to remove the set of bones that were cut through during the filleting process. I prefer to use a small pair of needle nose pliers to pull the bones out of the flesh. By running your thumb down the line of bone ends, you can gently lift up the bone end and grab it with the pair of pliers. Continue until all of the bones have been removed. The fillet is now ready to be used in your favorite salmon recipe.
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