Knowing how to prepare a fresh fish can really open up your options at the supermarket! The freshest fish are usually the ones that haven't already been filleted or cut, so if you're willing to do it yourself, you'll be eating better already.  While the prospect of cleaning a scaly, bony fish might seem daunting to a first-timer, it's ultimately not that difficult, and a worthy investment if you enjoy a good cut of fish.

Materials Needed A very sharp knife, scissors, and a cutting board

Cleaning the Fish Wash the fish thoroughly and lay it flat on a cutting board. If you are using a fish with plated scales, you will need to remove them.  To do this, hold the fish by the tail and scrape away from you with a very sharp knife. Repeat this process for both sides of the fish. Give the fish another rinse, and move it back to the cutting board. With scissors, cut off the fins and trim the tail.

Press your hand against the top side of the fish, and slit the fish's belly open from its base to its head with your sharp knife, not cutting deeply enough to damage its innards (the viscera inside of a fish contain acids that can ruin the fish's flavor).  Reach into the belly and gently pull out its insides.  Run water through the fish, after you're done, to clean it out.

If you prefer headless fish, simply cut it off.

De-boning the Fish This is the method you use to de-bone a fish if you are interested in stuffing it:

  1. Open up the fish like a book. Starting at one end of the fish, insert your knife between the rib bones and the flesh of the fish and loosen it away from the flesh with a gentle sawing motion across the whole rib section. Do this for both sides.
  2. Slide your knife under the backbone and cut it gently away, with the rib bones attached. You can use scissors for this as well.
  3. If you are freezing the fish, you should keep the skin on to help it retain its moisture. If not, a fresh fish should usually be consumed within one day.  To skin the fish, you will need to cut it in half length wise and then, using a very sharp knife, loosen the flesh away from the skin with a gentle sawing motion.

  Photo Credits: My Brooklyn Kitchen, Gourmet, Chow, Home and Garden Ideas