Ships Next Business Day (M-F)

Why Fillet?

by Brian Griffin March 18, 2020

Why Fillet?

One cold day in February, my daughter came in from school while I was filleting some Branzini for our dinner. As per her habit, she just quietly watched me work for a few minutes to take in what I was doing, but there soon came the usual questions. Staring with, “why do you do that sometimes, and take out the bones like that, but then not at other times?” 


Naturally the filleting stopped and the next few minutes were spent answering her questions. The statement about removing the bones sometimes but not at others was the first thing I needed to address for her to understand what I was doing and why. I pointed out that she had never seen me fillet smaller trout, that I pretty much always just remove their heads and either pan fry them whole or broil them whole. To which she replied yes, and commented that she really likes eating the crunchy skin and tails that way, just as I had done as a kid.


Then I had her look closer at the Branzini, and asked her if she noticed anything different about their skin compared to the Trout and Salmon? She said, “well yes I do. These fish look and feel like they have a coat of armor over their skin.” And I said “yes, precisely. In the water that is exactly what these scales, speaking as I removed a few to show her,  are for them. They form a layer of armor as a defense against predation. It makes these fish harder for their predators to eat, including us humans. I can easily eat around the fishes bones, but scaling fish can be a really messy task that I prefer to not do indoors.”


Then, when I went to cut off the last fillet, she paid more attention to each of the steps. She watched with more interest how I made the first cut just behind the pectoral fin, cutting straight down to the spine and then turning the edge toward the tail. She noted how after I had made the cut all the way down to the tail, that I flipped the fillet over but left the skin attached at the tail, and asked why I did that. The answer of course is because it allows one to hold onto the skin better, for more control, as the meat is separated from it. She watched very closely as I sliced the knife between the the meat and the skin, and saw how by pressing the knife down flat against the skin all it takes is a gentle back and forth slicing motion while cutting forward to cut the meat off the skin with very little effort. And then she saw how once the skin is separated we had nice clean fish fillets, with no skin and no scales.


These small fillets still include the rib bones, which I would normally remove from fillets of larger fish with more meat on them, however; that's material for another article on filleting some time in the future. There are a few different reasons for filleting fish, and this is just one of them. On smaller fish like these I prefer to not lose any more meat, and just pick out these few bones whilst eating after they're cooked. This way the eating can come sooner, and with less stress as well. Just by forgoing both the hassle of scraping off the scales, and then having to clean up the mess that makes afterward.

Life is short, and the older we get the faster the time flies by. Fortunately for us we do get to choose some of the battles we fight along the way. With my busy schedule as a single parent, I'd simply rather spend five minutes filleting, and only lose a thin slice of each fish barely thicker than it's bones, than lose an entire hour of my life scaling the fish and then doing the clean up afterwards.  




Brian Griffin
Brian Griffin

Author

Brian Griffin is an author, photographer, wilderness and survival skills teacher, knife enthusiast, outdoor gear researcher and product development consultant. He has a decades-long history of using and developing outdoor related tools and gear.



Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in Articles

Is Blacksmithing Dead?
Is Blacksmithing Dead?

by Nicki October Keating April 13, 2021

The blacksmithing trade is dead! Blacksmithing has become mostly an art or hobby to be admired at quaint old historical towns or your occasional craft fair, asopposed to a trade found in every town and city. With the advancement of industry, technology and societal changes the trade has been forever altered andis mostly fading into an obscure distant memory. The image of a blacksmith is mostly derived from movies. Picture a small town with a muscle bulging man covered in sweat and black soot as he toils over the hot forge. Now I know you have pictured Andy Roy in exactly this way as he is making your most beloved fixed blades. The truth is, the modern knife maker is as much business man as a skillful brute forger.

Read More

Rules of 3
Rules of 3

by Kevin Estela April 07, 2021

In the survival community, most people have heard of the rule of 3. That is, on average, a human being can live approximately 3 minutes without oxygenated blood running through their body, about 3 hours exposed to the elements, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. You’ve probably heard other additional “3s” that are added to this list including the body’s ability to survive approximately 3 degrees off of the 98.6 degree homeostasis and perhaps even 3 seconds to make a decision. Keep in mind, these are all averages and you may be to the left or to the right of these numbers. Well, I’m here to let you know there are additional rules of 3 you should know that come up frequently in survival courses. These are easy to remember and you should add them to your understanding of readiness.

Read More

Locations, Locations, Locations
Locations, Locations, Locations

by Brian Griffin March 17, 2021 2 Comments

Most of the time when the phrase “location, location, location” is used, it's in a larger geographical context. It usually refers to a good place to live, vacation, or set up a business. Or maybe the best place for a camp site, hunting blind, or photography observation point. However in this case it's about something much smaller but no less important, where we store specific items in our kits and why.

Read More

Knives & News

Sign up with your favorite email.