A very common question that is asked by cooks, as well as beginning anglers, is how to skin a fish fillet. Although the process is very straightforward and arguably easy for veteran fishermen, it can be difficult for people who have not done it before. Like everything in life, mastering it takes practice. You want to take the skin off of your fish if you are making a fish that requires baking or if the skin is likely to harbor contaminants.

There are a few different items you will need to get started. All it takes is a sharp knife, a cutting board, and a little perseverance. This is a tutorial on removing fish skin from a fillet. Follow these steps for the best results. Finally, let’s get into it.

Identify What Species Of Fish You Want To Skin

Fish species chart.

The first step in proper skin removal on fish is to know what type of fish species you have. This may sound unimportant but trust me. You need to know this. All fish species are built differently, have slightly different body structures, somewhat different scale structures, and are unique in their own way. For instance, skinning a salmon fillet would be different from skinning a bluegill fillet.

Salmon has a thicker skin than bluegill and so the knife that you use may have to be a little bit sharper than you could originally get away with. For most applications, I suggest using a professional fillet knife such as the Bubba Blade. If you cannot get a professional fillet knife. You can use whatever fillet knife that you have laying around. Just make sure that the edge is sharp. If you don’t have a fillet knife, other knives can work. You can also use a long chef’s knife to do the same thing. The results won’t be as clean most of the time, but it can be done in a pinch.

Knife Selection And Deciding Which One To Use

Knife selection is extremely important for this. It is preferable to use a fillet knife. If you cannot get one of those, then use a chef knife or a knife with a long blade. Make sure the knife is made out of good steel and that it has a good edge on it. The sharper and straighter the edge, the better it will work. For salmon of all species, I prefer a long salmon knife.

For panfish and small bass, I like a medium-sized fillet knife. For other big fish that are outside of the salmon family, a medium-sized or large fillet knife will work for most applications. Always stay away from serrated edges and make sure that you sharpen your knife before you even start. Most of the time, you don’t even need to choose what fillet knife to use. You already have your favorite one picked out and that’s okay. Move on to the next step.

Prepare A Good And Efficient Work Area

It is hard to overestimate the importance of an efficient work area when you are working with sharp tools and raw meat. You need to take all the necessary steps before you attempt to take the skin off of your fish. First, make sure that your fish is nice and cold from the fridge. The cooler temperature keeps the meat firmer and it will be easier to skin. You can also use ice to accomplish this.

Choose a cutting board that can fit the entire filet on top. If you choose a board that is smaller, you may rip your meat and cut your hand. Ensure that there is nothing on your countertop that can get in your way as you’re moving the knife through the skin and the meat. Finally, make sure to remove any jewelry or false fingernails before you do this to make sure that you don’t get hurt.

Cutting board on a table with a knife and vegetables.

How To Skin A Fish Fillet With A Fillet Knife

Grab the tail end of the fillet. Make a small angled cut through the meat that stops at the skin. Point the cutting edge of your knife towards the rest of the fillet. Use a gentle but firm sawing action as you cut the meat away from the skin. Move your knife back and forth down the length of the meat. Alternatively, you can keep your knife still and rock the fish fillet across the blade.

The skin side should go down on the cutting board surface. If possible, place a towel or something else under the cutting board so it doesn’t slip across the counter. Position the fish fillet on the cutting board so that the tail end is opposite your dominant hand. For example, if you are right-handed, place the tail end of the filet on the left side of the cutting board. This makes it much easier.

Make a cut through the tail end of the filet and ensure that your knife gets between the skin. Start by slicing straight down towards the cutting board. Start to rotate the blade so that the edge faces the larger section of the fish. This will allow you to run your knife all the way through without any problems. It is always helpful to lift the fish up to see your progress.

Make sure that you were cutting at the right angle and not leaving the meat behind. If you need to, reposition the knife to the correct position before continuing your cut. After the skin has been removed, inspect it for any meat that you may have missed. Use your fillet knife to get anything that remains.

How To Skin A Fish Fillet With A Fish Skinning Tool

Filleting fish by hand is incredibly effective as long as you have the right technique. Sometimes though, you have a lot of fish to clean in a short time. Other times, you may suffer from arthritis, poor vision, or other ailments. That is fine too. Taking the skin off a fish doesn’t have to be manual. You can cut out all the elbow grease by using an electric fish skinner instead.

It comes with a trigger and a blade wheel. All you have to do is pull the trigger and run the wheel on the skin. The device should take the skin off without losing any meat at all. Fish skinners have their own set of pros and cons. They do let you skin fish flawlessly very quickly. They are also fairly expensive. Either way, it’s a great option that you will benefit from if you clean a lot of fish or if you do a lot of fish cooking.

I made a review about my favorite electric fish skinner. One that takes away all the guesswork. You can see that review here.

How To Skin A Whole Fish With Fillets Still On

If you want to skin a whole fish, start by cutting off the head and tail. Lay the fish on the cutting board. Use a pair of kitchen shears to remove the fins off of the fish. Use your knife and cut vertically near the tail right through the skin and try not to touch the meat. Once that is done, use your fingers or a good pair of skinning pliers to grab the skin. Start to peel it off.

Now all you have to do is flip the fish over and repeat on the other side. You will know you did it right when the fish looks bare. You shouldn’t see any skin on at all. If you miss any, that is okay. Just go back and peel off the remaining.

Clean Up With Clean Water

Remember to follow proper hygiene protocols when handling foods, especially raw fish. Keep in mind that certain fish will make you sick easier unless you are careful. For this reason, it is best to maintain a hygienic workplace at all times. Always wash your fish and wash your hands. Use soapy water to disinfect anything on your hands that may make you sick. For fish such as catfish that can be dirty, wash them more often.

Man washing hands with soap under running water.

Make sure that you take the time to clean your fillet knife, your cutting board, your countertop, and other areas of contact. Use a high-quality antibacterial soap that kills bacteria and viruses. Use warm water for your hands and rinse off the fish with cold water before setting it aside for the next step. The next step is to finally use or store your fillets for later consumption.

Fish Fillets Storage Options

How you will store fish is dependent on what species it is. Since fish fillets vary in size from species to species, you may need to use one storage option over another. For very big pieces of salmon, walleye, or other large fish like pike, you can cut them into manageable portions and store them in a bowl or on a plate. Use aluminum foil to cover them or kitchen wrap.

If you want to store them in the fridge whole, you can use straight kitchen wrap or aluminum foil to cover them. Almost all species of fish fries well too. A Tupperware container or a plastic container with a lid is more than sufficient for bluegill, crappie, or bass fillets. Most fish typically stays good for five days. Once you make the dish with them, they will keep fresh for as long as the dish will.

Cook And Enjoy Your Fish Fillets!

That is everything. Now you can choose what to do with your deliciously skinless fillets. Now you know the process behind how to skin a fish fillet by hand by using a fillet knife. We are interested in hearing if you have a favorite fish dish that involves taking the skin off of fish. What is your favorite? Drop a reply in a comment to tell us your recipes. We want to hear them!

↓We found a MUCH BETTER WAY to skin fish fillets!↓

See review.


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