Working with fresh produce is one of the best parts of cooking. There’s an appreciation for quality products that can really help to amplify a dish. Be it with the natural flavours, the authenticity in its sourcing or even the texture that ‘fresh’ brings.
Working with fresh produce though does require some sort of prep work. With vegetables a thorough cleaning is necessary; especially if not organic and with meat a hole bunch of chopping, trimming and proper storage aspects to consider. Fish – well fish is the trickiest of the lot.
Working with fresh fish requires a couple of tools, a whole bunch of patience and a little bit of background knowledge. From descaling to gutting and the removal of pin bones; there’s a lot of work required; but when mastered it is one of the most rewarding kitchen prep you can imagine.
The first thing you’ll need when working with fresh fish is a good fishmonger who understands your needs and desires for your expected culinary results. Their swift knife skills and anatomical knowledge of the fish they handle allows them to quickly descale and gut the fish of your choice – so always ask your fishmonger to prep your fish before you take it out of the fish shop. The professionals at your fish shop are also able to fillet your fish and remove all pin bones from your portion but there’s a gratifying feeling in doing it yourself.
Best way to remove pin bones from fish in 4 steps:
- Get yourself a fresh fish fillet, a needle-nosed pair of tweezers and get to plucking.
- Lay your fish skin-side down; if your fish has already been skinned it’s usually the flatter part that needs to be placed down on your board.
- Run your fingertips along the length of the fillet – feel for pin bones.They’re usually located along the thickest part of the fish, towards the middle and prod out slightly through the delicate skin. Pin bones hold the fish’s muscles in place and are generally located a few inches apart from one another. Bigger pin bones are usually found towards the head and smaller bones towards the tail.
- When you find a bone, press the flesh next to the tip of the bone, grab the tip once it pokes out and pluck it out of the flesh with the tweezers. You’ll notice that once you get the first couple of bones out, you’ll be able to get this job done a lot faster.
Remember to commit to every bone you’re plucking; bones are angled towards the head, so pulling sideways always helps to draw the bones clean away from the flesh.
Pro Tip: keep a dish cloth close by and wipe your tweezer after every pluck. Pluck, wipe and repeat.
Whenever you’re working with fish, be sure to keep your station clean, wipe up after you’ve worked on your fish and keep all counters clean to avoid cross contamination. Keep that fishy smell off your hands by rubbing your hands on an aluminum surface such as your skin, clean your board with lemon and coarse salt and make sure you keep your cats out of your kitchen.