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Thread: Cleaning and Filleting

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    webmaster Michael Strahan's Avatar
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    Default Cleaning and Filleting

    Just curious how you folks process your fish. I fillet mine, but I think I'm doing it the lazy way. I make a curved cut that goes up and behind the gills, high on the head, then behind the bone just aft of the gill plate, all the way to the belly. From that point I cut right along the spine and through the rib bones, which I leave attached to the fillet. Sometimes I leave the pectoral fins on the fillet and sometimes I trim it off with the belly meat. At that point I remove the dark strip where the rib bones attached to the spine (the kidney?) with the edge of my fillet knife. Since I usually barbecue all my fish, I just pull the rib bones off the top of the fillet after it is cooked, and I don't lose any meat.

    I have seen folks take lots of time and end up with perfect boneless fillets, and I just can't bring myself to do it. Maybe I'm lazy? It seems to me that a lot of meat stays on the fish if you try to fillet over the top of the rib bones on reds. At least it does when I try it...

    How do you do it?

    -Mike
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    Smile I do it like this. . .

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Strahan View Post
    \How do you do it?

    -Mike
    I do it like you do, Mike, but I take the belly off and fillet out the ribs. The only bones left are the pin bones, which I extract with a pair of needle-nose pliers before cooking however done. I detest eating fish with bones, and, since one must remove them sooner or later, I prefer sooner.

    Also, I use the fillet knife, after the fish is filleted, to slice-scoop out what I call "stir fry"—thin slices of meat on either side of the backbone and on either side of the fish.

    Sometimes, if she has time, my wife will chunk the backbones into pieces, boil them briefly, and scape off the cooked meat for salmon salad.

    Bellies get smoked, grilled, or baked for pet food.

    Not a lot of waste. . .

    Finally, I have my fillets professionally vacuum-sealed and flash frozen for $1.20/lb. at Custom Seafood Processors here in Soldotna. They do a much superior job than does my Foodsaver.

    One final thing: I use an electric knife to take off the fillets. . . makes a beautiful, smooth piece of meat. A Kershaw does the rest.



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    Default

    I try and keep them in the round until I get home and can comfortably filet them with a good sharp knife. I remove the ribs and try and keep as much belly meat as possible ( my favorite part!) We always hack off the tail and boil up the remains in a big stock pot with onions, garlic, and peppers and freeze up for and soup and chowder all winter long.

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    Default ditto with Marcus

    I do mine the same as his right down to commercial vacuum sealing in Soldotna

    darn cheap when you take out a filet in February and it's still tight as a drum

    with my home vacuum sealer it's not as tight and pin hole leaks are common......at that point you might as well put them in a baggie

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    Member akfishfool's Avatar
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    Default anybody know where you can buy a tougher vacum sealer

    I would like to buy a tougher vacum sealer, because as stated above foodsavers are not the best when it comes to preserving salmon. I would like to find one with a stronger vacum motor, and better sealer. I bought the best foodsaver had to offer, and it still leaves about one on three bags with a little air, or a pin hole leak.

    It needs to be under $500

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    Default Vacuum-sealer. . .

    Quote Originally Posted by akfishfool View Post
    I would like to buy a tougher vacum sealer, because as stated above foodsavers are not the best when it comes to preserving salmon. I would like to find one with a stronger vacum motor, and better sealer. I bought the best foodsaver had to offer, and it still leaves about one on three bags with a little air, or a pin hole leak.

    It needs to be under $500
    Check the Cabela's catalog or Online. . . they have a good looking unit at, I think, about $400.


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    Default

    I've had good luck with a Foodsaver but I pull out the pin bones when packing filets....that seemed to cure the small air leaks problem.

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    My wife just said I should add that she also sets up some phone books or such so that the bag is supported completely level. It appears to facilitate the creation of the vacuum and make for a tighter pack. Also we wipe the inside of the bags where the seal will be so there is no moisture or scales or flesh to prevent a good tight seal. We do still sometimes have a bag fail but we usually eat fish once a week and I watch for bags that have become punctured and we eat them first if they are not freezer burned.

    I haven't had any of my fish commercially packed so have no idea of the bag failure rate - if any. What experiences have others had??

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    Member akfishfool's Avatar
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    Default commercial vacum sealing

    When I have had commercial jobs done the bag failure rate is usually less then 5% or 1 in 20 plus the vacum job is usually much tighter.

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    Thumbs up Our experience. . .

    Quote Originally Posted by gusdog44 View Post
    I haven't had any of my fish commercially packed so have no idea of the bag failure rate - if any. What experiences have others had??
    In my experience, the bag failure from Custom Seafood Processors is virtually zero. When I use our Foodsaver, I have to start trimming the fish after two or three months in the freezer whereas with CSP's packages, the fish were in pristine shape up into April and May, eight and nine months later. . .


  11. #11

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    Sometimes with a Foodsaver, I've had leaks where the final seal wasn't good. If it's drawing much moisure toward the seal as the vacuum is being applied, then I follow up with a second seal between the first seal and the end of the bag.

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    Member AK Tubes's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by akfishfool View Post
    I would like to buy a tougher vacum sealer, because as stated above foodsavers are not the best when it comes to preserving salmon. I would like to find one with a stronger vacum motor, and better sealer. I bought the best foodsaver had to offer, and it still leaves about one on three bags with a little air, or a pin hole leak.

    It needs to be under $500
    My method takes a little extra time, but it helps the foodsaver save the food for me to savor later...
    I take my portions and tightly wrap them in saran wrap. Then I put them on a cookie sheet and throw them in the freezer for an hour or so, just enough to barely freeze the outer layer of moisture. Unwrap the pieces and then I vacuum pack it with my foodsaver. If you wait too long, you just have to leave it wrapped. This keeps any moisture out of the seal. The only failure I've had from that method is from overhandling the finished product. The commercial guys definitely have the best setup, but I've made mine work this way. I've still got good fish from last season with no burn and good texture.

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    Default A little different...

    I leave mine in the round too for the simple reason that I don't like sand/silt getting packed ino the meat and tearing p he texture. I procss mine at home and make several "starter" cuts before I realy get to the filleting. I start with a cut on each side of the tail base and then I make an incision tht is about 2" deep along the dorsal line of the fish on each side. I fold back the fillet with one hand and "chase" the meat with my fillet knife, keeping pressure against the spine and the tip going the same direction as the lay of the bones. I'll do that on each side down to the belly meat and start my trimming there and leave the belly meat, rib bones and all but the fillet remains. The final touch is skinning the fillet (don't like the flavor that skin leaves) for the freezer and if I plan on smoking any I leave the skin on for those. It may sound wasteful now that I read your other posts, but I'm really not that resourceful when it comes to the fish carcass I guess. I've not had a problem using this method in conjunction with my FoodSaver. Some bags didn't seal correctly but that was my fault for having folds in the bag. I'll try to have some video later of how I do my fish, the process is the easiest that I've found.
    "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit is better than he who takes a city." ~ Proverbs 16:32

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    I used to fillet salmon after returning from Chitina, but I realized that the fillets were later getting too much freezer burn. I was wrapping the fillets flesh to flesh, leaving the skin outside, and that helped somewhat.

    Now I clean the salmon as usual (gut and remove the gills), and when I get home I wrap them on plastic foil, followed by freezer paper, and into the freezer. When my wife and I want fish, I thaw it a little in running cold water, and then fillet it with an electric fillet knife. It seems that leaving the salmon whole slows freezer burn. And yes, I fillet salmon the way you do, Mike.

    It's a little different for kings since they are so large: I just cut kings across in three sections depending on their size. If it's a large king, I cut the head off, then from that point I cut again about 8" down, and then another 8" down and so forth. An 8-inch chunk of king cut across as mentioned is enough for a dinner of three or more people. With smaller kings I just cut the heat off, and then another cut half way down. I label the pieces, "chest, and Tail" to recognize that the chest have the rib bones, while the tail is clear of bones. I thaw what I need, and then fillet as needed.

  15. #15

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    I always make sure to take an old ironing board with me to the dipnetting hole. I do not have a problem with getting sand in the filets and my back doesn't get sore after fileting 40 fish. I simply filet the fish leaving the pin bones in. I pack the filets in plastic trash bags on ice until I get home. Once I am home I rinse the filets, dry them really well with paper towels and wrap two filets in saran wrap with the skin sides out. I have a commercial food saver and I make sure that the bag is just a bit bigger than the filet. I also place a book under the bag while it is being sucked and sealed. I have not had a problem with salmon going bad from year to year.

    I use the same process for halibut. I opened some halibut from 2004 the other day. Nobody could tell the diference between it and the frozen 2007 filets.

  16. #16

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    The older foodsaver draws more mercury 18 inches than the new ones(company changed hands) so they seal better the book or something is a great help. To freeze slightly works.
    Some wax or butcher paper to cover the bones stops punctures.
    You can quick freeze with a CO2 fire extinguisher rock hard in seconds, will freeze your beer in under 10 seconds.

    Have had my old foodsaver for more than 20 years, they ask me to do an Infomercial in 86 cause I figured out how to get a vacuum and have it inflate with CO2 to stop mold for long term storage of Herbs.

    If you watch at garage sales and Sallys you can pick up the old ones for under $25 usually all you have to do is replace the sealing gaskets and clean up the machine.

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    I suppose I'm lazy. I'm really a stickler on quality. When a fish comes out of the water it is bled then put on ice. I do take the effort to bring at least some ice or I don't keep the fish. I keep the fish in the round until I can get to a clean place to head, tail, clean and wash the fish. I then dry them and put them in a fish bag(these come in sizes for different fish). These bags are a thin plastic bag. I then freeze the fish. After they are good and solid I pour a cup of water in the bag then seal and it goes back into the freezer. I have found that the less exposed meat the better quality especially later in the winter. With king salmon, after caught and bled I put them into a cloth meat bag then on ice. This helps cool the larger fish and keep the fish looking pretty. Quality, both eating and visual and important to me. I think the large bright Kenai reds are about the pretiest fish around.
    pete

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    Quote Originally Posted by AKCheese View Post
    I do mine the same as his right down to commercial vacuum sealing in Soldotna

    darn cheap when you take out a filet in February and it's still tight as a drum

    with my home vacuum sealer it's not as tight and pin hole leaks are common......at that point you might as well put them in a baggie
    You guys gotta quit using FoodSavers ...look inside sometime and you'll see why.

    I've got a "Magic Vac Maxima" from Kodiak Health (in Idaho, http://kodiakhealth.com *NO* affiliation) and love it. Everything is adjustable, the level of vacuum, the sealer, etcetera, and you can manually pump down or seal. Works with anybody's bags, e.g. why buy those expensive FoodSaver rolls and bags? The Magic Vac is far better, IMHO, than the 2 FoodSavers that I wore out previously.

    If you REALLY want the best, then build your own vacuum chamber vacuum packer like a friend of mine did. Cost him about $350, but produces results like the professional vacuum-chamber vacuum packers.


    Brian

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    Quote Originally Posted by akfishfool View Post
    I would like to buy a tougher vacum sealer, because as stated above foodsavers are not the best when it comes to preserving salmon. I would like to find one with a stronger vacum motor, and better sealer. I bought the best foodsaver had to offer, and it still leaves about one on three bags with a little air, or a pin hole leak.

    It needs to be under $500
    I have the Magic Vac Maxima, purchased from Kodiak Health at http://kodiakhealth.com for $299. Can't say enough good about it. They call it a "semi-commercial vacuum packer for the serious sportsman." I've run piles of fish through it as continuously as I possibly could and it never overheats. It draws far more vacuum (28"+) than the FoodSaver (and runs a lot faster) and I never get freezer burn on anything. I have no affiliation with Kodiak Health, but recommend them solely because their prices and customer service was tops.

    Brian

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    Member akfishfool's Avatar
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    Default I looked at this one as well

    I looked at this one a few days ago and liked it alot. it's good to see that you have experience with it and liked it.

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