Monday, July 20, 2009

How-To: Filleting Tuna Fish

As we just posted, we've begun canning tuna. Make sure to get it fresh, on ice. Try not to buy the frozen fish - last year we could only find the flash-frozen fish, and it was a MESS to clean! We got some fantastic fish. Right off the boat and local.

This year we asked for only fish 20lbs or bigger. More meat for less cleaning, and the larger fish give a little more meat for the $.

Filleting tuna is alot of fun! They are a very unique, remarkable fish, and it is alot of fun for the kids to explore the anatomy and marvel at the engineering that went into creating these beautiful animals.

Most fish-mongers will fillet the loins for you for about $3 per fish. It is more fun to do it ourselves. And, it is easy - we can do a fish in less than 10 minutes each. So get your board and a sharp knife!

The first step is to remove the skin off the sides. Cut under the long side fin, and up around the gill-plate.

Next, cut just under the skin (not too deep into the meat) along the back, from tail to head. It is easiest when starting from the tail, and cut up toward the head.

Do the same for the belly - start at the tail, and cut along the belly toward the head just under the skin. Be careful NOT to get into the guts...

These fish we got were PRIME - very nice fish. Look how oily they are! My hands were covered, just pulling the skin off the side!

Another really cool thing about tuna is that they really aren't slimy like most other fish. The skin is very thin and strong - alot like Tyvek. You'll see!

Now, with the skin cut around the edges, start at the head and peel the skin straight back - it will come off easily, unless the fish was frozen.

Tuna have nice, large bones for filleting. Right down the center of their side, they have another ridge of bones - different from a salmon. Along these side bones are a slab of dark meat. We want to trim this dark meat off - it is too strong to eat. Except for the chickens, though - they love it.

Cut down through the fillets on either side of the side-bone and dark meat. You can easily get down to the back and belly bones.

With these side-cuts, it is really easy now with a flexible knife to get in and peel / cut the meat upward, away from the dark meat ridge. Work the top loin fillet up and off the backbone.

Next, do the same on the lower loin - cut from the dark meat in the middle down to the ribs, and fillet the meat along the bones to remove the bottom loin.

Be careful here to not cut into the ribs and into the guts. Its pretty easy if you take it slow and are careful.

That was basically it! Here you can see both the top and bottom loin removed from the fish, and the dark meat 'ridge' in the middle of the fish's side.

If you did get some bones in the loins, simply trim them out. The tuna has large bones, so it is easy to see and feel them.

The final step is to trim the dark meat off of each of the loins. It is easy to see, and easy to trim off.

The dog, cat, or chickens will love this dark meat. If this is your first time, fry it up and try it - you might like it!

So thats it - now flip over the fish and try it again.

We found that about 65-70% of the fish's original weight is meat - the larger fish yield slightly more meat in the ratio. About 13 lbs of meat from a 20 lbs fish.