Butterflying, or splitting, a fish is almost like filleting it, except you remove the backbones and ribs from the fish to achieve one fillet rather than the two units achieved with filleting. Seafood chefs must learn this valuable skill set to cook delicious, bone-free fish.
You do not want people frequenting your restaurant and experiencing eating bony fish. Make your fish bone-free, moist and succulent by following these steps on how to split or butterfly a fish.
Gather Your Supplies
Have the correct cutting board and knife for the job to protect your supplies. Sharpen your fillet knife so that it is as sharp as possible. For safety, wear rubber gloves and culinary cutting gloves as a second layer to prevent accidental hand injuries.
Grab a quality high-density polyethylene plastic (HDPE) cutting board for butterflying your fish. Despite plastic cutting boards not being the best for your knives, the surface helps to keep your fish in place while splitting it.
The Procedure for Butterflying a Fish
Here is a step-by-step procedure for butterflying a fish. Keep it all within the exact sequence we list so that you do not butcher the fish or forget any bones that need removing.
Prepare the Fish’s Body for Splitting
First, you must reassure that your fish is properly gutted and scaled. Its scales and guts are inedible for humans.
If you are having trouble removing the guts and scales, ask your local fishmonger for assistance. Cut out the gills and remove the eyes, so it is more appetising for your diners.
Cut the Head in Half
Keep the fish whole until you are ready to butterfly it. The fish will stay fresher longer as long as you keep it whole.
When you are ready to butterfly the fish, cut the head in half first. It will be the starting point of a seamless butterflying job.
Halve the Entire Fish Body
Cut from the head down the middle of its body. Stop cutting when you reach the start of the tail.
Remove the Fish Fillets from the Bone
Open the fish up slowly. Hold down on the body as you butterfly one side of the tail to start removing the bone. Flip the fish over and do the same thing for the other side of the tail.
Use Kitchen Scissors to Remove the Bone
Now that the bone is completely exposed and not connected to the fish fillets anymore, you can remove them with a pair of kitchen scissors. Inspect the fish further and have a pair of cooking tweezers on hand to remove any other small bones that may be lodged in the fish.
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We hope you are more comfortable butterflying a fish whether for restaurant patrons or to cook a fancy dinner at home. Happy cooking!