Understanding Fish Cuts
Just like beef, pork or chicken, fish have specific “butcher” cuts. Fishmongers (the butchers of the seafood world) have specified lingo and terminology to distinguish between these cuts. Some of these terms can be specific to a certain species of fish or denote a category of cooking method that works best for types of fish. It can all get a little confusing. So, to clear these muddy waters, we’ll be exploring the most common fish cuts.
Portions & Pieces
The simplest cuts you may encounter are portions and pieces. These are cuts that are not necessarily specific to a section of the fish, more of a generic name, a simplified ‘wide-net’ term. Fish portions are uniformed cuts, these will weigh approximately the same, and can be used for a multitude of cooking applications (thanks to their uniformity). Pieces are less uniform, usually bits that are leftover from cutting fish portions. These bits are not bad, they’re just as delicious as the more uniformed portions, just better used for applications where uniformity isn’t as much of a big deal. Think soup, stews, seafood burgers, or stuffings.
Fillets are cut from an area of the fish known as the ‘side’. The ‘side’ is the section that stretches from behind the head and gils to the tail, running from the backbone to the belly. With fillets, all the bones have been removed, including the smaller, pin bones. In larger fish species with big sides, like tuna, salmon, swordfish, etc…, several fillets can be cut and portioned. With smaller fish, like; trout, tilapia, bass, mackerel, mullet, etc… the whole side can be considered one portion or fillet. Fillets can also be found skin-on or skin-off. Fish fillets with-skin or without-skin is more down to personal preference than edible eligibility (think skinless chicken breast vs. skin-on chicken breast, same kinda deal). Fillets hold the blue ribbon when it comes to cooking capabilities. Super versatile with most cooking methods; baking, broiling, frying, sautéing, grilling, etc…
A butterfly fillet is a cut where the 2 sides are kept connected either at the belly or by the small amount of skin and meat found around the backbone (it depends on the fish). Mostly you’ll see butterfly fillets with small species, often with freshwater fish like trout. As with the traditional fillets, butterfly fillets are going to be typically boneless and will most likely still have the skin attached. These cuts are best for baking, broiling, or pan-frying. The also make a fabulous cut for stuffed fish recipes.
Loin cuts (also known as medallions) are usually regulated to the largest of fish species, tuna, swordfish, etc… Same as with beef and pork (where their cuts are known as tenderloins and sirloins), the fish loins run along the backbone. Loin cuts will almost always be boneless and skinless. These cuts are thick and flavorful, perfect for searing and grilling.
Also seen with the larger fish species are steaks. Fish steaks are cuts made perpendicular to the backbone, containing both the fillet and loin portions. There is usually a small piece of vertebrae/backbone in the center of the fish steak, which really doesn’t get in the way when eating (easily removed and set aside). The skin is usually intact as well. These cuts, like the loins, are great for searing and grilling as well as pan-frying and broiling.
A Cut Above
Here at Cameron’s Seafood HQ we go out of our way to make sure our customers only receive the best, freshest cuts possible. With over 1,000,000 customers and 14 locations from New York to Maryland we pass on our wholesale pricing to you so you get the lowest prices online for fresh fish shipped right to your door.
Click this link to check out all of our fabulous fish cuts. We have steaks and fillets that are perfectly portioned for all your favorite fish dishes. We also have a whole library of recipes and how-to’s to help you craft the perfect meal. Check out our blog here to get inspired!
About the author
Patterson Watkins is a professional chef with over 17 years of experience. With a robust career in restaurants, contract dining and catering (including 4 Summer Olympic posts preparing food for the athletes!) Patterson joined the Cameron’s Seafood team at the end of 2018 to concoct some delicious recipes with our premium seafood items as the centerpiece.