Perfect Fillets!

By Sheri Daye

After all the time, effort and determination it takes to land that beautiful fish, you don’t want to compromise the quality of your dinner by improper handling at the end.

Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years:

1) Dispatching/bleeding: Whether you are fishing or spearfishing, try to minimize the amount of time the fish is under stress, as this can produce lactic acid which affects taste. Dispatching as soon as possible is humane and helps maintain quality. Bleeding also helps, especially for raw consumption. Spearfishermen can do it in the water, but if you don’t want to attract sharks, you can also do it on the boat. Cut the throat and place it in a bucket of water for a few minutes or use scissors and cut the gills.

2) Icing: Make sure you have plenty of ice, two pounds for every pound of fish. Saltwater ice is best if you can get it, and crushed ice is optimal because it covers more surface area. Heat and air are the enemies, so ice your fish immediately. If you don’t plan to fillet soon, remove the guts and gills and fill the cavity with ice before burying it in the cooler. Drain and replace ice often to ensure fish stays cold and is not sitting in water, which will cause the fish to get mushy.

3) Filleting: When the flesh is chilled and firm, cutting is much easier, and a razor sharp knife makes quick work of filleting. After filleting, try not to rinse the meat, as water degrades the fillets and produces a breeding ground for bacteria. If you keep your knife clean, don’t puncture the gut cavity and you bled your fish beforehand, you should not have to rinse fillets. If the fillet is exposed to water, dry it promptly with paper towels.

4) Refrigeration: Fish can be stored in your refrigerator at 40 degrees for about three days. Wrap the fish in plastic-wrap and place in crushed ice. It is still best to store fish surrounded by crushed ice because the cooler you can keep it, the better.

5) Freezing: Store in the freezer at 0 degrees or lower. Lean fish (snapper or grouper) will keep for about six months. Fatty fish (salmon, tuna and mackerel) will keep for about three months. I like to vacuum-pack fillets. Vacuum packers are relatively inexpensive, easy to use, and available at Target. Fill pre-cut bags with fillets and follow the directions on the vacuum packer. This keeps fillets airtight to prevent freezer burn.

6) Thawing: The safest way to thaw fish is in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours. Plan to cook immediately after thawing. Do not thaw fish at room temperature, and never refreeze fish.

Sheri is a world-record holder, host of Speargun Hunter, and producer of “The Blue Wild Ocean Adventure Expo” in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Follow “Sheri Daye” and “The Blue Wild” on Facebook and Instagram.

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