Do you feel overwhelmed when you walk up to the seafood counter at your favorite supermarket? Not only do you see a wide range of fish species on ice, you also have to choose between the different cuts of fish. Fish is an excellent source of protein and healthy fatty acids. Figure out how to work that nutrition into your diet by understanding the different cuts of fish and how to choose them.
Different Cuts of Fish Meat
A fillet is the meaty part of the fish taken from the side and sliced parallel to the spine. It's cut in it's natural form instead of being cut into a specific shape or size. Fillets have the bones removed, but they may still have some tiny bones left in them. This cut usually has the skin removed.
Salmon cuts often come as fillets. Sole is another fish you'll often see as a fillet. Among other varieties, cod, perch, trout, bass, walleye and whitefish are usually prepared this way.
A fillet is one of the more common cuts of fish because it's easy to eat. They're also easy to cook using different methods, from sauteing to poaching.
Steak or Darne
A steak or "darne" is a thick cross-section cut around the fish, perpendicular to the spine. Steaks typically still have part of the backbone. Swordfish, tuna, and salmon steak cuts are common. Usually 1/2 to 1 inch thick, steak cuts are skinned and scaled, although salmon steaks usually retain the skin.
A supreme cut is a slice of fish cut from a fillet at a slant. It's considered the best and choicest cut of fish. Also called a pave, a supreme cut removes all bones in the fillet.
Butterfly or Cutlet
A butterfly or cutlet begins with a fillet. One side of the fish is sliced from behind the head, around the belly, and tapered toward the tail. The process is repeated on the other side of the fish, producing a connected or double fillet.
Dressed and Pan-Dressed
If you want to make a gourmet impression on your fish meal, consider a whole fish. Upon request, most markets will dress a whole fish, free of charge. A dressed fish is scaled and has all internal organs removed. A pan-dressed fish also has its fins, tail and head removed.
Fish don't have loins in the traditional steak sense. Calling fish cuts "loins" is more of a marketing term to appeal to the meat-eaters in the crowd.
A loin cut comes from the fillet part of the fish, usually from large, round fish. It's from the back of the fish, often above the spine. You'll most commonly find loins of tuna, swordfish and marlin. Loins are thick, uniform pieces with no tapering, and they don't have any skin or bones.
Fish loins are high quality sections of fish. They're usually very thick and dense. But they also come with a higher price tag because they take more work to cut and trim to those clean, uniform pieces.
Selecting Cuts of Fish
Unless frozen, fish has a fairly short shelf life. Fresh fish is best when prepared on the same day that it's purchased.
Choose fish that smells fresh, like clean water. Avoid fish that has a pungent, fishy odor. When you press into the skin, it should be resilient rather than leaving a finger impression.
Eyes should be bright, bulging and moist when selecting a whole fish. Under the dorsal fins, gills should be rich red or pink, not light brown or gray.
For top quality frozen fish, look for the letters "FAS," which means the fish has been frozen at sea. FAS fish is flash-frozen at extremely low temperatures onboard a fishing vessel only seconds after being caught.