How to Debone and Enjoy a Whole Cooked Fish

Having grown up near a coast, I love the smell and taste of freshly caught fish – a hint of an ocean spray. (Remember: fresh fish should have no other smell!).  Although my preference is for saltwater fish, I wasn’t about to turn down a recent offering of freshly-caught golden trout from a local creek. After all, this is the middle of the trout fishing season based on the dates (April 1st to October 15th) when  trout fishing licenses are issued, which means that the lakes, ponds, and creeks are full of golden, brook, brown, and rainbow trout. While I do enjoy trout, I am not adept at eating it cleanly off the bones. When A. mentioned an interest in learning how to cook and debone whole fish, I thought that I would record my husband demonstrating the process in just a few steps. He promises that they are easy to do!

Besides being cheaper pound for pound (whole fish vs. filet), a whole cooked fish served on a white platter surrounded by fresh greens and colorful vegetables looks impressive. Fish cheeks and fish head are prized delicacies in many countries as is the meat near the bones. Trout bones cannot be used for stock, but if you buy whole flat fish or other less oily fish, the bones can be cooked with white wine to make a delicate fish stock.

Trout is an earthy-tasting, plain fish, and like salmon it is an oily fish rich in the good omega-3 acids. Trout is available all over the world and cooks quickly on the grill or under the broiler. Here are some suggestions for cooking trout.

In England, brown trout is stuffed with parsley and lemons and grilled with a dash of olive oil, served alongside lightly-buttered boiled Jersey new potatoes.

Rainbow Trout steamed in a Chinese style: Marinate the fish in a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil for about ten minutes. Steam for ten minutes with slivers of fresh ginger, scallions (spring onions), green chilies, and cilantro tucked in and around the fish.


Scandinavian festivities include smoked trout on an open-face rye bread sandwich topped with crème fraiche, cucumber, and dill. Substitute the smoked trout with cooked trout or combine the cooked trout with crème fraiche and seasonings to make a fish mousse.

Get a whole fish next time you buy fish,  and ask the fishmonger to scale and gut it, removing the heads (if you prefer) and fins. Show off your new skills in deboning and enjoying a whole fish.


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