How to fillet mackerel?

The Goods: Myths and facts about salmon

Salmon: You either love it or think it’s too fishy.

There has been a lot of research lately about fish in the diet as well as potential health risks and benefits. Catherine Christie, associate dean in the Brooks College of Health at the University of North Florida, and Brittaney Bialas, a UNF graduate student/dietetic intern in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics Flagship Program, discuss myths and facts about a fish that people often either love or think is too fishy. If you want to see which you are, a recipe is provided on Page D-6.

Myth: Eating salmon does not reduce the risk of heart disease.

Fact: Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown in many studies to be associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Compared with fish intake of less than once per month, risk of coronary heart disease decreased by 21 percent (one to three times per month), 29 percent (once per week), 31 percent (two to four times per week) and 34 percent (five-plus times per week) in a large study of women from the Nurses’ Health Study.

Myth: There are more omega-3 fatty acids found in wild salmon than in farmed salmon.

Fact: Farmed salmon has just as many omega-3s as wild salmon, if not more. The USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference actually shows ocean-farmed Atlantic salmon has 1.9 grams of omega-3s per serving, whereas wild salmon has 1.2 grams per serving. The amount of omega-3s found in wild salmon depends on the type and amount of algae and plankton they eat. The amount of omega-3s in farmed salmon depends on the feed they are given, which is usually made of plants, grains and fishmeal. The feed given to farmed salmon is composed of enough omega-3s to provide them with equal or higher amounts than what is found in the wild kind. The American Heart Association recommends consuming at least two servings of fish, either farmed or wild, per week to receive health benefits of omega-3s and other important nutrients.

Myth: Cooking salmon destroys its nutrients, so it’s better to eat salmon raw.

Fact: Raw fish contains an enzyme that destroys thiamine, a B vitamin important for energy metabolism and the nervous system. Heat inactivates the enzyme and makes thiamine available to the body. Since fish usually have a quick cooking time at relatively low temperatures, important nutrients such as other B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A are not at great risk for being destroyed.

Myth: Frozen salmon is not as tasty or as healthful as fresh salmon.

Fact: Frozen salmon is not necessarily a poor choice when compared to fresh salmon. Fish that has been frozen can sometimes be fresher than the fish you buy at the seafood counter in a grocery store because it could take days before the fish is delivered from the boat to the marketplace. Many packaged fish from the freezer section are frozen immediately after being caught, which results in preservation of nutrients and prevention of spoilage.

Myth: Salmon skin contains fat and should be removed before cooking.

Fact: The skin of salmon contains a large amount of the healthful omega-3 fats, which get soaked up by the meat when the fish is cooked. Leaving the skin on the salmon when it’s cooking also retains moisture and helps the meat to stay together. The skin is edible, although some believe it has an undesirable fishy taste. To reap the benefits of additional omega-3 fats in your salmon without the extra fishy flavor, add some lemon juice before cooking and then remove the skin before eating.

Myth: Farmed salmon have chemical dyes added to imitate the pink flesh of wild salmon.

Fact: Farmed salmon don’t have chemical dyes added to their flesh. The pink color is a result of the carotenoids, compounds necessary for the fish’s healthy growth and metabolism. Wild salmon get these substances by consuming small algae-eating crustaceans, such as shrimp. Farmed salmon are given the same type of carotenoids through supplementation in their diet. This ensures the farmed salmon receive the nutrients necessary for optimal health, as well as for the proper color that would be lacking without the addition of these natural carotenoids. Canned, fresh and frozen salmon are also low in mercury, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Myth: The bones in canned salmon aren’t safe to eat and should always be removed.

Fact: The bones that are usually present in canned salmon are perfectly edible and provide a rich source of calcium. The canning process makes the bones soft enough to chew and mix well with the meat.

The Goods is a monthly column about food myths and facts by faculty members in the University of North Florida’s Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, which was recently selected by UNF President John Delaney as a Flagship Program, designed to elevate the program to the nation’s top echelon. Have a question about salmon? Contact Christie at [email protected]

When a panel of nutrition scientists updated the original Mediterranean Diet Pyramid in 2008, one of the major changes they made was to make fish and seafood more prominent. In other words, they moved fish and seafood closer to the base of the pyramid. They did this because in the fifteen years since the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid was first introduced in 1993, nutrition science research concluded that the health benefits of eating fish and seafood were so great that they recommended eating it at least twice a week.

A display of canned fish in Porto, Portugal.

In addition to providing a high-quality source of protein and vitamins D and B12, some fish provide significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, an essential fat with anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to lower the incidence of heart disease. Diets high in omega-3 fatty acids are also associated with helping the brain age healthfully, with a lower risk of cognitive decline.

The fish that tend to be highest in these omega-3 fatty acids are small, oily fish such as anchovies, sardines, herring, and mackerel. Despite their small size, they pack considerable flavor.

One of the most simple, traditional, and flavorful ways to enjoy these small oily fish, like sardines or mackerel, is to grill them and finish with a squeeze of lemon, a dash of coarse sea salt, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Simplicity at its best.

Throughout Sicily, you’ll find the classic combination of pasta with sardines (pasta con le sarde). Heavily influenced by centuries of foreign occupancy, including Arabs, Greeks, Romans, and Normans, pasta con le sarde features pasta, traditionally bucatini, a long, spaghetti-shaped pasta with a hollow center, served with an herbaceous sauce made from onions, fennel, pine nuts, sardines, sometimes saffron, and topped with seasoned bread crumbs.

While freshly-caught fish is often considered best, this is not always the case. Commonly thought of as depression-era food, canned/tinned fish or conservas, the latter as they are referred to in Spain, are widely considered to be some of the best fish in the world. An interesting tidbit, canned goods were actually invented by a Frenchman in the early 1800s as a way to preserve food for war. The first conservas didn’t arrive to Spain until 1840, when a French sailboat shipwrecked in Spain and the Spaniards discovered the ingenuity of their neighbors to the east. Shortly thereafter, the first cannery was built in Spain and thus the Spanish canned fish industry was born. Today, many traditional, family-owned canneries still thrive, sustainably sourcing their fish, largely from the Galician region of Spain’s Northwest coast, hand-packing them at the peak of freshness, and canning them immediately (on-site), resulting in pristine, top-notch flavor and texture.

So, next time you head down the canned fish aisle at your local grocery store, consider tossing a few cans of sardines, mackerel, and/or anchovies into your cart. Inexpensive, highly versatile, and shelf-stable, they make for an easy meal or snack any time of the day. Add canned sardines or mackerel to a green salad, top avocado toast with a sardine or two, or add sardines to eggs (AKA fisherman’s eggs, or sardines mixed with a tasty array of herbs and aromatics, and then baked with a few eggs cracked on top).

When it comes to anchovies, most of what you’ll find on grocery store shelves are anchovies that have been filleted, salt-cured, and packed in oil. It’s the curing process that lends the anchovies their salty and pungent flavor and aroma. While quite strong tasting on their own, salt-cured anchovies are your secret weapon for livening up a pot of tomato sauce. When sautéed with garlic in olive oil, anchovies will dissolve into the oil, infusing umami richness into your sauce. The classic Spanish presentation pan con tomate y anchoa features toasted bread topped with grated tomatoes and anchovies, finished with a generous dash of extra virgin olive oil.

Then there are white anchovies, known as boquerones in Spain and gavros in Greece. They are prepared by first salting the anchovies and subsequently curing them with lemon juice or vinegar. The salting process draws out some of the moisture from the fish and firms up their texture, while the acid essentially ‘cooks’ the anchovies. White anchovies possess a decidedly more delicate texture and flavor as compared to salt-cured, and can be enjoyed on their own–without embellishment, save for a splash of extra virgin olive oil–or as a tapa (also known as a pintxo in some parts of Spain), for example, atop a piece of crusty bread.

So, no matter the country or the preparation, do yourself a favor and embrace the great taste and good health of the small fish of the sea.

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The Difference Between Sardines and Anchovies

Whether it’s due to their small size, the fact that they are both oily salt water fish sold primarily in tins or that they are positioned next to each other on the same shelf of every grocery store in America, sardines and anchovies are regularly confused for one another. When you look at the specifics of both types of fish, though, they are actually less similar than you might think. Here are the differences between anchovies and sardines.

Sardines and anchovies are two completely different fish.

Sardines, also referred to as pilchards, are a group of small, oily fish that were once found in great abundance around the island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean. The sardine is a member of the Clupeidae family, which also includes herring, and there are at least 18 different species classified as sardines or pilchards.

Anchovies are also small, oily fish commonly found in the Mediterranean, as well as further north near Scandinavia. However, there are more than 140 species of anchovies, all of which are members of the Engraulidae family.

Image zoom Claudia Totir/Getty Images

The two look different.

Sardines are the larger of the two and can be up to 20 cm in length (7.9 in). Sardines have white flesh and are often identified by their slightly protruding lower jaw. Anchovies, on the other hand, are sold with darker, reddish-grey flesh as a result of the curing they undergo (more on that below) and are usually less than 15 cm (6 in) in length.

They taste different.

Along with being larger, sardines also have a lighter, less intense flavor than anchovies, which are known for their distinct and aggressive, umami-rich flavor. This distinct flavor comes from the curing process that anchovies undergo, in which the small fish are often dried in salt and then packaged in tins with olive oil.

They don’t both belong on pizza.

While both types of fish can be served every which way from grilled to filleted and marinated to fried, there is one delivery system that is reserved exclusively for anchovies: pizza. Sure, most kids have incorrectly maligned this specific topping for years, but anchovies were key to one of the original pizzas, the pizza marinara, which included just tomatoes and anchovies as toppings, and they should be respected as such. If you’re an adult and the idea of anchovies on pizza grosses you out, do yourself a favor and try not to knock it until you try it.

Try out these anchovy and sardine recipes at home and taste the difference for yourself.

How To Fillet Mackerel

Filleting Instructions

Remove head behind the collar on both sides, angling the knife to get maximum yield. Open the stomach cavity with the tip of your knife and remove the guts. Using the backbone as a guide, cut from head to tail in a single cut, about half way into the Mackerel. Release the pin bones at the top of the fish to allow your knife to get over the ribs. Then, with a second cut release the Mackerel fillet from the frame. With the second side, make a cut along the backbone cutting to the top and then the tail. Release the pin bones at the top of the fish to allow your knife to get over the ribs. Then with a second cut, release the Mackerel fillet from the frame. Clean up the stomach membrane and trim if required. This has filleted and prepared 2 mackerel fillets.

The following video displays the correct way to fillet Mackerel for a delicious fish dish, whether you enjoy it at home or as part of your restaurant menu. Mackerel is a firm, oily fish due to it being a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Due to its large availability, Mackerel has been a popular choice of fish in the UK. Native to both temperate and tropical seas, Mackerel is also a great source of Vitamin D, protein and selenium. Mackerel is best from June to February for availability and best quality.

As Mackerel contains smaller bones called pin bones, filleting this type of fish can be a tricky task. That’s why this video demonstrates the simplest but most effective way to fillet this fish, so that you can do it too. We think that the best way to cook Mackerel is by baking, grilling or pan-frying it. Due to Mackerel’s rish, flavoursome taste, the traditional lemon and herb or cream/butter based sauces should be avoided. Instead, we suggest pairing this fish with a either a mustard or spicy tomato sauce. For a lighter recipe, try Mackerel with soy sauce, lime and ginger for a refreshing but heavenly premium fish dish.

Take a dip into more of our filleting knowledge to learn the best way to prepare Gurnard, Squid and a range of other seafood. Looking for more of our delicious products? Check out our range of sustainably sourced fish.

Remove head behind the collar on both sides angling the knife to get maximum yield

Open the stomach cavity with the tip of your knife and remove the guts

Using the backbone as a guide cut from head to tail in one cut about half way into the fishRelease the pinbones at the top of the fish to allow your knife to get over the ribsThen with a second cut release the fillet from the frameWith the second side make a cut along the backbone cutting to the top and them the tailRelease the pinbones at the top of the fish to allow your knife to get over the ribsThen with a second cut release the fillet from the frameClean up the stomach membrane and trim if requiredProducing 2 mackerel fillets


Mackerel is a firm-fleshed, torpedo-shaped sea fish. Whole mackerel weigh in around 10-12oz (275g-350g) so can be served as a meal for one in its un-filleted form. The fish has a distinctive iridescent skin with silver streaks and is well-known for falling into the ‘oily’ category, therefore is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. Mackerel has a creamy and slightly salty meat that is often smoked or peppered and sold ready prepared. It is a popular BBQ or grilling fish as it holds its form well and its fillets are robust and meaty. It was recently awarded a sustainability certification, meaning it’s also an ethical choice.


UK shores yield plenty of mackerel, with hauls being particularly heavy in Scotland. The fish starts arriving at UK shores in April/May and then leave in September/October, so it will be at its freshest and best during this summer period. Imported mackerel from elsewhere in Europe is available all year round.

Choose the best

As with all fish, a bright eye and shiny skin is an indication of its freshness. A mackerel should be firm to the touch and a really fresh one won’t droop if held horizontally by the head.

Prepare it

Mackerel can be cooked whole, but make sure it’s cleaned thoroughly and scaled by your fishmonger. To avoid bones, cook as fillets by removing two pieces from either side of the spine using a sharp, pointed filleting knife.
Watch our video on how to fillet a mackerel:

Store it

The flesh of a mackerel deteriorates quickly, so it should be eaten within 24 hours of being caught. However, it is a good fish for curing, smoking and salting, which dramatically prolongs its shelf life.

Cook it

Mackerel is a sturdy fish that can withstand being barbequed or grilled on a high heat. It’s also good soused or roasted whole, and can handle being teamed with very strong flavours- fragrant Asian flavours such as chilli, garlic, lemongrass and coriander work well. Smoked mackerel is also popular, and sold vacuum-packed with different flavours, such as peppered or chilli. In this form, mackerel can be flaked over salads, added to fishcakes or generally used like other canned, prepared fish such as sardines.


Try sardine, anchovy or tuna.

How to butterfly fillet your fish

Butterflying is another way of filleting a finfish. Rather than taking the fillets away from the backbone, the bone is taken out. The result is one fillet, not two. Usually the head and tail are left on to hold the finfish together during cooking. If you are boning roundfish, bone through the stomach unless they are to be stuffed, in which case it is better to bone them through the back.

Roundfish — butterflied by boning through the stomach

1. after gutting, gilling and trimming, continue the stomach slit as far as the tail.

2. hold the cavity open to expose the backbone and ribs, which are embedded shallowly in the flesh and covered by membrane.

3. working from head to tail, nick the membrane with firm careful strokes, cutting the rib cage free from the backbone.

4. open the finfish as wide as possible without tearing the flesh. Gently run the knife down both sides of the backbone, cutting the bones free and being careful not to cut the skin.

5. with a pair of food scissors, cut the backbone free at the tail end. If you are keeping the head attached, cut the backbone at that end too, at the third vertebra from the head. Gently pull out the backbone.

6. remove the ribs by holding the knife parallel to the flesh, cutting just under the rib cage.

Roundfish — butterflied by boning through the back

This method of boning is normally used if you are stuffing the gut cavity.

Optional: gill, trim and behead.

cut along one side of the upper surface (close to the dorsal fin) from the tail to the head.

lift the top portion of flesh and gently cut the flesh from the bone, working to the belly side, and open up.

remove the guts.

turnover and repeat cuts on the opposite side.

use food scissors to cut the backbone at the tail end, and gently remove the backbone with the attached pin bones.

Butterflying flatfish

trim the long-based fins and remove the head. The skin is usually removed as well.

on one side, cut into the flesh along the “top” edge of the flatfish. Gently lift the flesh with one hand, and cut it from the bones. Continue to the edge of the rib bones, but do not cut all the way through. Repeat on the opposite side.

use food scissors to snip the backbone at the head and tail.

while holding back the flesh, snip the pin bones and then repeat on the opposite side.

gently lift the backbone at the tail and pull away from the flesh.

A butterfly fillet from a flatfish remains.

Folding (delice), rolling (paupiette) or plaiting

Firm thin fillets are particularly suitable for folding, rolling or plaiting. These forms may be used to provide more regular shapes and therefore ensure more even cooking of the finfish. When folding or rolling, a stuffing can be added. This method can be used for such finfish as whiting, ling, trout and coral trout.

When preparing a fillet for plaiting, the fillet can still be kept in one piece.

It is important to fold or roll the skin surface on the inside because the connective tissue on the skin surface will shrink when cooked, keeping the roll tight. This method can also be used for a skinless fillet.

Butterfly Fish Bake

“Butterflied” means boned and opened. This recipe is prepared in parchment to concentrate the classic flavors and capture the savory juice that moistens the fish as it bakes.

  • Preparation Time

    10 minutes

  • Cooking Time

    15 minutes

  • Difficulty Rating


  • Serves


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  1. 1 lb. / 450 gm trout, boned
  2. 2 tsp. / 10 ml olive oil
  3. 8 fresh dill sprigs
  4. 2 lemons, 1 cut in wedges, the other sliced
  5. Salt and pepper, to taste
  6. Chopped fresh parsley for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F / 200°C.
  2. Brush olive oil over one side of 4 pieces of baking parchment (preferably ecological), each approximately 12 inches / 30 cm long.
  3. Cut the trout into quarters, and open each to a flat “butterfly” shape. Place a 4 oz / 115 gm trout section in the middle of each piece of parchment, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Place 2 dill sprigs with 2 slices of lemon over the center of each butterflied fish, and drizzle ½ teaspoon / 2.5 ml of olive oil. Gather the sides of the parchment and fold the edges together to loosely seal.
  5. Place the wrapped trout on a baking tray over the middle rack of the preheated oven; bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Check for doneness by opening 1 packet; when the fish can be easily flaked with a fork, it is ready.
  7. Carefully remove the fish from the parchment; transfer to a plate, and pour the drippings over the fish.
  8. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Serving Size: 2 oz / 55 gm fillet

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