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Home > Tips & Techniques > Trout > De-boning Trout Fillets

Trout Fillets

I love catching trout, and there are some great recipes out there for cooking your catch.  One thing that I've never liked about eating trout is picking through all the tiny bones present in their meat.  A while back I learned a trick to cut out the strip of meat that contains the bones.  Some people think that this wastes meat but I think that you waste more meat by picking through it for bones after it's cooked.

If you properly fillet a trout the only bones that should remain are the bones that stick out of the sides of the fish.  These are called the pin bones and are present in all trout, salmon and other related species.  With large trout or salmon you can actually pull out the pin bones with a pair of pliers.  The problem with trout is that they are often too small and the bones will end up breaking off when you try to pull them out.

Procedure

Fillet your trout with the skin still in place.  After you finish the fillet, run your fingers along the meat starting at the head towards the tail end.  You should be able to feel some small bones sticking out from the center of the fish.  Running your finger or a knife along the bones will help to make them stick out so you can see them.

Now here is the tricky part.  You want to cut out only the section of meat that contains the bones without wasting any other meat.  The key is understanding the anatomy of the fish.  Pin bones stick out from the center of the fish and go up at about a 30 degree angle from the spine towards the outer skin.  These bones only go about 2/3 of the way down the fish starting at the head and disappearing around where the anal fin starts.

The trick is to make an angled cut on either side of the pin bones that goes from the head to the section where the bones disappear.

  1. Make your first cut just below the bones from the head to where they end
    • Do not cut straight down but cut at about a 30 degree angle towards the back of the fish
    • Go all the way down to the skin but do not cut the skin
    • If you feel the knife hitting bones try changing the angle or move the cut back a little to give yourself a wider strip
  2. Make your second cut on the top side of the bones following the same angle
    • Your finished cuts should create thin strip of meat that contains the bones
  3. Use your fingers to scoop out the strip of meat containing the bones from the head towards the tail.  It will separate from the skin leaving you with a boneless fillet.

Trout Fillet Illustration

The Finished Product

Your finished product should look something like the photograph shown below.  Notice the strip down the center of the fish where the bones have been removed.  Now your fillet is ready to hit the grill!

Trout Fillet