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Prepare fish for basic dishes

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1 Prepare fish for basic dishes
Unit 220 (2FPC1) Prepare fish for basic dishes

2 Types of fish - Introduction:
There is a large and varied range of fish available today which adds variety and interest to any menu and is suitable for use in many different occasions, be it a simple meal or an elaborate function. Knowing the different types of fish and their properties provides the chef with the opportunity to utilise the fish to maximise its taste and flavour.

3 Types of fish - Introduction:
In order to achieve this it is important to not only know the different types of fish and how to identify them but also to know how to tell when they are at their freshest and of good quality. Fish are a perishable product and can quickly deteriorate in freshness and quality.

4 Types of fish - Introduction:
There is a wide variety of fish available all year but some species are best at certain times of the year. It is important to know what these fish are and when they are at their best. The last part of this section contains pictures and details of common fish and includes seasonal information.

5 Categories: Fish are divided into a number of different categories according to shape, texture of flesh and origin. The shape of the fish along with the texture of the flesh are the two main categories.

6 Categories: Shape: Texture of flesh: Origin:
This category deals with whether the fish is flat or round. Texture of flesh: This category deals with whether the flesh is white or oily. Origin: This category deals with a number of areas. Is the fish sea or fresh water. Is it exotic coming from warmer tropical waters? Is the fish wild or farmed?

7 Flat fish: These fish swim at the bottom of the sea and usually have two different types of skin colour. The top colour is usually darker to act as camouflage on the sandy sea bed; the bottom colour is usually white as the fish swim just above the sea floor.

8 Flat fish: All flat fish have side and tail fins to help them move through the water. All flat fish have their eyes on top of their head and appear to be facing sidewards in appearance. Some flat fish appear to be looking right, some looking left. All flat fish are born with eyes either side of the head but they move around to one side as the fish grows, some prefer to lie on their left side, some on their right side! Common flat fish include Plaice. Sole. Turbot. Halibut and Brill. All flat fish have white flesh which is generally firm although the spawning season in the spring months can affect the texture of the flesh, especially Plaice making it very soft.

9 Round fish: This group of fish make up the largest category of all as all oily fish are round in shape as well as a good number of white fish. All round fish are streamlined in shape to help them move through the water and cut down on water resistance. Some round fish have lots of scales to help in this process. Some have very few scales and some have none at all.

10 Round fish: Round fish can be found at all levels of the sea, some swim very near to the surface, some swim in the middle and some swim near the bottom. Round fish are also found in freshwater. All round fish have dorsal fins along their back as well as anal fins on the bottom, tail fins and pectoral fins on the side all of which help them swim and turn in the water.

11 Round fish: All oily fish have one eye on either side of their head giving good all round vision. White fish: Common white fish include Cod. Sole (Lemon and Dover). Haddock. Brill. Turbot. Halibut. Hake and Mullet. The flesh of these fish are white and low in fat. White fish can be flat in shape (Plaice. Sole. Turbot. Halibut and Brill) or round in shape (Cod. Mullet and Hake).

12 Round fish: Oily Fish: All oily fish are round in shape and common oily fish include Salmon. Trout. Herring. Mackerel and Tuna. The flesh of oily fish is generally darker and firmer in texture than white fish. The flesh of oily fish is rich in fat and vitamins A and D and is one of the best sources of these vitamins in the diet. Government guidelines recommend that we eat at least two portions of oily fish a week.

13 Quality points to look for in fresh fish.
There are a number of common quality points to look for in all fish and some which are easily identifiable in different categories of fish. All fish should be purchased as fresh as possible and the best indicators of good quality in any fresh fish are through looking and smelling. All fresh fish should have a pleasant smell of the sea or seaweed, it should not smell ‘fishy’ or strongly which indicates it is past its best. All fresh fish should look bright and shiny, either through the presence of slime (flat fish in particular) or through plenty of bright scales (round oily fish in particular).

14 Quality points to look for in fresh fish.
The eyes of all fish should be bright and protruding from the head, they should not be sunken in. If the fish has its gills intact they should be red in colour indicating a good amount of oxygen is still present in the blood Any fish that has distinctive markings should clearly show these markings. For example. Orange spots on Plaice. Bright lateral lines on round white fish. Bright stripes on Mackerel.


16 Quality points to look for in fresh fish.
Fish that has just been caught and killed will still be in a state of rigor mortis (firm and stiff) for up to 24 hours and this is a good quality point to look for. As the fish becomes older it becomes more softer and pliable, the ‘bendier’ the fish the more likelihood is that it is an older fish.

17 Quality points to look for in fresh fish.
Fresh fish delivered to the kitchen should be packed on ice, ideally in polystyrene boxes. If you think that the fish you have been given to prepare, or other items to go with the fish, is not of the right quality, or in its best condition, you should notify your line manager or supervisor to get their opinion.

18 Common flat white fish:
Lemon Sole. It is rounder in shape than a Plaice but not as thin as a Dover Sole which is longer. The top skin is commonly a mottled light brown colour with a white bottom coloured skin. Lemon Sole is a very versatile fish being better quality than Plaice but not as expensive as Dover Sole. Lemon Sole can be prepared whole simply by trimming off the side and tail fins but is more commonly filleted, either into four fillets or two cross cut fillets before removing the skin. Lemon Sole is available all year round but is at it its best in the late spring and early summer months.


20 Common flat white fish:
Plaice. It is characterised by its distinctive orange spots on the darker upper skin although these spots are sometimes paler in colour. It has a white bottom skin. Plaice is relatively inexpensive to buy. It can be prepared whole simply by trimming off the side and tail fins but is more commonly filleted, either into four fillets or two cross cut fillets before removing the skin. Fresh Plaice can be bought all year round but should not really be used in the first few months of the year as the roe has become very large and the flesh becomes very soft and is not very nice to eat.


22 Common flat white fish:
Dover Soles. They are one of the best known flat fishes because they have a lovely flavour and nice firm flesh. They are long in shape and are one of the few fish that can be skinned before filleting simply by pulling the skin away from the flesh starting at the tail end. Like all flat fish they have a brownish upper skin with a white bottom skin. Dover Sole is available all year round but is not at its best in the spring month of April.


24 Common flat white fish:
This is a Turbot. It is one of the largest flat fish (Halibut is the largest flat fish) and also one of the most expensive. The flesh is firm and well flavoured. The dark top skin is covered with small rough protruding nodules. Turbot is available all year round.

25 Common flat white fish:
This is a Brill. It is similar in shape to a Turbot and can be easily confused as it is also a large and expensive fish. Brill however does not generally grow as large as Turbot. The top skin of a Brill is smooth and usually lighter coloured than a Turbot. It has no protruding nodules on it.

26 Common round white fish:
Cod. It has a highly visible lateral line running down its body. The skin is slightly mottled. Cod has a large head with a distinctive barbel protruding from its bottom lip. Cod used to be one of the largest round white fish caught and used but has suffered from over fishing and larger fish are now rarely seen. Fresh cod is available all year round but is not at its best during the spring months.


28 Common round white fish:
Whiting. They are smaller round fish and can be served whole in one portion although larger ones are best filleted. They have a silvery skin and the flesh is soft in texture. Whiting are one of the few fish that can be skinned whole before either filleting or cooking although care must be taken not to remove any of the flesh when pulling the skin away. Whiting is available all year round although it is at its best during the colder winter months.


30 Common round white fish:
Sea Bass. They are one of the firmer fleshed white fish and are often mistaken for an oily fish as it resembles various oily fish in appearance. Sea Bass has proved to be a popular fish to farm as its size can be easily controlled. Wild Sea Bass can grow to a range of different sizes making portion control unreliable. Farmed it is available all year. Wild Sea Bass is best between August and March.


32 Common round white fish:
Red Mullet. A distinctive looking white fish with a delicate coloured skin. The skin is usually left on when cooking as it provides an attractive appearance. They are usually cooked whole and the liver can be left in if this is the case. Modern methods of cookery however prefer the fish to be filleted first. Red Mullet is at its best between May and November.


34 Common oily fish: This is a Salmon. Probably the best known oily fish due to its popularity and success in farming making it inexpensive. The flesh is a distinctive pink colour and the silvery skin covered in scales makes it a very attractive fish. Farmed salmon is available all year. Wild salmon is best between the spring and summer months.


36 Common oily fish: Trout. Another well known and common fish also due to the success of farming. Farmed trout tend to have pinker coloured flesh than wild trout. Trout have very small scales but a good covering of slime making them slippery to handle. Both wild and farmed trout are available all year round.


38 Common oily fish: Mackerel. A distinctive fish with attractive zebra type markings on its back and upper sides. The tail is also very distinctive in appearance. The flesh is very firm and fatty. When caught the fish should be used within a short period of time as it will deteriorate quickly. Mackerel is available all year round.


40 Common oily fish: Herrings. Very distinctive looking fish, they only have one dorsal fin and there are no teeth in its mouth. It is covered in small scales. The flesh is very fatty and it is ideal for curing as in kippers or preserving as in rollmops. Herrings are at their best in the summer.


42 Common oily fish: Yellow fin Tuna. This variety is probably the most common sold in the UK due to concerns over using fish from sustainable sources as well as methods of catching other varieties of Tuna and the amount of the by-catch, especially dolphins. Tuna is usually portioned down for sale. The flesh is dark reddish brown and turns lighter when cooked but does dry out easily so is usually cooked medium rare.


44 Preparation of fish: The preparation of fresh fish is an important technique to get right for a number of different reasons. All fresh fish has a relatively high degree of wastage associated with the preparation, anything between 45-60% depending on size and type of fish, this obviously affects costs and selling price.

45 Preparation of fish: The texture of the flesh is soft and can be easily damaged during the preparation process. Fish in itself is not a high risk food in terms of bacterial contamination; it is however a protein food and can support the growth of micro-organisms if cross contamination occurs. For these reasons it is important to use the correct tools and equipment when preparing fish.

46 Preparation of fish: Knives should always be sharp when preparing fish in order to achieve a quality end product. The following sections look at the tools and equipment used for specific tasks during the preparation of fish for basic dishes.  

47 Filleting flat fish: Flat fish such as Plaice and Lemon and Dover soles are probably the most common flat fish you will come across to fillet and the same tools and equipment can be used for them. Always wash the fish before trimming or filleting to remove surface slime which makes it difficult to hold the fish and keep it secure.

48 Filleting flat fish: If required the side and tail fins can be removed before filleting as part of the trimming process, this does help define the shape of the fish better and provides a better edge for the filleting knife to cut through, once you are confident in filleting it is not necessary to always remove the side fins. The side fins can be removed using either a pair of fish scissors or a chef’s knife.


50 Filleting flat fish: Always cut in the opposite direction that the fins naturally lie, this will mean cutting from the tail end to the head end for the side fins. The tail fin can be cut straight across but be careful that you do not cut into the flesh of the fillet at the tail.

51 Filleting flat fish: This trimming process is also used if the fish is to be cooked whole as in grilled plaice or Sole. A filleting knife is used to remove the actual fillets. It has a sharp point and a flexible sharp blade which is ideal for bending under the flesh and separating the flesh from the bone.


53 Filleting flat fish: It is not necessary to remove the head from flat fish before filleting as two of the fillets run right up alongside the head and there is the possibility of removing some of the flesh with the head. The head can be removed once the long fillets have been removed and use a chef’s knife to cut this off with.

54 Filleting flat fish: Never use a filleting knife to cut off the side fins or head because the blade is too flexible and you could cut yourself. If a colour coded operating system is in place within your workplace then use a blue board and a blue handled filleting knife to operate safely within the system which is designed to reduce the possibility of cross contamination.

55 Filleting round fish: The tools and equipment for trimming and filleting round fish are the same as for flat fish although the techniques used will be different. Common round fish you may need to trim and fillet include Trout and Salmon (oily fish). Whiting. Cod and Mullet (white fish). Always wash and descale fish if necessary before trimming and filleting, this makes it easier to handle and reduces the risk of contamination.

56 Filleting round fish: All round fish should have the fins removed before filleting and fish scissors are ideal for this. A chef’s knife can also be used. Like flat fish cut in the opposite direction that the fins lie, again this will be from the tail to the head for the top and bottom fins, the side fins can just be cut straight through.


58 Filleting round fish: If the gills still remain in the fish then cut them out using scissors before filleting. Small round fish to be cooked whole are also trimmed in this way plus the eyes should be removed using the point of a small knife to cut around them before popping them out.

59 Filleting round fish: When filleting round fish it is necessary to cut the head off in order to be able to run the blade along the back bone. Use a chef’s knife for this task as it is heavier and the blade is firmer. Cut behind the head to form a ‘V’ shape to avoid wasting the flesh on the fillet behind the head.

60 Filleting round fish: A filleting knife is used to fillet the fish although larger flexible bladed filleting knifes can be used for larger fish. Again use the blue handled knife and board if they are in use in your workplace.

61 Removing pin bones: Once fillets have been removed from larger round fish it is necessary to remove the pin bones that still remain in the flesh. Smaller round fish also have pin bones but they are not usually removed as they are very fine and break down once cooked.

62 Removing pin bones: The best and most appropriate tool to use to remove these pin bones is a pair of  fish pliers or tweezers that have ridged edges on the tips or prongs to grip and secure the pin bones before removing them.

63 Removing pin bones: Pull the bones out at an angle of 45º towards the head end of the fillet to prevent unsightly holes appearing in the flesh.

64 Removing rib bones and spine:
Once the fillets have been removed from round fish you will find that you may still have the rib bones attached which are from around the stomach where the fish had been gutted. You can cut through these bones when filleting but it is usual to cut around them and remove any remaining ones from the fillet.

65 Removing rib bones and spine:
Use the side of the filleting knife to run the blade behind the rib bones and ease them away from the flesh. Larger round fish are usually prepared like this although smaller ones can be done the same way if required.

66 Removing rib bones and spine:
Use a blue chopping board and blue handled knife if your workplace has a colour coded system in place.

67 Darnes and Tronçons: Darnes are cut from large round fish such as Salmon and Cod and involve cutting through the skin, flesh and bone.

68 Darnes and Tronçons: Tronçons are cut from larger flat fish such as Turbot and Brill and involve cutting through the skin, flesh and bone. For this reason it is best to use a sharp chef’s knife that is heavy and strong enough to cut through without requiring too much effort or cutting in order to achieve a neat darne or tronçon.

69 Goujons: Goujons are cuts taken on the slant from small trimmed flat fillets such as Plaice or Sole. Use a sharp edged knife to cut neatly through the fillet. A straight bladed filleting knife is ideal. Use a blue chopping board and blue handled knife if your workplace has a colour coded system in place.


71 Suprêmes: Suprêmes are cuts of fish taken on the slant from larger fillets such as Salmon. Cod or Turbot. A sharp edged knife is ideal for this as the cuts must be neat and accurate. A longer bladed filleting knife is ideal. Do not use a serrated edged knife as this will tend to saw through the flesh rather than cut it neatly.


73 Délices and Paupiettes:
Both délices and paupiettes are produced from small skinned and trimmed fillets of fish, usually Sole or Plaice although other fish can be used. Délices are trimmed and neatly folded fillets and are best trimmed up using a filleting knife to remove any remaining side fins that may be present. Paupiettes are stuffed and rolled fillets. The stuffing is usually fish forcemeat of a contrasting colour such as Salmon. The forcemeat can be spread on evenly using a palette knife or piped on with a piping bag before spreading with the palette knife. Use the palette knife to help roll and neaten the edges once the fillet is rolled.


75 Skinning fish: Once fish has been filleted it is usually skinned although a number of fish are now cooked with their skin on once filleted and portioned. Some fish can be skinned before filleting, notably Dover Sole which is simply skinned by freeing the skin at the tail end then simply pulling it away towards the head using the hands.

76 Skinning fish: Other fish need to be skinned using a flexible sharp filleting knife in order to cut between the skin and the flesh without leaving any flesh remaining on the skin or vice versa.

77 Preparing fish: The flesh of fish is soft and easily damaged and using poor techniques will result in an unattractive appearance as well as an increase in the wastage percentage of the fish. The cooking section of the kitchen will not be happy if the prepared fish does not meet their dish specification sheets. Using the correct techniques will result in the preparation identified on the specification sheet being met. Profit percentages will be achieved and customer satisfaction will be maintained.

78 Coating fish: Fish is coated for a number of reasons depending on the cooking method being used. Some coatings can only be applied just before cooking; some can be done in advance. The coating of fish is designed to protect the delicate flesh of the fish and to seal the fish in the coating as in deep frying and also to prevent the fish from sticking to the pan, tray or bars when cooking by shallow frying or grilling.

79 Coating fish: If the coating of the fish is only flour then this should be done just before cooking otherwise the moistness of the fish will cause the flour to form lumps and clump together which will spoil the finished appearance. If the coating is batter based for deep frying this can also only be done just before cooking for obvious reasons.


81 Coating fish: If the fish is to be coated in breadcrumbs for deep frying then this can be done in advance as part of the ‘mise en place’ preparation. Fish to be coated in breadcrumbs goes through the system known as pané. This simply means passing items through seasoned flour, eggwash and breadcrumbs in that order to fully coat the item. When the item is placed into hot fat the breadcrumbs immediately seal and protect the fish which then cooks through heat conducted through the coating,

82 Coating fish: To successfully pané any item it is best to have two people. The first to dip the item in seasoned flour then eggwash, remove the surplus eggwash then place the item into the breadcrumbs. The second person then coats the item in the breadcrumbs. This method helps prevent excess eggwash going into the breadcrumbs and the fingers becoming clogged up with egg and breadcrumbs.


84 Coating fish: Small items of fish such as goujons and fillets are usually prepared this way and this technique was commonly known as ‘Pané à l’Anglaise’ (English style). The coating of fish in flour, either fillets, suprêmes or small whole fish is best done at the point of cooking. Ensure the fish is prepared as required. Dip into seasoned flour to coat evenly then tap off all excess flour. The coating is designed for protection rather than to be part of the dish.


86 Coating fish: The coating of fish in batter for deep frying is also done at the point of cooking. Pass the fish, either white fillets or suprêmes, through seasoned flour, tap off the excess and dip into batter ensuring the fish is fully coated, allow excess batter to drip off then place the fish straight into hot fat to cook and seal inside the batter.

87 Marinating fish: Fish is marinated for one main purpose, that being to impart additional flavour into the fish before cooking. The structure and texture of fish means that the marinade ingredients quickly soak into the flesh and the marinating time is relatively short.

88 Marinating fish: Most marinades include an acidic ingredient such as lemon or orange juice. This acid can have the effect of ‘cooking’ the flesh of the fish so remember not to leave the fish in the marinade too long.

89 Marinating fish: There are many types and flavours of marinades but they all require the ingredients to be evenly distributed over the food item to be flavoured. Fish does not require to be totally covered in the marinade unlike meat or poultry items as it will marinate quickly. Salmon is a common fish that is marinated, either darnes or suprêmes. Place the marinade in a lipped tray deep enough to hold the fish but do not overfill the tray.

90 Marinating fish: Add the fish and turn the pieces over so they evenly coat in the marinade, leave for minutes before removing and cooking. Dry marinades which are herb and spice based can also be used where the fish is dusted with the marinade, mixed to ensure all pieces are evenly coated and then transferred to a clean bowl or tray.


92 Handling fish: What the texture of different types of fish means in terms of handling the fish. It is important to be aware of the different textures of the flesh of different fish as it means that some fish can withstand more handling while others cannot.

93 Handling fish: Oily fish as a general rule is firmer than white fleshed fish although there are exceptions, notably sardines and herrings both of which have soft oily flesh. Oily fish which have softer flesh can have their backbone removed by hand rather than cutting it away once the belly has been fully cut open.

94 Handling fish: Flat while fleshed fish is generally fairly firm although the spawning season can affect the texture of the flesh. Plaice in particular is no good at all during the spawning season of the first three months of the year as the flesh is very soft. Round white fish generally have flesh that is fairly soft and flakes easily once cooked. Cod. Haddock and Whiting for example. There are exception such as Sea Bass which has fairly firm flesh.

95 Handling fish: It is important therefore to use sharp knifes at all times when cutting fish and correct techniques to prevent damaging the flesh of the fish.

96 Healthy eating: What the healthy eating options are when preparing fish. Fish in itself is a healthy product full of protein and oily fish is one of the best sources of vitamin A and D in the diet. The healthy options associated with the preparation of fish relate mainly to the other items added to it. For example when coating fish in breadcrumbs the dish can be made healthier by using wholemeal crumbs rather than white. Additionally other items such as oats and nuts can be added to add extra fibre and nutrients.

97 Healthy eating: If the fish is being marinated avoid using oil based marinades and use fruit or herb and spice based ones in place. If a fish product made from previously cooked fish is being prepared such as fish cakes then avoid the use of known fatty products such as butter, cream and cheese in the production.


99 Storing prepared fish:
How to safely store prepared fish correctly not for immediate use. The storage of prepared fish needs to be carefully controlled. Fish is a perishable product and poor storage can deteriorate the quality of the fish very quickly.

100 Storing prepared fish:
The storage of prepared fish needs to be carefully controlled. Fish is a perishable product and poor storage can deteriorate the quality of the fish very quickly. Ideally a separate fish refrigerator is preferred as the temperature can be lowered to between 0-2ºC which is the ideal temperature for the storage of fresh fish.

101 Storing prepared fish:
Place the fish onto a clean tray and cover with cling film then store on its own shelf. Do not place other food items on top of the fish otherwise the fish will flatten.

102 Storing prepared fish:
If the fish is being stored in a general purpose refrigerator with other foods then place it right at the bottom which is the coldest part, again use a tray and cover it. Avoid placing high risk foods such as raw meat above the fish where there is a possibility of cross contamination occurring.

103 Storing prepared fish:
Remember that the odour of fish can also be picked up by food items such as eggs, cream and milk so avoid storing the fish near to these items.

104 Storing prepared fish:
If the fish is not required for use with the next 2 days it is best to freeze the fish down to prevent deterioration. It is best to individually wrap portions in clingfilm then aluminium foil to help protect the fish during the freezing process and storage.

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