Explore Leiths Diploma Open House – 5th June 2024


How To Descale and Gut a Round Fish

Round fish are characterised by the back bone running along the length of the body with a single fillet located on either side. The flesh can be oily or white. There are many white-fleshed species, including sea bass, cod, haddock, pollock, bream, John Dory and mullet.

1. Descaling the fish inside a large plastic bag.

2. Patting the fish dry after rinsing away any loose scales.

3. Cutting off the fins on the side of the head.

4. Cutting around the back of the gills to remove them.

5. Inserting the point of the knife into the vent hole to make a shallow cut along the belly.

6. Working the knife up towards the head, keeping the cut shallow.

7. Opening out the belly and removing the guts.

8. Using the handle of a teaspoon to break the blood line.

9. The cleaned whole fish ready to cook.


  1. To descale the fish, put it inside a large plastic bag, head first (to prevent the scales flying everywhere as you remove them). Using a fish filleting knife upside down (the non-sharp side against the fish) and holding onto the fish tail, push backwards towards the head and the scales should flip off. Turn the fish over and repeat on the second side.
  2. Once the scales are removed, take the fish out of the plastic bag and rinse under cold running water to remove any loose scales. Pat dry with kitchen paper.
  3. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, cut off all the fins except the dorsal fin (in the middle on the back). The tail can be trimmed into a ‘V’ shape if you like.
  4. Remove the gills on both sides, by opening the gill flaps and cutting round the back of the gills towards the body of the fish from the top of the fish down towards the belly.
  5. To gut the fish, place one hand on the uppermost side of the fish to help keep the belly skin taut and insert the point of a filleting knife into the vent hole.
  6. Cut up the middle of the belly of the fish to just behind the head. Don’t push too deep with the knife or the guts will be cut into unnecessarily.
  7. Open the belly and pull away the guts, including the heart and liver tucked just behind the head. You might need to snip these out using a pair of scissors.
  8. Once the guts are removed, break the blood line with the handle of a teaspoon and scrape out all the blood under the back bone.
  9. Rinse the fish and belly area well under cold running water to remove any blood. Wipe the fish out with kitchen paper. It is now ready to cook whole or to fillet.