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Cuts of Fish


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Like many other animals we eat, fish also have different cuts. Most people will have heard of fillets or steaks however, perhaps  due to the ease of transporting all manner of fish around the world, these names have become muddled to the point that some names are no longer used by many fish sellers, which can cause much confusion and disappointment to the shopper.


A good example of this is the current use of the word fillet which now seems to encompass two distinct cuts.

Flat Fish Fillet Fish Fillet Steak (Supreme)

Above a normal salmon fillet, often sold in portions which are large enough to serve 1-2, depending on the type of fish, which have been taken from fish which aren't too large.

Above a salmon fillet steak more properly called a Suprême, which is usually cut into single-serving pieces taken from a larger fish which would have a thicker than a normal fillet.


With online shopping becoming more and more popular, it is now even more important for the right name to be given to the right cut as, even with major online outlets, the picture shown may not necessarily match the product delivered. 


As an example, if you saw the first picture on the left you might think to order 2 x 200g/7oz Fillets to serve four people, which you want spread with an appropriate stuffing and roll up before baking, which would make an attractive presentation for a dinner party. Instead you get delivered 2 x 200g/7oz Suprêmes  (fillet steaks) as shown on the right, because the outlet doesn't differentiate between the two. You can't stuff and roll them and you'll have to halve them which might affect the presentation.


At a much more basic level,  the cooking instructions given for a "fillet" will not necessarily apply to a Suprême  (fillet steak) as although the overall weight may be the same, the extra thickness of the Suprême  will require extra cooking time.



"Single serving portion"  = a portion of fish which has been cut from a whole fish but which is only enough to serve 1 person

 "Single portion sized whole fish" = a whole fish including head, body and tail which is small enough to serve 1 person

Parts of a fish

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List of fish cuts

Below is a chart showing the major fish cuts with accompanying pictures and descriptions which will help when choosing fish or if you  have larger whole fish which need cutting  into portions

Butterfly Fillets

Round fish are de-headed then filleted by cutting through the belly, gutting the fish, opening it flat then removing the backbone and smaller bones, leaving the two fillets on each side of the fish joined in a ‘butterfly’ style .  The central bone can also be removed by cutting along the back after which the guts can be taken removed without splitting the belly.

Suitable fish:

Any small to medium sized whole round fish, usually single portion specimens such as bass, herring, mackerel, mullet, sardines, tilapia, trout, whiting.

As the name implies, these are cut from the head of larger mature fish and are the small pockets of flesh found just below each  eye. Hailed by many as one of the tastiest parts of a fish, they are round-ish

Suitable fish:

Usually taken from larger specimens such as monkfish, cod, hake, haddock, halibut

Fish cut - cutlets
A single-serving cross-section portion  sliced  straight through the backbone of a whole, dressed, round fish. In general, they are slightly thinner than a steak, usually around 12mm/½-inch thick, and most often cut from the section between the head and mid-body.

Suitable fish:

Any medium sized round fish. See also darnes and steaks

Fish Cut - DarneSingle-serving portions taken from a cross section straight  through the backbone of a whole, dressed, round fish, In general, they are slightly thinner than a steak, usually around 12mm/½-inch thick, and most often cut from the section between the head and mid-body.  Also known as cutlets.

Suitable fish:

Any medium sized round fish See also  cutlets, steaks and tronçons - the flat fish version

Fish cuts - dressedWhole fish of any size which have been scaled, gutted and had the gills and fins removed. Sometimes the head is removed and most often the tail is left intact.

Suitable fish:

All except the largest of fish.

See also Pan-dressed fish and Whole fish


Fish filletAvailable from any fish - round or flat. Fillets can be the boneless or 'pin bone-in' and consist of the complete sides of a fish from just below the gills to tail, being cut away from the backbone and removed in one piece. Fillets from larger fish can be further cut down into single-serving size portions such as Suprêmes, Pavés or Goujons.

Suitable fish:

Most, whether round or flat, large or small. Exceptions include ray, skate and monkfish

Fish Goujon
Narrow strips up to  10cm/4-inches long x 1cm/½-inch wide x 1cm/½-inch thick which are cut from a fillet. Goujons are best known for being coated with breadcrumbs before being deep fried.

Suitable fish:

Any so long as the fillet is thick enough.

Fish cuts - loinsThe prime part of a fillet taken from larger round fish such as Cod or from either side of the backbone of large game fish like Tuna. Smaller loins from fish such as Hake may be single-portion size.

Suitable fish:

Large round fish such as cod, haddock, hake or monkfish and large game fish such as swordfish or tuna

Fish cuts - pan dressedSmall to medium sized whole fish which have been scaled, gutted and had the fins, head and tail removed so as to fit into a frying pan. Usually single-serving whole fish.

Suitable fish:

All small to medium sized round or flat fish

See also Dressed fish and Whole fish

Boneless portions taken  from the fillets of larger flat fish which can serve 1 - 2 people depending on how large the fish is.  The fillets are cut in half or into thick portions widthways and normally the skin is left on. Sometimes referred to as Suprêmes or  just fillets,  both of which are incorrect and and can lead to confusion.

Suitable fish:

Larger flat fish such as Halibut, Turbot and Brill

Tuna Steak1. A thick, usually boneless piece of fish cut from larger fish such as tuna or swordfish





Fish cuts - steaks2. Portions cut through the bone of a whole dressed round or flat fish similar to a cutlet but slightly thicker and often cut from between the mid-body and tail. 

Suitable fish:

Larger round fish such as  Salmon, Haddock, Cod, Hake and Tuna or larger flat fish such as Halibut, Brill and Turbot See also cutlets, darnes and tronçons


Fish cut - supremeAlso sometimes called fillet steaks, these are boneless single-serving portions cut from larger fillets of both round and flat fish. The fillets are cut widthways into slices around 5cm/2-inches wide. Sometimes referred to as  pavés, but often just called fillets both of which names are  incorrect and can lead to much confusion.

Suitable fish:

Larger round and flat fish fillets such as Salmon, Cod, Halibut, Turbot and Snapper

fish cuts - tailThese are generally larger all-in-one pieces, consisting of the part of the fish nearest to the tail fin in a solid piece which always include the bone.  They can be likened to meat "joints" in that they can be large enough to serve several people and are excellent roasted in one piece.

Suitable fish:

Any large round fish such Salmon, Hake, Cod, Monkfish, Sea Bass

Fish TronconPortions which are cut through the bone of a whole flat fish usually into single portion sizes. Also called steaks.

Suitable fish:

Any large flat fish such as Halibut, Brill and Turbot

Fish Cuts - wholeWhole fish of any size as caught which haven't had anything done to them whatsoever.

Suitable fish:


See also Dressed and Pan-dressed fish


Fish cuts - wingsBefore being sold the wings are usually removed and sometimes skinned. Wings from larger specimens have to be further cut down into portions as these fish can reach very large sizes.

Suitable fish:

Skate and Rays



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