If you like to fish or simply like to eat fish, you may need to know how to scale one. Many fish markets and grocery stores sell whole fish that you have to clean yourself. Whether you’re outdoors or in your kitchen, scaling a fish is a relatively easy process! Cover your work area with newspaper and use the blunt edge of a knife to scrape the scales off both sides of the fish. Rinse any remaining scales away with cold water.
EditRinsing the Fish
- Rinse slime off the fish with cold water. Before you start trying to scale the fish, rinse it well under cold water. This removes the slime on the scales. Fish can be slippery and difficult to hold, especially when they’re still slimy. Rinse it off so you can grip the fish firmly.
- Let the water run for several minutes to loosen the scales. After you’ve removed the slime, keep rinsing the fish. You can hold it yourself, or leave the fish sitting under the running water while you take care of other things. This will help loosen the scales on the fish.
- Be sure to rinse both sides thoroughly.
- Place the fish on a protective layer. Lay down some sort of protection that will catch the scales when you remove them. Scales are very messy, so you don’t want them to get everywhere. Choose something you can throw directly in the trash. That way, cleanup will be a snap.
- Newspaper, parchment paper, and cardboard are all good choices.
EditScraping off the Scales
- Hold the fish firmly by the tail in your non-dominant hand. Keep the fish flat on the surface, but grab hold of the tail so it won’t slip around when you start removing scales. You may want to put on a pair of disposable gloves to protect your hands. Scales and fins can be sharp.
- Take a knife in your dominant hand and turn it to the blunt edge. To remove scales, use the blunt edge of the knife instead of the sharp edge. Hold the blunt edge at a 45 degree angle. Place the blunt edge right up against the fish’s skin near it’s tail fin.
- Scrape the side of the fish from the tail to the head. Rake the backside of the knife along the side of the fish, moving from its tail to its head. Make long, even strokes. You’ll need to apply a little pressure, but not much. As you scrape, the scales will start popping off. It’s going to get a bit messy!
- Continue until that side of the fish has no remaining scales.
- Flip the fish over and repeat on the other side.
- Rinse away any remaining scales with cold water. After you have removed all the scales you can with the knife, hold the fish under cold running water. The water should help get rid of any scales that are still on the fish. Keep rinsing until no scales remain.
EditScaling with Other Techniques
- Remove the skin prior to cooking. Cut the fish open. Use a knife to remove all of the skin, including the scales. Try to cut the fish as close to the skin as possible so you don’t waste any fish. That way, you can bypass the scaling process completely.
- Cook the fish before removing the skin. You can cook the fish with the scales and skin still attached. After your fish is done, remove the skin. It will be loosened by the heat and you can cut it off pretty easily. The scales will come off with the skin.
- This works for all types of cooking methods.
- Use a fish scaler instead of a knife. A scaler is a special tool made just for scaling fish. It has jagged metal edges and looks sort of like an extreme hair brush! Use the scaler instead of a knife, scraping along each side of the fish from tail to head.
- You can buy fish scalers online or in stores that carry kitchen accessories.
EditThings You’ll Need
- Protective covering (newspaper, parchment paper, etc.)
- Disposable gloves
- Access to cold running water
- Sharp knife