Barry Nash, North Carolina Sea Grant’s seafood technology and marketing specialist, demonstrates how to dress and fillet the invasive lionfish.
To avoid being stung, use puncture-proof gloves when handling a lionfish with its spines intact. To clip the dorsal spines, hold the fish by the head, and using heavy kitchen shears, start cutting at the rear of the fish and work forward. This prevents the spines from lying flat along the back. Clip only the first spine of each pelvic fin and the first three of the anal fin. The remaining are rays and are not venomous. It is not necessary to clip the tail or pectoral fins.
Morris, James. Invasive Lionfish: A Guide to Control and Management.
Remove the scales with a fish scaler or the dull side of a knife.
Cut around pelvic fins and remove viscera and all black membranes and blood, particularly the blood streak running along the backbone.
Rinse the fish well – with attention to the belly cavity – under cold, running water.
Cut the flesh just above the tail.
At the pectoral fin, just behind the head, cut into the flesh at a 45-degree angle toward the head until the knife reaches the backbone.
Turn the knife and follow the backbone to the tail, keeping the knife against the backbone. Or, if you prefer, reverse this and cut from the tail to the head. Turn the fish over and repeat on the other side. Always direct the knife away from you when filleting.
Remove the fillet and rinse it well under cold, running water.
Taylor, Joyce. Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas. North Carolina Sea Grant: 48-49.
The skin is edible, so it can be left on the fillet or removed.
Contributed by Barry Nash