Thursday, August 25, 2011

Scales, Gills, Pin Bones! Oh My!

After I posted why I love my little pliers for pining fish instead of tweezers, I realized that I should probably should have mentioned something about how to pin a fish. Duh!
So here it is, all of the tips and tricks on: How to Pin Bone a Fish.

Before we get to the tips, let us start at the beginning. What is a pin bone and why is it there? Well, pin bones are intramuscular bones that run length wise within the fish in the rib cage area. This means that, no matter how the fish cut (unless you are getting the portion past the rib cage), the bones will always be present since they are not connected to the main skeleton of the fish. They provide the fish's flesh with more stability and structure when it is swimming.

Not all fish have pin bones, but it can never hurt to double check. Here is a list of fish that are usually pin bone free:

Me and a Pair of Farm Raised Atlantic
Sea Bass
Dover Sole
Cod-and all relatives
Mahi Mahi

Without Further Ado: How I Pin Bone a Fish

  • This is probably the most important tip of them all when dealing with fish. "Clean, dry fish, clean, dry board" or in our case pliers. Chef Clark preaches this in Fish Fabrication class at the CIA. He is the best fish teacher around, if you have him, consider yourself very, very, lucky.  

  • Run your hand along the fish against the grain from head to tail to stand the pin bones up. They should look like little white dots against the flesh, if you can see them at all. Some pin bones are so thin and translucent they cannot be seen but, can definitely, be felt.

  • Grip the top portion of the bones with the pliers and pull them gently, towards the head of the fish. If it isn't easily coming out, check the angle of the bone again, remember, you want to pull the bone in the direction it looks like it was inserted and place your opposite hand on the flesh behind the bone and apply slight pressure.

  • Not sure which side the head was attached to? Pull it with the grain to avoid tearing the flesh.

  • Since the bones are both fine and sticky, I find it easiest to swish my pliers in a bowl of water between each pull to remove the tiny bones from the pliers.

There you go! Fish that is no longer a choking hazard.

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