How to fillet a mackerel

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Product description

Healthy, delicious and fresh from the sea, Mackerel Fillets will make a nutritious meal any night of the week – they’re superb-value, too.

Goes nicely with.

How to fillet a mackerel

Lemon Infused Olive Oil 200ml

How to fillet a mackerel

Otter Vale Gooseberry & Elderflower Chutney

How to fillet a mackerel

Pebblebed Sparkling Rose Wine

Volume: 75cl, ABV 11.5%

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Our fishing vessels work out of Exmouth, Brixham and Newlyn, and operate in accordance with the Seafood Responsible Fishing Scheme. They keep us well topped up most days with a selection of fresh fish and shellfish, and a catch can often be on its way to the Greendale farm shop within hours of leaving the sea. If we can’t catch it ourselves, we source only from trusted suppliers with standards as high as our own. The fish available may vary, depending on the season, but a delicious variety is always to be found on our fish counter. From whole fish to fillets, live lobsters to shrimp, our wide selection is sold in a choice of portion sizes and prepared for your convenience by our skilled fishmongers.

Fishmonger's Tips

Very rich in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, Mackerel is fast earning ‘superfood’ status. It is easily identified by its beautiful iridescent blue-green/black stripe patterning.

How to Cook

Healthy, delicious and fresh from the sea, Mackerel Fillets will make a nutritious meal any night of the week – they’re superb-value, too.

Product specification

Storage Instructions Suitable for freezing. Store in fridge and consume within 2-3 days of receipt, or freeze immediately.
Ingredients Contains FISH
Dietary For allergens see ingredients and items in BOLD
Source Mackerel is caught in Area 7 / SW Approaches by Netters


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How to fillet a mackerel

Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.

How to fillet a mackerel

How to Fillet Mackerel for the Smoker in 5 Easy Steps

Mackerel is one of the tastiest fish to smoke. It is loaded with heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D. They’re readily available whether you fish for them yourself or just have a great seafood market nearby. Serve them sushi and sashimi-style, or throw them in the smoker.

Smoked mackerel is a simple fish to prepare and requires only a sharp fillet knife and a clean work surface. With a little practice, anyone can learn how to fillet mackerel in five easy steps; here’s how.

1. Choosing the Perfect Fillet Knife

How to fillet a mackerel

When learning how to smoke mackerel, the first item you need is a good smoker. There are many models available on the market, so it can be overwhelming to find the right one. However, there are two broad smoker categories from which you can choose.

The first is a simple box-shaped smoker. It works indoors and outdoors and can be used over a variety of heat sources, from a camp stove to a stovetop. This unit is ideal if you are a mackerel smoking beginner.

Alternatively, you can opt for a barrel smoker, which is perfect if you’re an avid outdoors pitmaster who wants to expand their culinary repertoire by learning how to smoke mackerel. This unit operates with charcoal and offers precision heat regulation using vents to control the smoke chamber’s airflow.

Step 1. Making the First Cuts

The first step is to lay the mackerel flat on the table, on its side, and parallel with the front of the table. Hold the fish’s tail with your left hand and make your first cut just behind the pectoral fin; this is the fin closest to the head on the side of the fish.

Cut at a flat 45° angle toward the back of the fish until you feel some resistance; now flatten the blade so it’s parallel with the table and continue this cut to the tail.

With this motion, you are removing all the meat on the side of the fish all the way to the spine, which should be visible once this cut has been made. Set the fillet aside, flip the fish over and repeat this cut on the other side.

You should be left with nothing more than the head, the spine, and the tail, which are thrown away or can be used to make stock.

Step 2. Remove the Rib Cage

Lay each fillet with the skin on the table and locate the rib cage found toward the head of the fillet. Make an accurate cut around this rib cage and throw it away. This is loaded with large bones and inedible.

Step 3. Remove The Skin

This next step is to carefully separate the skin from the meat. It’s optional as the skin is edible and becomes deliciously crispy when grilled or pan-fried.

However, if you just want to de-skin the fish, take a sharp fillet knife and carefully slide the blade in between the skin and meat at the tail section. Once you’re a few inches into the cut, grab the skin at the end of the tail and work your knife forward until the skin has been removed.

Mackerel skin is very thin, and even the best fillet knife will leave some behind. Turn your fillet over and make sure all the skin has been removed. If you find any remaining, carefully slide your fillet knife under it and remove it.

What’s left are two beautiful fillets with a dark red blood line running down the middle.

Step 4. Removing the Blood Line

The blood line is a large vein running through the center of the fish and your fillets. To remove it, use the tip of your fillet knife, carefully cut around both sides of the blood line, and throw it away. You are now left with two pure mackerel fillets ready for final cleaning and storage.

Step 5. Cleaning and Storing Mackerel Fillets

Before bagging up the fillets, give them a final check for any skin, scales, or dark spots you don’t want. Rinse the two large fillets to remove any scales, skin, and blood. Cut each fillet into thirds and place them in a bucket of saltwater. Thoroughly rinse each fillet and place in a Ziploc storage bag, squeeze out the air, and they’re ready for the freezer. Do all the these steps correctly and your sure to not make any fish prep mistakes.

How to fillet a mackerel

One of the best ways to enjoy mackerel is fresh off the smoker. Smoking mackerel is a simple process if you have the right tools and techniques.

Filleted mackerel works best with a dry smoking technique. Light your barrel smoker, and preheat it until it reaches 275°F. This medium heat avoids overcooking and drying out the fish.

Salt both sides of the mackerel fillet and leave in a tray for an hour. Rinse the fillets, and pat them dry with kitchen paper. While the fillets are resting, soak the wood chips in water, leaving them for at least 30 minutes. Applewood chips are the best choice for mackerel.

Once the fillets are ready, add the wood chips to the smoke chamber, omitting the water pan to keep a dry heat. Lay the mackerel fillets on the grid. If you have left the skin on, make sure you place them with the skin side up.

Leave the mackerel to smoke for 20-40 minutes, depending on the size of the fillets. Check the fillets with a meat thermometer to ensure that the center of the fillet has reached 140°F.

How to fillet a mackerel

Annabelle Watson

Fillet Mackerel Like a Pro

Mackerel is an oily fish that absorbs flavor readily. So, it is critical to choose the right wood chips to avoid overpowering the mild-flavored flesh.

Applewood is a classic wood chip for smoking fish. It has a delicate aroma that adds a touch of sweetness. It also produces billowing smoke to coat the fish evenly.

If you are dry smoking your mackerel and want wood chips that can stand up to the intensely concentrated fish flavor, try mesquite chips. Mesquite emits a bold smoky aroma, so it is essential to use it in moderation. Add a handful of mesquite combined with milder wood such as cherrywood.

How to fillet a mackerel

Want to learn how to fillet Spanish mackerel the easy way?

These fish often get a bad rap for tasting “fishy,” but if you do it right, you’ll be left with nice white fillets that are surprisingly delicious (especially as fish tacos).

Spanish mackerel can be tricky to properly clean because of their delicate skin and small scales, but in this video, you’ll learn:

  • How to fillet them and get the most meat possible
  • How to skin and debone them
  • The simple trick that takes a lot of the fishy taste out of them
  • What to do after you clean them to make sure they taste amazing

To learn how to clean Spanish mackerel, watch the video below.

How To Fillet Spanish Mackerel [VIDEO]

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Before you start cleaning your fish, it’s important to start with a sharp knife.

This will make your job cleaning them a lot easier.

Now let’s get into the steps.

Step 1: Fillet the fish

Cut the fish behind the pec fin, turn the blade, and slide it down towards the tail.

By keeping the knife close to the backbone, you’ll maximize the meat you get off of them.

Step 2: Cut the rib cage out

Once the fish are filleted, cut the rib cage out, but be sure to do so on an angle to leave more meat on the fillet.

Step 3: Skin the fillets

The key here is to keep the handle of the blade off of the edge of the table.

This will help the blade stay parallel and close to the skin, so you leave the most amount of meat on the fillet.

Another tip is to slightly angle the blade up so you don’t cut through the skin.

Step 4: Cut the bloodline out

When people complain of a “fishy” flavor, it’s mostly due to this bloodline, so if you cut it out you’ll have better-tasting fish.

Step 5: Cut into thirds to make fish fingers (optional)

Cutting the fillets into fish fingers makes cooking them very easy.

Step 6: Rinse off the fillets

It’s better to put saltwater fish in saltwater than freshwater, so toss the fillets in a bucket of saltwater as you wrap up filleting the rest of the fish.

Step 7: Bag them up!

If you’re traveling far, make sure to put the bags of fish on ice.


How to fillet a mackerel

In case you were wondering, yes the fish tacos we made with these mackerel were delicious!

When you’re filleting Spanish mackerel, make sure to remove the rib cage, bloodline, and skin to get rid of the fishy taste.

Also, rinse them off in saltwater to preserve meat quality and keep them on ice if you’re not cooking them immediately.

Have any questions about filleting Spanish mackerel?

Let me know in the comments below!

And if you’re in the Florida Keys and you want to get on some mackerel with Capt. Hollywood and his crew, you can get in touch with them at

Know someone who needs to learn how to fillet Spanish mackerel? Please TAG or SHARE this with them!

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If you’re looking to increase your oily fish intake, mackerel is a fantastic and nutritious choice.

Fresh mackerel is a world away from the tinned or pre-cooked options, so if you’re keen to try it, we’ve got a handy guide on how to get rid of those pesky bones, some easy to follow cooking times and delicious ideas to make the perfect mackerel dish.

How to fillet a mackerel

Where can I buy mackerel?

Mackerel is a fish that needs to be eaten as fresh as possible, which is why it is less common to see raw fillets of them sold pre-packed in supermarkets, and more common to find cooked fillets in the chilled or canned sections.

You are more likely to find fresh mackerel — either whole or filleted — at the fish counter in a big supermarket or at a fishmongers.

How to fillet a mackerel

How can I tell if mackerel is fresh?

Mackerel has a beautifully patterned skin that should look bright, smooth and iridescent. The skin should be firm to the touch and not tear easily — if the skin is soft or the flesh inside the fish is pasty and falling apart, that means it is not fresh.

Buying a whole fish is a good way to know if it’s fresh, as the eye is a great indicator of freshness. Mackerel should look bright and clear — if it’s dull, cloudy or sunken, this is another sign that the fish is past its prime for eating.

Although it has a strong flavour, a fresh raw mackerel should smell of the sea, and not strongly fishy. If the smell is pungent, then this is another sign that your fish isn’t fresh enough to eat.

Once the mackerel is filleted, it’s harder to make most of those assessments. You can always ask your fishmonger to gut and scale the whole fish for you, once you’ve chosen it.

How to fillet a mackerel

How do I handle mackerel safely?

Cook mackerel on the day it is purchased. It’s important that fresh mackerel (also fresh tuna) is kept in the fridge until you are about to prepare and cook it.

Try to work efficiently so the fish isn’t out at room temperature longer than necessary, and once prepared, if you aren’t cooking the fish right away, make sure to chill it again until the moment of cooking.

Mackerel contains a chemical called histadine, which is converted by naturally present bacteria into histamine when the fish is at room temperature. The longer the fish is kept out of the fridge, the more histamine created in the flesh. Histamine can not be destroyed by cooking, and in large amounts, can cause a kind of food poisoning which looks like the sufferer is having an allergic episode. If you suspect this is happening to you or someone you know, please seek medical advice immediately.

How to fillet a mackerel

How do I debone raw mackerel?

We’ve got a couple of brilliantly easy ways of removing the bone without having to do any fancy filleting.

To remove the bones whilst the fish is raw:

  1. Take a sharp knife and fully slice open the belly cavity, where fish has been gutted, opening it down to the tail.
  2. Cut the fins off with kitchen scissors then slice off the tail and head.
  3. The bones will keep the fish from opening fully, but put the fish cavity-side down on a board, with the back facing up. Using the heel of your hand from tail to head, firmly press down all along the backbone to flatten the fish out. You may hear some light cracking as you do this.
  4. Turn the fish over, so it’s skin side down. Using the tip of your kitchen scissors, snip the backbone away from the flesh at both the tail and head ends. Lift the backbone and ease it away. As it comes away, the majority of little bones should be removed with it. You can use kitchen tweezers (or disinfected cosmetic tweezers) to remove any bones that may be left. If you run your finger along the flesh, you should be able to feel if any are still in there and pull them out.
  5. Trim off fatty belly meat from the sides using a sharp knife. You can keep the mackerel as a whole butterflied piece, or split it into two fillets.

How to fillet a mackerel

How do I debone cooked mackerel?

You can also debone a mackerel after cooking. Once the fish has been scaled, gutted and cleaned, you can cook it whole, using one of the methods below. Once the fish is cooked, you can lift the fillets off the bone easily:

How to fillet a mackerel

Suitable for home freezing. Ideally freeze as soon as possible after purchase but always by 'use by' date shown. Once defrosted, do not refreeze. Defrost thoroughly for a minimum of 8 hours in a refrigerator. Once opened, use within 1 day.

Cooking Instructions


Instructions: Temperature: 190°C, 170°C, Gas 5
Time: 10-15 minutes
190°C/ Fan 170°C/Gas 5 Place on a baking tray in the centre of a pre-heated oven for 10-15 minutes.

Shallow Fry
Instructions: 6-8 mins Fry in a little oil for 6-8minutes, turning occasionally. Drain well before serving.

Cooking Precautions

  • Check food is piping hot throughout before serving

Number of uses


  • Warning: Although every care has been taken to remove bones, some may remain.

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Warning: Although every care has been taken to remove bones, some may remain.

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The filleting of these leaves an awful lot to be desired.. spent 25 mins removing bones from 2 fish.. I could do better myself. AVOID

Poor quality

Packed with two fillets rather than one and delivered with one day of life remaining. That day of life is at least two beyond the life it should have been given. This means the product is smelly, slimey and inedible. What's more as only one fillet was wanted, it would have inevitably ended up as waste but as it was inedible, it went in the bin. Avoid.

Difficult to eat.

There are two rows of small bones to avoid in each fillet and barely any taste. At £3.38 I felt robbed.

Kipper in disguise!

This product thought it was a kipper, it had so many bones! The spine was still in place near the head and tail, on both 'fillets'(?) To take out most of the bones, I had to shred the fish. It had gone cold by the time I finished. I have cooked fish, from raw, for 35 years, and rarely have I had 2 pieces as bad as this.

good quality and good value

lovely mackerel for the money

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With the support of RFF West and with Pelagia as an industrial partner the main goal was to reveal how season, handling and processing parameters influence the quality and storage stability of frozen mackerel fillets. The project was divided into 3 parts. Part 1 quantified the quality parameters of the existing fillet products in Asia. Part 2 examined the quality variation of mackerel fillets as a result of season and final thaw temperature at filleting. Part 3 examined the storage stability of the fillets, the effect of the glazing and the addition of an antioxidant. China-fillet had consistent quality, while the Norwegian fillets were characterized by large variation within batch, probably due to manual fillet production and glazing. For color, texture, gaping and blood spots, the quality of the Norwegian September filet was similar to the quality of China-fillets. The results indicate that thawing can have an effect on fillet quality. This should be investigated with several fish and under more controlled (automated) fillet production. The results indicate that the shelf life of Norwegian mackerel fillet is 4–8 months at approximately -20 °C frozen storage. The firmness of fillets seemed to increase with storage, but the fillets were soft compared with previous studies (with whole fish). The results showed no clear antioxidative effect of 2% rosemary extract.

How to fillet a mackerel

How to prepare mackerel. Mackerel can be cooked whole, but make sure it’s cleaned thoroughly and scaled by your fishmonger. To avoid bones, cook as fillets by removing two pieces from either side of the spine using a sharp, pointed filleting knife.

How do you debone fresh mackerel?

Turn the fish over, so it’s skin side down. Using the tip of your kitchen scissors, snip the backbone away from the flesh at both the tail and head ends. Lift the backbone and ease it away. As it comes away, the majority of little bones should be removed with it.

Do mackerel have pin bones?

As Mackerel contains smaller bones called pin bones, filleting this type of fish can be a tricky task. That’s why this video demonstrates the simplest but most effective way to fillet this fish, so that you can do it too. We think that the best way to cook Mackerel is by baking, grilling or pan-frying it.

How do you cut a mackerel fillet?

And you’ve gone under the actual spine. Itself the knife if you go all the way through. Until you

Can you eat mackerel raw?

Can you eat mackerel raw? Although Mackerel is one of the most eaten types of fish in Japan, it is rarely eaten raw. Raw mackerel is infamous due to the risk of being infected by Anisakis, a type of parasite that can cause an acute stomachache.

Can you eat mackerel every day?

The FDA lists albacore tuna as a “once a week choice.” And while Atlantic mackerel is low in mercury and okay to eat two or more times a week, King mackerel is a high mercury fish that the FDA recommends avoiding.

Is mackerel really bony?

Salmon, trout, mackerel, herrings, sardines, pilchards, kippers, eels, whitebait, anchovies and sprats all qualify, whether they’re tinned or fresh. … True, sardines and herring can be a bit bony, so if you’re a bone-phobe start with mackerel, which doesn’t have the tricky, hair-like bone structure.

Is mackerel high in mercury?

Mackerel. Atlantic and Atka mackerel from Alaska are high in inflammation-fighting omega-3s and low in mercury, but not all mackerel get a thumbs-up. King mackerel, from the Western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, has a high mercury content. Zumpano suggests limiting Spanish mackerel as well due to mercury concerns.

How do you prepare and cook mackerel?

Just behind the gill. Put the knife. Like that down as far as till you get a bit of resistance from

What does mackerel taste like?

Mackerel also tastes slightly similar to salmon, especially when it is fresh. Compared to other fishes, mackerel also has a sweet taste. This fish has a decent amount of bones, and it is not overly salty. This is why the taste of fresh mackerel is reminiscent of the ocean’s authentic taste.

How do you eat mackerel?

Mackerel has a firm texture similar to canned tuna, so that it can be flaked without falling apart. Try swapping it in where’d you’d typically use chicken—like on a salad with a mustardy vinaigrette, tossed in a pasta, or tucked into a sandwich with buttered bread, sliced avocado and some fresh greens.

How can you tell if mackerel is off?

How to tell if raw mackerel is bad? The best way is to smell and look at the mackerel: signs of bad mackerel are a sour smell, dull color and slimy texture, discard any mackerel with an off smell or appearance.

What can you do with mackerel head and bones?

  1. Senegalese-Style Seafood Gumbo. …
  2. Sardinian Seafood Stew. …
  3. Steamed Sea Bass with Tamarind Sauce. …
  4. Classic Fish Stock. …
  5. Steamed Red Snapper Packets. …
  6. Fish Curry with Tamarind. …
  7. Red Snapper Soup with Fresh Bean Sprouts and Garlic Oil.

How do you remove pin bones from mackerel fillet?

And where you can get rid of the bones. So guys it’s really simple you expose the beam bones by

Fish can be scary. All those scales, the smell, the shiny dead eyes watching you while you pick at the bones – it’s easy to see why most people prefer it battered.

But in the interests of culinary discovery and, well, nosiness (because how do mackerel fillets go from swimming about happily, to being vacuum packed and put in the supermarket chiller?) I took a River Cottage session on filleting and cooking seafood, and for novices, mackerel is apparently the fish to start with.

And so, we excavate two fillets from a plump, iridescent, caught-that-morning fish…

You start by slicing along the belly – starting from between the two tiny little fins near the head, cut towards the tail. You can then hook your index finger in and pull out the guts – search for a fine membrane, towards the head, and break it with your finger (it gives a satisfying twang). You don’t need much pressure, then chuck the sack of guts in the bin. It shouldn’t be too bloody, but if it is, now’s the time to give the fish a wash.

Next, hold the head firmly in one hand, tail pointing away from you. Cut down into the ‘armpit’ (or ‘fin pit’) of the fish, just on the tail side of its pectoral fin, until you touch the spine. Then turn the blade until it lies flat on the spine, parallel to the chopping board, sharp edge pointing tailwards, and slice along the length of the fish until the fillet is separated from the body. Flip and repeat, like this:

Cut away the belly bones (the dark membrane that contains a rack of very fine bones):

Then remove the pin bones, which run down the centre of the fillets, by slicing (being careful not to cut through the skin on the other side) a v-shaped groove:

And then, scrappy edges aside, ta-dah, you end up with these – and feeling very proud of yourself, too:

How to fillet a mackerel

Ella’s freshly filleted mackerel (Ella Walker/PA)