How to Fillet a Halibut Like Pro

Halibut is a type of flatfish found in both the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans, and it is considered a healthy choice due to its high-quality protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and micronutrient content.

For those who are wondering about filleting a halibut, the process requires a set of steps and patience. With practice and the right tools, it can be manageable.

Here’s how to fillet halibut like a pro so that it results in fresh, boneless fish fillets ready to be cooked in a variety of delicious ways!

Tools You’ll Need to Fillet a Halibut

The tools needed to fillet a halibut are quite similar to those needed to fillet other types of fish. The primary difference might be the size and sturdiness of the tools, given that halibut can be significantly larger than many other fish.

To fillet a halibut, you'll need the following:

  • Fillet Knife. Choose a sharp, flexible fillet knife with a thin, narrow blade. A fillet knife is specifically designed to make precise cuts and navigate around the bones and contours of the fish.
  • Cutting Board. Use a sturdy cutting board with a non-slip surface to provide stability while filleting. A cutting board with a groove around the edges can help contain juices and keep your workspace clean.
  • Kitchen Shears or Scissors. These are handy for trimming fins and cutting through tough parts like the dorsal and anal fins of the halibut.
  • Kitchen Towels or Paper Towels. Keep kitchen towels or paper towels nearby to dry the halibut and clean up any messes as you work.
  • Fish Scaler (optional). If you prefer to scale the halibut before filleting, a fish scaler or the backside of your knife can be used to remove scales from the skin.

Having these tools readily available will make the process of filleting a halibut much smoother and more efficient.

How to Fillet a Halibut Like a Pro

Before getting started, make sure to prepare your workspace. Have adequate lighting as this helps you see what you’re doing, especially when making precise cuts. To ensure safety, consider wearing cut-resistant gloves to protect your hands from accidental cuts.

Here are the steps to fillet a halibut:

  1. Rinse the halibut under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels.
  2. Position the halibut horizontally on the cutting board with its belly facing up.
  3. Make a diagonal cut behind the gill plate, starting from the top of the head.
  4. Use a smooth motion to cut through the flesh until you reach the backbone.
  5. Repeat the same cut on the other side of the head to completely remove it.
  6. Trim the dorsal and anal fins close to the body using scissors or kitchen shears.
  7. Cut off the pectoral and pelvic fins by slicing through the flesh close to the body.
  8. Run the backside of the knife or a scaler from the tail towards the head to remove scales.
  9. Rinse the fish under cold water to remove any loose scales.
  10. Starting from the top of the fish (near the head), insert the tip of the knife behind the pectoral fin.
  11. Angle the knife towards the backbone and make a shallow incision along the length of the fish towards the tail, following the natural contour of the body.
  12. With the tip of the knife, gently cut along the backbone, maintaining a consistent distance from the spine.
  13. Use smooth, fluid strokes to separate the flesh from the bones, working your way towards the tail.
  14. Once you reach the ribcage, angle the knife slightly downward to avoid cutting into the bones.
  15. Continue to cut along the ribcage, separating the fillet from the bones until you reach the tail.
  16. Hold the fillet firmly with one hand and insert the knife between the flesh and the skin at the tail end.
  17. Use a gentle sawing motion to separate the skin from the flesh, moving the knife back and forth along the length of the fillet.
  18. Once the skin is removed, trim any remaining bones or dark flesh from the fillet.
  19. Flip the halibut over and repeat steps 5-8 to fillet the other side of the fish.
  20. Inspect both fillets for any remaining bones or scales, and trim off any excess fat or dark flesh.
  21. Rinse the fillets under cold water to remove any debris, and pat them dry with paper towels.

Practice makes perfect, so don't be discouraged if your first attempt isn't perfect. With time and experience, you'll become more skilled at filleting halibut.


Filleting halibut can indeed seem intimidating, especially if you are not used to working with large fish. However, with a step-by-step approach and some repetition, you can become more comfortable and proficient at it.

In addition to filleting, marinating halibut to enhance its flavor and cooking it to the right temperature are other important techniques to master. Remember, every chef and home cook starts somewhere!

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