How to Clean and Fillet Sardines

By Judy Haubert

Published on April 2, 2014

To make the recipe for cured sardines from chef Mary Sue Milliken, you can ask your fishmonger to clean and bone the fish for you, or you can fillet them yourself by following these simple steps. When buying fresh sardines, look for fish with a blue-black iridescent sheen, a silver sparkle, and bright eyes, and be sure to use them within one to two days of purchase.

Step 1

Starting at the tail and using the back of the blade of a paring knife, gently scrape the skin toward the head to remove the scales.

Step 2

Rinse the sardine under cool water to remove any remaining scales.

Step 3

Starting at the point where the tail meets the body, cut the belly open with your paring knife, scrape out the entrails with your finger, and discard them. Rinse the belly cavity clean and then pat the fish dry using paper towels.

Step 4

Hold the head between your thumb and forefinger and pull backward toward the spine, tearing the head from the body; discard the head.

Step 5

Gently flatten the sardine skin side down. Starting at the head end, grasp the backbone between thumb and forefinger and carefully lift it up and away from the fillet; discard the backbone.

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