Video: How to Scale a Fish

In our Basics series, we tackle the simple kitchen tasks; no job is so small that it doesn't deserve to be done perfectly.

Most edible fish have tough, inedible scales, and if you buy a whole fish, your fishmonger will usually scale it for you. If you’re buying from local markets or using fresh-caught, however, you might just need to do it yourself. Fortunately, with some very affordable tools, it’s easier than it sounds:

  • Start with a very fresh, gutted fish.
  • To contain the mess, work inside a large plastic bag because once you start, scales will be flying.
  • Trim off the fins first with kitchen shears.
  • Using a fish scaler, scrape the fish against the grain. Repeat on both sides until all scales have come out; the fish skin will feel smooth when you rub it against the grain and you can wipe away the excess with a clean towel.
  • Now it’s ready to fillet or cook whole!