Flathead is a very simple fish to clean and can be cooked whole or as a fillet. If you want to cook whole you will need scale the fish (from tail to head) and clean out its gut cavity. This is best done with a sharp filleting knife. Make an incision in the underside of the fish from its anus to its gills and simply pull out the contents, cutting the gut at both ends. Wash the fish under fresh water. If you want to fillet the flathead there is no need to remove the gut as it will stay behind with the frame of the fish.
Filleting, skinning & de-boning Flathead
There are several ways to fillet and de-bone a flathead. While skilled fishmongers fillet, skin and de-bone a flathead in a matter of seconds, often with less than two or three strokes of a knife, we suggest you stick to the simple method shown in this video. This will allow you to eat the flathead as either a fillet with skin on or off or as a de-boned “tail”. As with all fish filleting you need to have a very sharp knife.
Leatherjackets are normally sold skinned and clean. If you have an uncleaned leatherjacket, hold the fish upright in your left hand and you will notice a spike at the back of its head. Place your knife behind the spike and cut down around 10mm or until you have cut through the back bone. Then simply grab the top of the head with your left hand and the body with your right hand and tear the head downwards. The head and the gut will come away. The skin can then be easily peeled off the body with your fingers.
Fillet & bone Leatherjackets
Leatherjackets are typically cooked whole although the flesh of freshly caught leatherjackets have been known to be used as sashmi. If you wish to to use the flesh as sashmi, simply lay the fish on its side and fillet it by running a sharp knife from tail to head, ensuring to keep your knife above the backbone.
Whiting is cleaned in much the same way as Flathead although whiting is commonmly eaten whole requiring only the fish to be scaled and the gut cavity removed. It is quite a delicate fish so care needs to be taken when scaling and cleaning the fish not to tear the flesh. A tip when scaling is to scale the fish under some water in the sink. The scales will come off easily and there is no mess to clean up. The gut is removed by making an incision from the anus to to the gill plate and the gut being cleaned out. Wash gut cavity with fresh water.
Fillet & bone Whiting
Unlike Flathead, whiting is typically not skinned so once you have taken the fillets off, the rib bones are removed by using a flexible filletting knife that is placed just under the rib bones and cut towards the bottom of the fish. The trick is try and ensure the edge of your knife stays against the rib bones so you minimise the amount of flesh removed with the rib bones. Once again make sure you have a sharp knife.