CKS 038| How To Butcher And Portion Sides Of Halibut

Alaskan Halibut season usually starts sometime in early spring and will end mid fall. Right now is prime halibut season which has led us to use it not only as a signature entrée but also as one our favorite new apps; "halibut ceviche chalupa with fresh lime and cilantro." Photos to follow.

For more information on halibut, check out this great little article by Fish Ex.

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There are 5 Comments

mstone714's picture


The restaurant I work at just started getting whole halibut in.  The owner normally likes to take care of breaking the fish down into sides in order to save on labor (I don't think it would take me long at all).  The problem is he has no idea what he is doing, often takes over an hour to do, and hacks the sides up in ways I hope you'll never see, wasting product basically .  The portioning part is easy but I would like to learn a quick, efficient, and clean technique of breaking down a whole halibut.  Any feedback is appreciated!

jacob burton's picture

This probably isn't the answer you want to hear, because the owner is probably set in his ways, but I think it's crazy to order a whole halibut unless you have a dedicated butcher that knows what they're doing. Yes, you pay more per pound, but when you take into consideration the waste product generated from a whole fish, then it's worth it, and the extra cost is just passed along to the customer.

If you're really set on breaking down the halibut yourself, just think of it like two salmon that have been butterflied out and then sandwiched together (meaning you have four sides to deal with). Start by cutting an incision behind the head and down along the spine. Flex your knife towards the "rib cage" and release the fillet.

Good luck.

mstone714's picture

Haha, I definitely agree with you.  It's a lot to deal with at a very small restaurant with a smaller kitchen and as you said, an owner stuck in their ways.  But, like most of the product I order, I have to deal with the cards I'm dealt.  Really, all I want is to not have filets that are missing chunks of fish.

Plus, the former chef like making halibut cakes from the carcass (such a pain in the ass) so Im stuck with always having a whole fish.

jacob burton's picture

Here's the thing; when the fillets aren't portioned evenly they're a bitch to cook. It's really difficult to serve a consistent product which is bad for business. Finding a place for your scraps is important, because it allows to cut nicer fillets and not have to worry that much about yield.

I buy thick hallibut flecks (sides, skin off) for just under $15/#. I cut nice portions and sell our halibut entree all summer long for $33. The scraps get made into this ceviche dish which prints money at $11-$13 a plate (I'll actually raise the price as the season progresses).

You can't tell your boss this, at least not this directly, but they're leaving money on the table and serving an inconsistent product. If there's anyway you can take this away from them, I'd do it. Everyone makes cakes out of their scrap; your customers might enjoy the change (although, they too could be set in their ways, in which you're doomed). Where's the restaurant located (in general terms)?

mstone714's picture

Humboldt County, Eureka.  Small mom and pop place. You know...that gig haha.