CKS 040| How To Break Down (Butcher) A Whole Salmon

This video will teach you one of many techniques for butchering a whole salmon, or any "symmetrical fish," as opposed to a flat fish like halibut or sole.

In this video I state that I like to brine the fish briefly in a "5% brine." The brining process will keep the salmon moist during cooking. To calculate a 5% brine, weigh out enough filtered water to cover the finished salmon fillets. Multiply the weight of the water by .05 which will give you the amount of salt needed to achieve a 5% brine. For example, if you need 1,000g of water to cover your salmon fillets, simply multiply 1,000g X .05 = 50g of salt. Disperse 50g of salt into your water, which will result in a 5% brine.

Brine salmon for 20-60 minutes, rinse under a gentle stream of cold, running water and allow to drain.

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There are 8 Comments

skflyfish's picture

Good video Chef. 

I really like they way you have the web pages layed out with all the show notes, adjustable recipes, etc. Had you not been a Chef, you probably would have had another successful career in IT. ;-)

I know everyone has their own style, but I find leaving the head on a very convenient 'handle' for holding the fish while running the knife along the rib cage. You can also not cut out at the tail but flip the fish around and use the tail as another 'handle' for taking off the skin.

Usually I am cleaning anywhere from 5 to 20 salmonoids in a sitting and any time saving techniques I can use, I will.

My style has changed too and I am not too concerned about getting all the meat that is next to the skin. That dark area is called the lateral line and is actually a sensory organ and is used by fish to sense another fish along side them. I find the lateral line's flavor to be off putting.

jacob burton's picture

Hey skFlyFish,

Great feed back. I've seen people use the tail as a handle as well as the head. One of the hardest things about shooting instructional videos is finding the technique that will be a good starting point for someone who's never done it before but also yield something that would be acceptable in a professional kitchen. I would love to eventually be able to travel around and shoot other chef's versions of the techniques taught on this site. The more techniques you have to choose from, the better in my opinion.

I'm with you on the lateral line. It seems like a lot of non-professionals have a huge aversion to even an ounce of waste, but in a restaurant you just calculate your yield cost and charge accordingly. If I'm paying $30+ for a salmon entree I want the fillet to be trimmed properly.

Mastayoou's picture

so after brining the fish... when you actually cook the fish, do you season again???

maybe you do, but not as much???

jacob burton's picture

Great question. I actually do not season my fish before cooking since it has been brined. The brine itself adds plenty of seasoning. You can always use a little bit of finishing salt during the final plate up if you like, but I find it usually isn't necessary, especially if you've seasoned the other accompaniments that you're serving with the fish.

elkahani's picture

my sous will roll it on the back and break the ribcage as if to butterfly then do the normal filet removal like you. avoiding any unsafe had position they say.


I'm partial to the grabbed tail method on headless (frozen) and grab the head on fresh.

jacob burton's picture

Yep, there's more than one way to skin a ca... err-ah ... salmon. Although breaking the rib cage sounds like it could be a little rough on the flesh.

But if the yield comes out good and the flesh isn't damaged then I'm all for it.

Leif O's picture

This is very late in the game, but I am a newbee to this site.  Just wanted to complement you on a good and simple technique.  I am exited about studying the whole curriculum.



jacob burton's picture

Hi Leif, it's great to have a new community member. Please let us know if you have any questions as you work your way through the content!