Fish prep tools and equipment

Fish prep tools and equipment

Nathan Outlaw
0 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing

Buying equipment for cooking can be daunting – there’s so much out there to choose from. I’ve put together a list of the items I use day in, day out and have been using for the last twenty years. Remember though, this is my personal choice and you may already have, or prefer to buy, something different. That’s fine, but please make sure you buy good quality products. Trust me, if you skimp, you’ll only be buying again soon, which is not only frustrating, it can end up costing you more...


I strongly recommend investing in a selection of good knives for your kitchen. The following are the ones I use all the time:

Filleting knife There are many types of filleting knife on the market, with various uses. I use a thin, semi-flexible bladed one. You can get some that are very flexible but they are not easy to sharpen. If you buy a good quality filleting knife, it should last a lifetime.

Cook’s knife I tend to use two cook’s knives. One has a 25cm long blade. The other is heavier with a 30cm blade – it needs to be because I use it for bashing lobsters and crabs and steaking fish. It’s much safer to use a heavy knife for jobs like this so that it doesn’t bounce off and injure you. I use the lighter 25cm knife for slicing and chopping, and I keep the blade razor sharp.

Paring knife A good paring knife is a must. Don’t be tempted to buy one that’s too big or you’ll find it clumsy to handle, when you are peeling garlic or an onion for example. Keep it nice and sharp at all times. Apart from preparing veg and fruit, I also use a small paring knife for scaling fish, but do be careful if you try this – It’s much safer to use a proper fish scaler.

Serrated knife A strong serrated knife is most useful for cutting off fish heads. When I’m dealing with bigger fish, I always cut the head off first as I find it gives you more control when filleting.

Oyster knife It took me years to find an oyster knife that I like to use. The one I own and love has a wooden handle and a firm but short blade. I always keep it sharpened so it slices through the muscle cleanly, giving a very presentable oyster.

Firm bladed boning knife This is a personal preference and technically not a correct use of this knife but I find a boning knife is the best one to use for opening scallops. If you’re planning to open lots of scallops, I’d suggest investing in one.


I’ve always been terrible at keeping my knives sharp. It’s not the most interesting of jobs to do in the kitchen. However, I had a revelation when I discovered a sharpener with a guided sharpening wheel on it. I’m not really one for gadgets but since I’ve been using this, my knives are always sharp and ready to rock. A great investment!

Rubber mallet

I always use a rubber mallet when I want to steak fish into portions. Hitting the heavy 30cm cook’s knife with the mallet leaves you with a very clean and precise cut.

Microplane grater

This is probably one of the most frequently used pieces of kit in my kitchen. These graters are worth every penny and if looked after properly should last you for ages. We use them for zesting citrus fruit and grating cheese, garlic, chocolate, etc. Trust me, once you begin using one, it will become an integral part of your life in the kitchen. One word of warning though: they are very sharp, so mind your fingers!


A Japanese mandoline is a good friend to have in your kitchen. I use one a lot for finely slicing vegetables, such as fennel, for salads and pickles. Again, be very careful. Fingers and mandolines don’t mix!

Thin-handled dessertspoon

This has a few, important functions. Firstly, it’s ideal for scooping a scallop out of its shell because the bowl is made of thin, rounded metal, almost the same shape as the rounded side of a scallop shell. Secondly, I use it when picking crabs. Using both handle and bowl ends, these spoons can get into every crevice of a crab shell, enabling me to prise out every last piece of that fantastic crabmeat. Also, they tend not to break the cartilage too much, and you don’t want that in your crabmeat. Of course, these spoons are also useful for tasting as you cook, and for serving up when you are aiming to get the presentation precise.

Pin-boning tweezers

These are an absolutely essential item for your fish prepping kit. Make sure you buy a pair that have no flex to them. The flexible ones seem to struggle to grab smaller bones.

Chopping boards

It is worth investing in a good quality blue plastic chopping board if you plan to do lots of fish prep. When you have finished using it, always wash the board with cold water rather than hot, as hot water will cook the remaining debris and make the board smell.

Always dry the board thoroughly before putting it away too, as again it will smell if you don’t.

For other food prep, I love using my large wooden chopping boards, but I really wouldn’t recommend wood for preparing fish, as it is very difficult to clean the fish debris from. Never, ever be tempted to put your wooden chopping board into the dishwasher as it does very strange things to them!

Small stainless steel bowls

These are not expensive to buy but they are so useful to have to hand for all sorts of purposes, from holding pre-prepped ingredients to mixing small quantities of dressing and storing food in the fridge. Get several – you’ll be reaching for them all the time!


I would recommend having a choice of sieves in your kitchen. It just makes it easier to achieve the desired result.

A fine sieve is best for sauces and stocks. A slightly coarser sieve is great for purées and breadcrumbs. A large conical strainer is useful for straining fish stocks.

Heat resistant spatula

A good quality flexible, heatproof rubber spatula is a great kitchen tool. Ideal for mixing, it gets right into the edges of the pan or bowl you’re using, and enables you to scrape out every last bit when you have finished.

Electronic digital scales

Having electronic digital scales to hand in your kitchen makes life that much easier. Try to get scales that have a decent sized platform and weigh in metric and imperial for both dry goods and liquids. Take care of them though. They are quite delicate and feature at the top of our ‘Chef, the equipment is broken’ list!

Electric blender/processor

Once again, it pays long term to buy robust, good quality small electrical appliances. If you want soups and purées that are really fine, a powerful electric blender or food processor is a must. Always be careful when putting hot liquid into a blender though, as the machine has a tendency to throw the liquid up at you as hot air builds up.

Electric mixer

I don’t often use my mixer when I’m preparing fish, but it’s really handy for puddings. If you are thinking of buying one I would recommend a KitchenAid. Yes, they are expensive but they are robust and they look pretty snazzy too.


There are loads of pans on the market but if you want a really good long-term investment, choose the ones with heavy bottoms and tight-fitting lids. If they’re ovenproof, even better. A thicker bottomed pan helps cook food more evenly and gives you lots of residual heat when you take it off the heat source. They are also good to braise in, hence the need for a tight-fitting lid.

For pan-frying fish, a good quality non-stick pan is essential as far as I’m concerned. You need to look after it though. Don’t leave it on the heat as you might a cast iron pan. If you do, after a while the coating will burn off... you really don’t want bits of non-stick coating in your food.

Oven and grill trays

Whether you are grilling or baking, you need to invest in some good quality trays. If they are too thin, they’ll buckle under the heat and the food won’t cook evenly. Buy a range of sizes – from trays big enough to hold a couple of fish fillets up to one big enough to take a whole fish. If you buy cast iron, make sure that you dry them well after washing or they will go rusty. A little tip: I always wash and dry my trays then finish them in a warm oven to make sure they are thoroughly dry.


Steaming fish shows off the freshness of the fish and the purity of its flavour. It’s one of my favourite ways to cook fish. A steamer is a great piece of kit and worth every penny. If you’re very fortunate you may have an integrated steamer in your oven. Otherwise, you can buy one to use on the hob. You might choose to get one of the tall electric steamers, but I prefer to use a simple metal steamer.

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