This technique is great for presenting a whole fish at the table. I like to leave the head on. For the squeamish, you can take off the head and tail, use this technique to remove the backbone and ribs, and then close the head opening with skewers and twine.
When buying the fish, ask for it to be scaled only. Not gutted or fileted. You’ll probably have to say it twice.
Gutting through the Gill and Boning
You ‘ll need kitchen shears and a paring knife.
Pull back the gills. Cut the top and bottom connecting cartilage with shears and cut the tough membrane connecting the gill to the head and body of the fish. It’s important to get this off because it will cook with a bitter taste. In bigger fish the gills can be spiny and sharp, so be careful.
Hook your thumb through the gill and pull out the gill and viscera.
Run your fingers through the cavity to ensure that everything’s out and then rinse thoroughly.
Clip off the small side fins on the top and bottom. Make an incision down the length of the backbone. Keeping the knife as flat as possible, cut away one filet to the edge of the ribs. Then repeat with the other side.
Use shears to sever the backbone at the head, tail, and one or two points in between.
Slide your fingers under the ribs at the points where you’ve severed the backbone. Pull out these sections with ribs attached. For bigger fish you may have to use the shears to cut away tissue at the end of the ribs.
Season the cavity and you’re ready to cook!