Removing the scales from a fishes skin, also known as ‘scaling a fish’ or ‘descaling a fish’ can be a difficult task if not performed properly.
A nice benefit of scale removal is that it also removes the fishes slime coat and with it much of the fishy smell.
Garden Hose Technique
Fish such as salmon and trout have scales that can be removed fairly easily so this is better for these types of fish. A quick and effective but fairly messy technique to employ is done with a garden hose.
This is best done in an area where you don’t care about making a mess and preferably one that you don’t really need to clean up. Scales are going to be everywhere so make sure you don’t do this near your car or house siding because scales will stick to whatever is nearby and be there forever.
Use a hose with a nozzle set to a strong narrow stream of water and just blast the scales off of the fish.
Pot Scrubber Technique
A standard stainless steel pot scrubber is an effective and quick way of literally scrubbing the scales off of the outside of a fish.
These scrubbers are a balled up bundle of round stainless steel ribbons. They are durable and stow away nicely in your fish cleaning kit.
Just make sure you thoroughly rinse the scrubber to remove all of the scales and slime that will get embedded deeply into the scrubber and cause it to stink a few days later.
Knife Edge Technique
A butter knife or if need be your actual fillet knife can be used to scrape off the scales from each side of the fish.
I don’t recommend using your fillet knife because this will definitely dull it’s edge.
Stainless Steel Brush Style Fish Descaler
These items are common in upscale kitchens where they can be stored in a drawer and placed in the dishwasher for cleaning.
Simple and effective to use especially for heavy scaled fish such as bass. Just scrape forward from the tail to the head until the scales are removed, then rinse the fish with water to remove any slime or scale pieces.
A similar tool and just as simple to use is a spring style curry comb which is used for brushing horses or pets. It’s double sided and does a great job at removing fish scales.
Automatic or Electric Fish Scaler
These are for the hard core fisherman or someone who has a LOT of fish to clean! These power assisted tools take all of the elbow grease out of scale removal and really speed up the process!
If you have a lot of fish to descale, or big fish, or big fish with heavy scales, then these are the tools that will really get the job done.
Make sure you use lots of cold running water in conjunction with whatever scale removal technique you utilize. After you think you are done, run your hands over the skin and you should be able to feel any missed scales.
If the fish that you are filleting has especially ‘springy’ scales and they are flying all over the kitchen, then just fill the sink with water and scale them under water.