How to Clean a Whole Striped Bass Without Waste
If you are eating only the fillets from a striper, you're missing out on some of the tastiest bits.
by Andy Nabreski December 8, 2020
Many fishermen prefer to catch and release striped bass, especially while the striped bass stock is rebuilding. However, if you catch a slot-sized fish and decide to keep it, or if it doesn’t survive release, make sure you make the most of the meat and eat the whole striped bass. A striped bass can be eaten almost in its entirety with some savvy blade work.
Even though every fish has different meat textures and flavors, much of the information is applicable to other species.
Note that the FDA has made dietary recommendations regarding mercury in fish, specifically for women who are or might become pregnant, breastfeeding mothers, and young children. Fattier sections of a fish, such as the belly meat, may contain a higher concentration of mercury.
The best flavor is in the head. The meat around it is fattier and has a finer, firmer flake compared to the rest of the fish. It’s like the dark meat on a chicken – juicier and more tender.
This is the choicest cut from the fillet. It is slightly fattier, and the extra thickness helps prevent overcooking. This is my prime pick for a grilled preparation.
There isn’t a lot of meat here. It is tedious to fillet it out and remove the skin, but what you are left with is what I consider the best cut on any fish. You get a nugget of buttery, fatty goodness that is tender and melts in your mouth, similar to a good sea scallop.
These bony triangles contain excellent fatty, tender meat. They are perfect for grilling, though preparing them takes some work, and you must scale the throat section before filleting. Regardless, the bone makes an easy handle for you to hold as you nibble away
The fins and tail have a good amount of collagen, which makes them great additions to fish stock. Remove them with scissors and simmer, along with the bones, for about 45 minutes. Use the stock for braised preparations or in a soup or chowder.
These portions of the fillet are not that thick, and they tend to be very lean, which means they dry out if overcooked. I prefer to use them in recipes that call for braising in liquid. For the best end result, make sure to carefully cut this stuff away from the fillets before cooking.
The dark red meat that runs along the spine is the only part of a striper I avoid eating. It has a strong, fishy flavor that I am not a fan of, so as a special treat I feed it to my dogs, who seem to love it. Don’t overdo it though, as there is the possibility of mercury poisoning in dogs from consuming large amounts of fatty, long-lived fish.
This is another prized cut that is often overlooked. It takes some work, but you will find a fair amount of meat here. Carve it out and take off the skin, then remove the silver skin on the inside. This cut is great for a chowder.
Fish skins contain a good amount of fat. They are a good addition to a stock, or if you are really feeling adventurous, you can deep-fry them to make fish-skin chicharrones, the potato chips of the sea.
Anything that is left makes great compost for your garden. The tomatoes I plant above buried fish heads always seem to grow the largest. My vegetable garden is also a massive fish cemetery, though in the summer and early fall when my garden is fully planted, I dispose of any carcasses back into the sea instead of sending them to the landfill. The crabs have to eat too.