Fish comes in various shapes and sizes. Due to this diversity, it can be difficult to understand what part of a fish you should use in recipes or which cut to pick up on grocery trip. There are a number of common cuts of fish, if you’re eating Tilapia, salmon or tuna, so once you’ve found your favorites, you should have no problem identifying them across the board.

While the whole fish isn’t exactly a cut, it’s still a common way to cook a fish. Some cooks like everything intact when working with the whole fish, while others gut it. To make things easier, its usually recommend to gut. Using the whole fish allows you to season or stuff your favorite variety, depending on how creative you want to get.


Above the spine, loins are prime cuts of a fish. Thick, flavorful cut is great grilled, but can also be breaded, baked, or sautéed for a delicious meal. Tilapia loins are a thick part of the fillet and usually come in strips that are rich in flavor if prepared just right. Season loins well and cook them to your desired texture, much like you would a steak.


The fillet is the meat from the side of the fish. It’s versatile and used in most recipes since it’s easy to find at grocery stores. This cut can be seasoned, marinated, baked, fried, sautéed, and whatever else you can possibly imagine. Tilapia fillets have even more advantages of this cut due to a mild taste. Whether you cook it and put it on top of a bed of brown rice or chop it up and mix it into a spicy gumbo, the fillet will work if you’re ever in doubt about which cut to use.

Butterfly Fillets:

This cut is achieved by removing the head and inside of the fish, including the rib bones. Essentially all that will be left are the fillets attached to the skin. When opened and placed flat, the two fillets will still be attached in the center and will take the shape of a butterfly with its wings spread. Recipes normally require you to pan-fry or bake this sort of cut whole in order to lock in moisture and flavor.


A fish steak is a cut of fish which is cut perpendicular to the spine and may include the bones. Fish steaks are generally made from fish larger than 10 lbs so larger fish, such as tuna, swordfish, salmon, cod and mahi-mahi, are often cut into steaks.

Fish steaks can be grilled, pan-fried, broiled or baked.


The backend of a large fish closest to the tail is normally cut and sold separately. This portion is large enough to serve several individuals and is best seasoned and roasted. The cut is bone-in, and while it’s not the most common cut around, it’s still very flavorful and is certain to please a crowd at a dinner party.

All parts of the fish are usable—you just have to know how best to treat and cook them. Be sure to diversify your seafood experience by using different parts of the fish for your next meal and don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice at the seafood counter. The more you explore, the more you’ll learn to love this healthy brain food.