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Mar 4, 2009 05:05 AM

Very large whole frozen Arctic Char: Help!

So somehow, I have snagged a whole frozen Arctic char. I happened to be in the Co-op when Qalingo brought in a bunch of fresh char, and let me tell you, it was flying off the shelves, they could barely stock it because people were grabbing 2, 3, 4 at a time. Needless to say, I had to join in the frenzy. I grabbed a few of these beauties, as well as some smoked char fillets, and proceeded to try to walk back to work with my haul. They were kind enough to give me a box, but the fish was so tall and heavy, I had to zig zag back and forth between railings when I left the Co-op. Fortunately, a kind Inuk stopped with his snowmobile and offered me a lift back to the clinic. Thank goodness! I would have never made it back myself! I gave him one of the smoked char packages as a thank you.

There is no real packaging, you get the whole fish without plastic wrap or anything. The fish is completely frozen and whole, nothing has been done to process it, as it is literally flash frozen once it is pulled out of the water (temperatures have been averaging minus 25 degrees Celcius this week up north.). You could use this fish as a serious weapon if you so choose. Now I have many excellent ideas on how to cook it, but what I really need from my Chowhound friends is info on how best to process it.

I am assuming the best thing is to let it defrost completely in the fridge, then scale it, then remove head and fins and guts, then cut into steaks or fillets. Well, I have never done this before, not with such a big fish. I have processed the odd smaller fish, but usually I buy my fish already filleted. Any suggestions and tips for a newbie?

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  1. Go to youtube for some good videos

    Here is a list of some with whole salmon. The Japanese ones are the best

    1. Scale it before it fully defrosts. If necessary and when thawed, cut open from "chin" to anus and pull out and remove guts and wash out cavity under a lot of running water. Remove and discard gills. Remove (with some firm knife/cleaver work) and discard the tail and all fins. Decide between fillets or steaks; and either cut yourself a bunch of steaks or two fillets (I prefer to fillet before removing head). Trim the fillets as needed. Use the head, trimmings, and frame (if you filleted) for fish stock. Cut fillets if you're up to it. If not, you could end up wasting a lot of good meat and it would be better to cut steaks.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        After filleting there is some meat left on the frame. If you have the patience, scrape this meat off the bones using an ordinary teaspoon. Makes great fishburgers.

        1. re: neverlate

          No patience needed - simply simmer frames to the point where the flesh comes off easily. Pull it off with fingers or fork and freeze. Return the frame to the pot and simmer further for stock.

          Here is all you need to know about filleting your fish:

          The only quibble I have with the advice above is the method of removing the pin bones. Flop the fillet over a large round bottomed bowl and then pull them out with pliers. The bones are hard to grip with a flat fillet and one tends to tear away a lot of flesh.

          If you should dress your fish as Sam describes then be sure and run the handle end of a teaspoon along the spine to completely remove the dark red mass there and rinse as you go.

          I don't hesitate to thaw, dress and refreeze freshly landed winter-caught fish.

          1. re: DockPotato


            DockPotato, I had a question about the thaw-refreeze thing. Is there anything that makes you ditch this plan? Because I am sorely tempted to do this, as the fish is pretty big.

            1. re: moh

              Our fish are no more than a couple of hours old when we get them home and start thawing them under running water. Neither myself nor my friends have suffered from this. No way I'd try it with bought fish, but what else are you going to do with a 12+ lb fishcicle?

              Also we start immediately - don't let the fish sit till next day. Hmm... that may not be for a week or two in your case?

              To be honest with you I'm more concerned with what some people do with fair weather fish which they leave unbled for hours, often in full sun.

      2. Thanks scubadoo97 and Sam! I appreciate the tips. I particularly like the idea of scaling it before it is completely defrosted, as I was worried it might be too soft if I defrost it completely.

        This should be an adventure! Although I am a little stressed, I am not too stressed, as the entire fish cost me about $15, an astoundingly low price. I am wondering if they undercharged me. Anyhow, at that price, even if I waste a lot more fish than normal, I am not too worried. I was thinking of using the head and bones and leftover fish to make a stock or something... But perhaps steaks would be much easier than fillets. I think the biggest issue is that I don't own a good fish-filleting knife. The instruments make the surgeon.

        1 Reply
        1. re: moh

          Have fun! You need to practice to take good, clean fillets - so maybe give it a try. Although I have a fish filleting knife, I more often use my 6" (I think) Sabatier. Has a fairly thin and narrow blade and is slightly flexible. If you don't want to waste any meat, cut steaks, In any case, the advice from DockPotato is what I do - use frame and head for stock. Halfway through take the meat off (I just eat those flakes dressed with shoyu and chile and eat with hot rice) and return bones to stock. Remeber fish stokc only needs about 30 minutes. Strain all and then reduce.