Best Fish Cuts and Varieties: A Complete Buying Guide

Latest posts by Jodie Chiffey (see all)

Finding and cooking the best fish cuts and varieties takes some careful thought and consideration.

Luckily, we have a complete guide that will help you out.

In our guide, we will look at different types of fish that are available to eat, show you the top methods for cooking fish, and also explore various products that will help you prepare a high-quality fish meal.

What are the Best Fish Cuts and Varieties?

Like meat and chicken, several cuts of fish have distinctive flavors and textures and require different preparation methods. Here are the main cuts of fish that you will come across.

Whole Fish

There are two types of whole fish. One is the entire fish with the head, tail, and internal organs intact. The other is a ‘gutted’ whole fish which means that the viscera has been removed, but the head is still there. You can get a whole fish on your own and season it or stuff the inside for added flavor.


A fish fillet is one of the most common cuts of fish, and it is the meat you find on the inside. The main types of fillet fish are a whole fillet, j-cut fillet, and v-cut fillet. This fish cut is very versatile, and you can cook it in many different ways.

Butterfly Fillet

A butterfly fillet is usually found with freshwater fish. This type of cut is two separate fillets held together by the skin and is perfect for pan-frying.


A fish steak is made from larger breeds of fish such as swordfish or salmon. It is one of the more significant fish cuts that you will find, and it is made by cutting along the spine. You will often find bones and the skin still left on the fish steak, but there are many ways to cook this type of fish.


A loin cut of fish is cut depending on how big the breed is. For example, a larger breed such as tuna will be cut along the back, and with smaller species, the loin is more natural, so more minor butchering is required.


A less common type of fish cut is the tail. While it is usually found with the bone still intact, it is perfect for roasting and contains an abundance of flavor.

Types of Fish

If we listed every fish you can eat, you would probably get bored very quickly. There are many; however, these are the main types of fish that you can commonly buy and consume.


Salmon is one of the most recognizable fish mainly due to its pinkish color. Like many types of fish, it is full of omega-3 fatty acids, and it offers health benefits. Salmon is relatively light to eat as well, and wild salmon often have more flavor and a firmer texture. You can cook salmon in various ways, and it is perfect for a light summer meal.on, although it doesn’t sport the pink color. Rainbow trout is the most common species, and they are fairly small but packed with flavor.


Trout is a common freshwater fish, and it is actually related to salm good thing with trout is that you can find it all-ready around, so it isn’t just available on a seasonal basis.


This is the most popular type of fish, and it is widely available. Tuna is very high in myoglobin, and depending on the cut of tuna, you can cook it in different ways. For example, Tuna steak can be cooked like a regular meat steak, and it has a thick texture but surprisingly has a very low-fat content.


This is a saltwater fish that is mild in flavor but is readily available. Codfish isn’t that big, and the average weight of a whole cod is between 2 – 10 lbs. You can do a lot with cod, from baking it, deep-frying it, and broiling the fish, and it works with a large variety of different ingredients to create a great meal.


Slightly less well-known, but halibut is a very large fish, so you will likely find it sold frozen or in pieces. Halibut is seasonal (usually found between March and November) and weighs a lot, as the average halibut is between 10 to 60 lbs.


The largest type of fish on our list. Swordfish weigh between 50 to 200 lbs, and they offer very meaty flesh with few bones. Ideal for pan-roasting, and you usually find swordfish available from August to October, so they can be a little hard to get.

The Major Differences Between Fish and Other Meats

Perhaps the major difference between Fish cuts and other types of meat is fat.

Other meats usually have a high saturated fat content which isn’t ideal for your cholesterol. While in moderation, it is OK, but if you need to lower your cholesterol, you normally cut back on certain types of meat. Fish is well-known for having omega-3 fats, which are unsaturated fat. Omega-3 fatty acids are healthier for you overall and are good for your heart.

The texture of fish is different from other meats such as beef, pork, chicken, and game. Fish tends to have a softer texture, whereas beef, for example, will be tougher. This is down to the less collagen found in fish (around 3% compared to 15% for beef and pork).

The final difference between fish and other meats is how they are cooked. You can still cook fish in essentially the same ways (pan-frying, baking, etc.), but fish will cook quicker. This is because the muscle fibers are shorter, so it doesn’t take as long to cook through.

Advantages of Cooking and Eating Fish

Swordfish Cooked

Fish has many benefits including for your health. Here are the main advantages of cooking and eating fish.

Different Varieties and Cuts

A significant advantage of cooking and eating fish are the diverse species and breeds. There are so many, and they all offer a different taste, flavor, and texture. With fish, you have an abundance of choices, from smaller fish with a rich flavor to larger breeds with a milder taste.

Good for your health

Fish doesn’t contain a lot of saturated fat, so it is ideal if you need to lower your cholesterol or simply want to eat healthier. Fish can often be very light, so it is perfect as a quick snack or combined with various ingredients for a full meal.

Rich in protein

Fish is rich in protein and vitamin D, so it provides various health benefits that you don’t get with other meats. Not only does it offer physical health benefits, but it is a good ‘brain food’ too.

Cooks quickly

Fish is also quick to cook (usually) than many other types of meat. As there isn’t much muscle or fat in fish, it won’t take as long to cook as steak, chicken, or other foods. You need to be careful not to overcook it, but fish is straightforward to cook correctly.

The Disadvantages of Cooking and Eating Fish

Not everything is great about fish. While it has few downsides, here are some things to be aware of.

Lack of iron

One big downside to fish is the lack of iron that it contains. In contrast to other meats such as beef, fish contains a lot less iron. You will find iron in other seafood such as oysters and clams, but on the whole, fish is very low in iron content, which means you’ll need to get this elsewhere for a balanced diet.

It can be seasonal

Certain types of fish are available all year round; however, many can only be found on a seasonal basis. This limits the availability and chance to get a prime variety of fish throughout the year.

Fish can be overcooked easily

If you don’t pay attention, meat or poultry can be overcooked, but fish can burn very quickly. This is down to the fact that it doesn’t contain much muscle or fat. So if you are cooking fish, keep an eye on it constantly because it can overcook and burn quickly.

Safety Tips When Cooking with Fish

There are certain things you should do to ensure that you don’t get ill (or cause anyone else to get ill) when storing, preparing, and cooking all types of fish cuts.


Fish can be off quickly, so make sure that you get it home as fast as possible after you purchase it. This is especially true if it is frozen, as it will start to smell as it thaws out. If you are buying fresh fish from a seafood market, it is good to bring a cooler with you to store it on the way home. Most fresh fish must be kept consistently below 40°F to maintain their quality.


Like cooking all raw meat, you should use different surfaces and tools such as knives and not cross-contaminate them. Also, don’t use the same utensils for cooked fish that you used for raw fish unless you wash them thoroughly in-between.


Even though fish doesn’t take long to cook, it still needs to reach an internal temperature of 145°F for it to be cooked through. A meat thermometer is a great idea to check this; however, you can also use a fork to ensure that the meat is flaky and opaque.

Best Methods to Cook Fish

Like chicken, beef, and pork, you can cook chicken in a wide variety of different ways. This is one reason we love it so much because it is so diverse in how you prepare it.


Baking fish in an oven (between 350-400F) is an ideal method of cooking various cuts of fish such as fillets, steaks, or even whole fish. It can dry out quickly, so make sure to marinate or coat it in sauce first.


Fish is also great meat to have on the BBQ or under a grill. You can marinade it or coat it in sauce and then wrap it in foil to ensure that all the flavor is kept in the meat.


If you need to cook fish quickly, frying in a shallow pan with some oil is a good idea. This is a recommended method for fillet cuts of fish. You can also deep fry fish too by coating it in batter or breadcrumbs first, and this is often used for types of fish such as cod and haddock.


You can steam fish in a large saucepan, and it is an effective method of allowing the fish to keep its juices and flavor. It is also one of the quicker methods, and steaming fish only takes a few minutes once the water has reached the desired temperature.

Where to Find the Best Fish Cuts

Seafood market

Seafood markets are perfect for finding fresh and high-quality fish.

You can find many different types of fish cuts at a seafood market, and they are great for picking some more obscure breeds. The downside is that they can be a little bit more expensive than visiting your local grocery store.

However, if you want fresh catch that is nearly right off the boat, seafood markets are a brilliant place to start.


Supermarkets often have a decent selection of different fish cuts and varieties, although the choice can sometimes be limited compared to a seafood market.

The advantage of using a supermarket is that you will usually get fish cheaper than anywhere else. In most cases, the fish will be sold frozen, but you can find fresh and unfrozen fish too.


Many online stores and subscription services also sell fish.

If you regularly eat fish, this can be an ideal method of getting it delivered straight to your door. It can be more expensive because fish needs to be stored correctly, which can add to the delivery cost. However, buying online will often result in a better choice of fish cuts and varieties, and you may find some rare fish species you won’t get anywhere else.

My Top Recommendations for Fish Cuts and Varieties

Fish can be quite a specialized meat to prepare, cook, and eat. This is why we are going to show you the best products you can buy to ensure you have a fantastic meal.

Hammer Stahl 7-Inch Fillet Knife – Best Fish Knife

Fish Knife

If you need to cut up fish, or if you have bought a whole fish and want to fillet it properly, the Hammer Stahl 7-Inch Fillet Knife is what you need.

This high-quality fish knife is made from German X50CrMoV15 high carbon stainless steel, so it is built to last. The blades are sharpened to a 20-degree bevel angle, while the handle is very comfortable to use.

Overall, a fantastic fish knife will make filleting any type of fish a lot easier.

Powlaken Instant Read Meat Thermometer – Best Way to Check Fish is Cooked


Ensuring fish is cooked properly is vital to avoid any unwanted illness, and the Powlaken Instant Read Meat Thermometer helps you do just that.

Fish needs to reach an internal temperature of 145°F to cook correctly, and with this meat thermometer, you can be sure your fish is cooked correctly. This thermometer can be used on any meat, and you can also use it for fish cooked in the oven, pan-fried, or even fish fresh from the grill.

It reads the temperature in just a couple of seconds, and it is incredibly easy to use.

Sabatier, Black Flex Turner – Best for Turning Fish


Instead of turning your fish with any old kitchen utensil, you come across, the Sabatier, Black Flex Turner is perfect for avoiding any accidents.

This product has been specifically designed to turn fish in a pan, on a grill, or even in the oven. It is really thin and flexible, but it is reinforced with three stainless steel rivets for added durability so that you can flip large and heavy fish cuts with ease.

If you cook fish at home, this is a necessary addition to your range of kitchen utensils.

Neoflam MyPan Red Ceramic 11-inch Nonstick Fish Pan – Best for Frying Fish


Finally, we have the Neoflam MyPan Red Ceramic 11-inch Nonstick Fish Pan.

We’ve mentioned before that there is a fine line between perfectly cooked fish and burning this tender meat. With this nonstick fish pan, you can cook various fish cuts to a very high standard.

It ensures the fish won’t stick to the bottom and is the perfect size for frying fish quickly and efficiently.

Frequently Asked Questions about Fish Cuts and Varieties

Question: What type of fish cuts can you buy?

Answer: There are many different types of fish cuts with their distinct flavor and texture. However, the main types of fish cuts are fillet, steak, butterfly fillet, loin, tail, and whole fish.

Question: Is fish healthy for you?

Answer: Yes. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are unsaturated fats, and it is also a good source of protein and specific vitamins. However, fish does lack iron content, so you will need to get this from other foods for a balanced diet.

Question: Is fish cheap to buy?

Answer: It depends. Certain fish such as tuna are readily available most of the year and usually is one of the cheaper fish species. Other fish such as swordfish and seabass are harder to locate and will normally be more expensive.

Question: How do I know that fish is cooked properly?

Answer: Fish should reach an internal temperature of 145°F to ensure that it is cooked through. You can tell that fish is cooked correctly as the meat will be flaky and opaque rather than translucent.

Question: Can I BBQ or grill fish?

Answer: Yes. The great thing about fish is that you can cook it differently. BBQ and grilling fish is a suitable method of getting crispy skin (if the skin is left on), but you can use this method for nearly all types of fish cuts.

Question: Am I able to freeze fish?

Answer: Yes. Frozen fish can be bought from many supermarkets, but you can freeze fresh fish too. It would help if you used proper freezer bags, and fresh fish can be frozen and used within eight months. If you have already cooked the fish, then it should be used within three months.

Conclusion: How to Cook The Best Fish Cuts and Varieties

Fish is one of our favorite things to eat, but it has to be cooked correctly.

It can be easy to burn fish and overcook it, regardless of what cut it is. This is why we have shown you the best tools you need to work with a large variety of different types of fish.

If you want to ensure fish is cooked thoroughly while retaining its superior taste and flavor, you should invest in the following:

Read more:

Scroll to Top