What Is a Snapper Fillet?

H. Bliss

A snapper fillet refers to a thin cut of the flesh from an edible fish called the snapper. It is one cohesive piece taken from the side of the fish, from the tail to just behind the gills. This cut can be grilled, oven roasted, or cooked in butter in a pan. The versatile snapper fillet can also be battered and fried in oil. Snapper fish generally has a lightly sweet, sometimes nutty flavor that tends to soak up the flavors it cooks in.

Some snappers are served as pan-fried fillets, while others are grilled and served whole.
Some snappers are served as pan-fried fillets, while others are grilled and served whole.

The term snapper can refer to a few types of fish, many of which are edible and notably tasty. Seasoning this type of fish is easy because the flesh is a neutral flavor that goes well with many types of herbs and flavorings. A snapper fillet is most often flavored with herb butter, flavored olive oil, or a light sauce of herbs and tomatoes. These fillets can also be curried or cooked with aromatic vegetables like onions, carrots, and garlic.

Since red snapper fish are large, the technique used to make a snapper fillet usually involves removing the fish meat from the body in large segments before cutting the segments into fillets. Smaller fish can be cut into fillets without separating the meat from the body first. Fillets cut from the body of a fish are usually cut along the center of the fish, holding the knife perpendicular to the length of the fish and parallel with the cutting surface and cutting from the tail to the head end. The head of the fish should be cut off first.

Some who first encounter the word fillets question how the term fillets should be spelled. Though the word filets with one L is used in the dish filet mignon, the correct English language spelling when referring to fish is fillet with two Ls. When describing a snapper fillet in French for a French restaurant, it is correct to use the French spelling, as in filet vivaneau.

Due to overfishing, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared red snapper a threatened fish species. Until red snapper populations return to a sustainable level, diners can choose alternative types of fish that are not overfished or those that are farmed. Some organizations recommend avoiding all snapper because efforts to fish a less protected type of snapper can harm protected snapper. Other names used for red snapper include red rock cod and the vermillion rockfish. Alternative types of fish that can be used instead of red snapper include black rockfish and the common dab.

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