preparation of fish fillet blocks

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  • MFR PAPER 1277

    Preparation of Fish Fillet Blocks


    BACKGROUNDFrozen fish fillet blocks are used as

    the raw material in the manufacture offish sticks and portions and other spe-cialty items.

    In 1976, nearly 400 million poundsof blocks were used for this purpose inthe United States. Imports accountedfor 379 million pounds with domesticproduction adding less than 0.6 percentto the total. Cod and pollock are theprincipal species used for makingblocks. Iceland was the principalsupplier followed by the Republic ofKorea, Canada, Denmark, Norway,and Japan. Cod accounted for 48 per-cent of the total followed by pollockwhich accounted for 25 percent. Codblocks were supplied by Denmark, Ice-land, Canada, and Norway. Pollockblocks were supplied by the Republic ofKorea with 61 percent of the total fol-lowed by Japan's 11 percent.

    FirSI cuI behind fin.

    Remove nape area offillet from collar bone.

    John J. Ryan is with the GloucesterLaboratory, Northeast FisheriesCenter, National Marine FisheriesService, NOAA, Emerson Avenue,Gloucester. MA 01930.

    January 1978

    Medium-sized eviscerated cod.

  • Cut along dorsal fin (close to thebackbone) toward tail.

    Additional sizes and shapes having lim-ited use are as follows:


    2 J x I I 1f2 X 11/219 x 10 x 2Vz19 X (IYa x 21f224 X 191/2 x 3


    13xllVzxllla17\4 x 111-4 x 1%21 x 101f2 x JI/217 X 111f2 x Ilia20 x 11% x 1%20 x (( % X I1f216 X 11 1/16 x 2Ya19 x 10 x 2%(8l1a x 10 x 2.421 x 113/8 x 2%


    10IIJ2V213 \4131f213Vz15161/2161/2171f2


    J 31/2161f218 1/2491f2

    Because fish sticks and portions arecut to specified dimensions and a spec-ified number are placed in a package toarrive at a definite weight, it is impor-tant that the frozen block of fillets be of

    At left, filleting: Reverse knife alongbackbone. Bottom left, remove fillet fromfish. Below, skin fillet.


    A fish fillet block is a uniform, coher-ing mass of usually skinless fillets fro-zen together under pressure. Becausefish sticks and portions are cut todefinite dimensions and weights, dif-ferent sizes and shapes of fish filletblocks are produced. The principalsizes and shapes of fish blocks beingutilized in this country are as follows:

    6 Marine Fisheries Review

  • a uniform density. Generally, an ac-ceptable block will not vary more thanl/S inch in any dimension from thosespecified.

    A typical method of preparing fishfillet blocks will be used as an example.Essentially, boneless and skinlessfillets are carefully placed into a waxed,one-piece folding carton either parallelwith or perpendicular to the long axis ofthe box. In both cases, the thick portionof the fillet is placed adjacent to an edgeof the container, and the thin portion isplaced into the middle. The depressionso formed is built up with fillets untilthe desired weight is obtained. The con-tainers are slightly overfilled with fishso that all surfaces are uniformly filledwith every effort being made to avoidsloping surfaces, bad corners, orvoids.

    For freezing, the blocks are put into awooden or metal tray and then placedinto a multiplate compression freezer.Space sticks of the correct size are usedto prevent deformation or bulgingcaused by excessive pressure duringplate freezing. Freezing time should notexceed 3 hours, and the internal tem-perature of the product should be re-duced to at least -50 0 F at the thennalcenter after thermal stabilization. Usingthe correct sized spacers, slightly smal-ler in depth than the containers, causesa very slight compression of the con-tainers when the plates are lowered.This compression smooths out the sur-face of the fish. Finally, when all thecontainer is filled with fish flesh, thecompression forces the fillets to fusetogether into a single block of fish.

    Upon removal of the blocks from theplate freezer, the blocks are taken out ofthe tray and packed into a corrugatedmaster container. Usually, four blocksare packed into a corrugated mastercontainer.

    The series of photographs in thispaper depicts the many steps involvedin making a good quality block. Theypoint out many of the details that go intoblock production that would be diffi-cult to describe with words.

    LITERATURE CITEDAnonymous. 1977. Fisheries of the United

    States, t976. U.S. Dep. Commer., NOAA,Natl. Mar. Fish. Serv., Curr. Fish. Stat. 7200,96 p.

    January 1978

    First cuI to remove pin bones.

    Second cut to remove pin bones.

    Bones removed.


  • Counterclockwise from top:Removing black membrane; skinlessand boneless fillet; cut thickest part offillet on angle to permit betterpacking; and cut fillets in half.

    Marine Fisheries Review

  • .J

    Counterclockwise from top: Blockpan for 16\7-pound block doubledwith removable divider; unfoldedblock carton; folded block canon withall tabs overlapping on outside toprevent imbedded tabs; and square cutfillets bUlled into comer of carton.

    January 1978 9

  • Packing fillets into carton, all corners filled first.

    Completely filled carton. Top surfaces should be flattened and leveled.

    Partially filled carton. Long fillets should always be cuI in half.

    Close carton. Overlapping cover edge is placed outside to prevent imbed-ding in block.

    Finished carton. Top surface being smoothed.

    10 Marine Fisheries Review

  • Counlerclockwise from top: Blockcanons ready for plate freezing; platefreezer with piales up; plate freezerwith blocks and plates compressed;and removing blocks from platefreezer.

    January 1978 11

  • Frozen block with square side andcorners and absence of voids.


    frozen block side view.

    MFR Paper 1277. From Marine Fisheries Review, Vol. 40. No.1, January 1978.Copies of this paper, in limited numbers, are available from 0822, User Ser-vices Branch, Environmental Science Information Center, NOAA, Rockville.MD 20852. Copies of Marine Fisheries Review are available from the Superin-tendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC20402 for $1.10 each.

    Marine Fisheries Review

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