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Loin: The Prime CutDEFINITION: A cut, normally of uniform thickness, with no taper and no bones. Loins are taken from large fish like tuna, swordfish or shark, cut from the backbone lengthwise into quarters. Flatfish like halibut and sole are typically not loined.

Advantages

Top quality. The loin is the highest-quality cut, offering the thickest, densest meat without the waste of skin or bones. 

Versatility. Individual loins can be sold whole, cut into large pieces (“chunks,” “slabs,” “bullets” or “sides”) or sliced into individual, uniform steaks. 

Custom cuts. Some suppliers offer loins from specific parts of large fish, or certain parts (“links”) of a large loin, like a center-section, which has the best taste and most uniform texture. Choice loins in large fish like tuna or swordfish are cut to avoid two “bloodlines” of darker, stronger-tasting meat that run parallel to the backbone.

Disadvantages

Expense. Loins are among the most expensive cuts available. They often require further cutting and trimming into steaks before sale, which can result in unanticipated waste. 

Shelf life. Careful handling is critical, since the exposed, skinless meat dehydrates easily.

Checklist

  • “Natural” fillet loins of small or medium-size fish should be approximately the same size and configuration, with little tapering and no thin spots. “Cut loins,” taken from a longer strip down the back of the fish, may be thinner on one end.