You can use a spoon…
Or if you’re badly stuck, a knife will get the job done.
But neither of these pieces of cutlery are what you’d call the best fish scaler, and using either of them is not without its problems.
To start with, you could rip the skin and punch a hole in your pricy or hard caught piece of fish.
They can also be difficult to manoeuvre around some parts of the fish close to the belly, gills, and head.
But worst of all, a spoon or a knife will force you to use too much pressure.
You’ll find yourself resorting to strong sweeping strokes against the grain of the scales from tail to head, ripping them from their pores and making them fly everywhere like confetti.
They stick to everything like little suction cups too.
And although you could scale a fish in about 30 seconds with one you’ll spend 30 minutes cleaning up afterwards.
And a week later, you’ll still be finding the odd scale you missed glued to the kitchen walls, tiles, or ceiling.
Some fish cooks avoid the messy clean up by scaling their fish underwater either in a basin or the kitchen sink.
This isn’t a bad alternative, but it can be a bit awkward. You’ll find it takes more time, and it can be tough to make sure you’ve peeled all those scales away.
Plus, you’ll still have to clean your sink or basin afterwards.
The last option is to retreat to the backyard, which is something I used to do in all weathers (sub-zero temperatures included) just to scale a fish for dinner.
All this seems like a lot of bother when all you want to do is clean a few fish.
Luckily, there’s an easier way….
Best Fish Scaler – A better option for less mess
These handy, inexpensive little gadgets that look similar to a veg peeler or a brush depending on their design (more on this in a minute) take all the hassle out of scaling fish.
Below are some of our favourites.
Tikusan Fish Scaler
This is it, straight from Japan, the Tikusan is best in the business for cleanly and efficiently cutting scales from fish. Its unique cup-shaped design catches all the scales before they have time to fly off all over your kitchen.
Kwizing Fish Scaler Brush
If you catch, clean and cook some of the bigger species, like salmon, trout, or cod then the kwizing could be just the job. Its broad brass head and serrated tips make short work of scaling these types of fish. While specially designed grooves catch some but not all of the removed scales
Speder Electric Fish Scaler
If you regularly scale boatloads of fish then it could be time to go electric. Powered by a 12-volt battery and a copper motor that rotates 4 stainless steel blades at 7000 rpm the spader makes scaling fish a breeze and is fully waterproof if you like to scale underwater.
The best thing about using one is there’s a hell of a lot less mess because you don’t have to use as much muscle.
They’ll also let you work along the fish in a circular, vertical, or a diagonal motion which won’t make scales fly off all over the place.
The best fish scaler is also easy to get into all those hard to reach areas along the dorsal fin, close to the belly, and around the head.
Their time-saving, more efficient, and when you use one to scale your fish in a plastic bag (check out the video below) there’s very little to clean up
Why Those Scales Have Got To Go
You might be wondering why bother taking the time to remove all those fish scales in the first place, and there are times when I like to leave them on (more on this in a sec)
But essentially fish scales are hard, rubbery, and a bit inedible.
And if you’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of trying to eat one you’ll know just how unpleasant they feel in your mouth.
More importantly, if you pan-fry your fish, and love crispy skin those scales get in the way and you should never make the mistake of leaving them on.
While if you go for a moist fish cookery method like poaching or steaming you’ll find they have a nasty habit of becoming dislodged from the skin and finding their way onto the flesh.
And it’s a hell of a job picking them off.
Because you won’t want to serve up a perfectly cooked fillet of fish, accompanied by some rubbery scales, to anyone you’ve invited round for lunch.
How the best fish scaler works
All fish scalers have some sort of sharp edge and there are two main types. You can either go for one that looks somewhat similar to a knife/peeler or a more brush-like design.
There are also a few electric models on the market but we’ll get to them later.
The good news is that both types have no problem removing scales from fish, and either design is a much more user-friendly option than a knife or spoon.
The Fish Scale Peeler
Normally smaller than the scaling brush with a very similar look to a vegetable peeler these types of scalers are manoeuvrable and easy to use.
They can get into all those little nooks and crannies around the gills and fins.
Designed with a sharp blade that lifts the scale before cutting it out, they are more precise and can be used on any size or species of fish.
The Fish Scaling Brush
Brushes or fish scaling scrubbers on the other hand are generally bigger than their peeling counterparts.
They feature a broader head with either sharp metal teeth or a rigged edge that sweeps away scales from the skin without damaging the flesh underneath.
Deciding which design to go for will often come down to your personal preference.
But having scaled a good few fish with both types over the years I generally prefer the peeler with one big caveat.
It’s got to have a sharp blade.
Because the sharper the blade, the less force you need to use, and the cleaner the scales are cut from the fish for less mess.
You’re also not ripping scales from the pores of the fish which can be problematic if you wash it in water and then store it for any length of time.
Because open pores soak up water and if you decide you’re going to pan-fry later you could run into difficulty achieving that delicious crispy skin.
What Is The Best Fish Scaler ?
We’ve done a lot of research and tested out the most popular scalers around. As well as some of the more unusual designs to hit the shelves recently.
All have no problem riding a fish of its scales but each one is a little different from the next in terms of how they get the job done and what size and type of fish they’re best suited to.
Best For No Mess: Tikusan Fish Scaler
Direct from Japan the Tikusan has a unique design and is a hybrid of both the peeler and scrubber type scalers.
It features a sharp cup-shaped blade at the front with jagged edges on both sides.
To use it all you need to do is push the sharp rounded edge gently against the scales and let the magic happen.
The Tikusan then lifts the scales and cuts them so lightly that they remain sitting on the cup without flying all over the kitchen.
It’s then just a simple matter of cleaning them off the cup with a paper towel and dumping them straight in the trash – no mess.
You can then flip the scaler on its side and use the jagged edge to attack the harder to get at areas on the belly, head, and dorsal fin.
The Tikusan can also handle those bigger fish with tough thick scales as its sharp jagged edges can be pushed in a circular motion along the fish, prizing off scales gently without harming the flesh underneath.
- Cuts scales from fish cleanly and efficiently. No big clean-up afterwards.
- Original cup-shaped design catches the scales before they fly everywhere.
- Can be used to scale all sizes and species of fish.
- All stainless steel construction so it won’t rust.
- Lightweight at just 3.6oz
- This is an awesome scaler, but the handle is just a little bit too thin to be classed as comfortable.
- Compared to other scalers, straight out of the box, it can be difficult to figure out the best way to use it.
Best For Comfort: The Cuda Descaler
The most colourful scaler on our list is definitely 18115 from Cuda.
Its bright blue luminous hue means you’ll have no problem spotting it in your tackle box or kitchen drawer.
But that’s not its only advantage. Because this little scaler measuring just over 8’ in length is one of the most comfortable to use and is ideal for those long scaling sessions.
Featuring a strong full-tang aluminium handle that’s coated in soft grooved rubber, the Cuda is really ergonomic to hold and non-slip to boot.
The square-shaped blade is also aluminium so it won’t rust or corrode making it ideal for scaling both fresh and saltwater fish.
Performance-wise the Cuda matches up well with most other scalers out there. The blades curved underside catches a lot but not all of the scales and the serrated sides let you scale either vertically or horizontally.
- Super comfortable to hold so it’s a great tool to use when you’re faced with a mountain of fish to scale.
- The hole at the end of the handle means you could hang it up for easy storage.
- Aluminium alloy construction makes it incredibly light yet durable.
- Thumb rest for added comfort and control.
- Comes with the manufactures lifetime warranty.
- The scaling blade is quite small so if you’re lucky to catch a lot of large fish you might want to look at something bigger.
- The handle is at nearly a 45-degree angle to the head which takes a bit of getting used to.
- Made from rubber so it’s probably not a good idea to put it in the dishwasher.
Best For Freshwater Fish: Big Norm Magic Fish Scaler
Manufactured by the tackle factory, the big Norm-Feet’s scaler is unique by the fact it’s made nearly entirely from plastic.
And while it might look a bit like a rattle for a baby to play with, it does possess some serious scaling power, which is down to the metal pegs embedded in its head.
These pegs are designed to keep the scaling mess to a minimum. As one peg pulls a scale the next keeps it down, helping to trap it under the scalers head.
And even though it might not be as magical as its name suggests it does do quite a good job of keeping scales confined to your work area.
Just be aware there will be a little bit of clean-up to attend to once you’re finished.
But where the big norm really comes into its own is with those tough scaled freshwater fish like crappie, perch, pike etc.
Its rounded head and pegs make short work of these species which is why it’s become so popular among anglers.
To get the best out of it we found it was best to work slowly, as faster strokes did cause more scales to fly.
- Plastic construction means you’ll never have to worry about rust or corrosion.
- The hole in the handle lets you hang it up for easy storage.
- Dishwasher safe.
- Made in the USA
- Great value for money.
- The handle is a bit short with square angles and if you’ve got big hands it might be difficult to grip.
- Hexagonal shaped head can be difficult to get along the dorsal fin of some species.
- It’s plastic so the jury’s out on its longevity.
Best For Big Fish: Kwizing Fish Scaler Brush
Next up is one of the coolest looking scalers around and yet another Japanese design.
The Kwizing scaler features a large head (2½ by 1¼ ‘sq.) containing 32 sharp serrated tips making it one of the biggest in the business.
So it’s ideal for use on those more sizeable specimens like salmon, trout, or bass.
Although the head is large, its rectangular shape makes it easy to get at scales along the dorsal fin and around the belly.
The head is made from brass which is unusual in a fish scaler but does offer some advantages.
As brass contains no iron it won’t rust and it has some good corrosion-resistant properties too. But there’s a chance it might tarnish a bit over time.
3 specially designed groves between the teeth of the scaler are designed to catch the scales, and they do, just not enough of them.
So if you want to keep your work area spotlessly clean the Kwizing is best used underwater or in conjunction with a plastic bag.
- Despite its large size and brass construction, the Kwizing is remarkably lightweight at just 3.6 ounces and easy to use.
- Works great on large fish with tough, thick, hard to remove scales.
- While not dishwasher safe it’s easy to clean as there are not too many nooks and crannies for scales to get stuck in.
- Although the handle is large and quite ergonomic it’s made from wood which will eventually decay limiting the scalers life.
- Not great for smaller fish.
Best Budget Scaler: SUPERBEAR Fish Scaler
With a paired back design featuring a rounded head containing 58 sharp sawtooth teeth, the superbear is one of the best value scalers on the market.
But don’t let the bargain price fool you because it’s made from one piece of 430 food-grade stainless steel which makes it really durable as there are no week points along its handle and blade.
430 stainless steel also has some corrosion-resistant properties making the superbear ideal for scaling saltwater fish as it won’t rust.
And although you can use it on any size of fish it works great on the small species like herrings or sardines that bigger scalers often run into difficulty with.
Ultra-lightweight at just 1.5 oz it comes with a nice pouch for storage so it’s perfect for anglers to take on fishing trips.
- Bargain basement price.
- Simple and efficient to use.
- Ultra-durable as it’s made from one piece of stainless steel.
- Dishwasher safe and easy to clean.
- 3-year warranty.
- No system to stop scales from flying off. So it’s best used outdoors.
- Some might find the small handle difficult to grip.
Best Fish scaler design 101
Durability, ease of use, and comfort should be your 3 main concerns here.
Look for a scaler that seems sturdy, can withstand a bit of use, and won’t buckle at the first big fish it runs into.
Generally speaking, steel should be the material of choice and pay close attention to the area where the blade meets the handle as this can be a weak point.
Although fish scalers are relatively cheap pieces of kitchen kit you’ll soon get a bit frustrated if you have to replace flimsy metal or plastic versions a couple of times a year.
So, look for a scaler made from one piece of thick hardened steel that runs into the top of the handle, they’re some of the toughest and most durable ones around.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re going for the brush or the peeler design. Steel is again the material we’re after here. But look for stainless this time.
The name stainless is a bit of a misnomer though because your scaler will end up with a few blemishes after a while.
But it won’t rust.
This is important because it will be coming into contact with a lot of water.
And if you’re going to be scaling a lot of sea fish you might want to think about something corrosion resistant too.
Because all that salt water will eat away at your scaler over time shortening its life span.
Unfortunately, high end stainless corrosion-resistant steel is quite expensive and you won’t find it in most scalers as the cost is just a bit prohibitive for most manufacturers.
But you can get scalers with food-grade 430 Stainless Steel which belongs to the ferritic group of steels, contains chromium and is known for its corrosion-resistant properties.
Check out the reviews above for more.
Handles And Grips
Cleaning fish can be a slippery business. Especially when they’re shiny, glistening, and fresh from the water.
And if you want an easy, quick, and pain-free scaling experience you need to get a firm grip on that fish in one hand and your scaler in the other.
Unfortunately, this can prove a bit difficult with some scalers as not much thought has gone into the handle design.
Often they can be too small and the wrong shape with sharp edges that make them uncomfortable to hold for any length of time.
This won’t be much of a problem if you’re only faced with a couple of fish that need scaling.
But if you know that you’re going to be scaling lots of fish regularly then look for something bigger, more ergonomic, with a curved shape that you’ll easily be able to curl your hand around.
And when it comes to materials plastic or rubber is a more comfortable option than anything metal and will be a bit more non-slip too.
Wooden handles aren’t bad but they can be porous and let in water and bacteria making them decay, perish, and smell just a little after a bit of use.
So if you like the look of a scalar that’s got a wooden handle make sure it’s well sealed with some sort of waterproof finish.
Best Electric Fish Scaler
If you only scale 5 or 10 fish occasionally you can get by on manual power.
But if you’re regularly cleaning more than 20 at a time, to save your sanity, it might be time to think about a motorised version.
Below are 2 good options to consider, just be aware that you’ll need to head outside (and maybe put on some safety goggles) because those scales will be going everywhere.
Speder Electric Fish Scaler
Powered by a 12v lithium-ion battery with 4 stainless steel rotating blades the Speader is a fish scaler on steroids.
Made from heavy-duty plastic it has a solid feel but is compact and cordless so you can take it anywhere and bring it on fishing trips.
Housed inside the handle is a powerful motor made from strong copper that won’t strip out or overheat even after a long scaling session.
This motor rotates 4 food-safe 304 stainless steel blades at an incredible 7000 rpm that makes scaling any fish a breeze.
While the large rounded handle is made from thick plastic that’s waterproof, ergonomic, and comfortable to hold.
The battery charges up in around 1½ hours and gives a run time of between 3 and 4 hours depending on how hard you push it.
Which is plenty of time to scale a complete boatload. The Speder is also designed with a handy cover that fixes on over the blades and catches a lot, but not all of those flying scales.
- Fully waterproof so you can scale fish underwater if that’s the way you like to work.
- The blades can be run in both directions (forwards or backwards) so it’s ideal for southpaws too.
- Strong durable motor and blades should see you scaling your catch for years to come.
- Really comfortable handle so its great for those long scaling sessions.
- Comes with a charger and box.
- A really powerful unit that takes a little getting used to. There’s a chance you could mangle the first few fish you scale.
- Batteries although rechargeable can’t be removed.
- Can be a bit messy and you’ll have to head outside because the blade cover doesn’t catch all those flying scales.
POWERGIANT Fish Scaler
Like the superbear scaler above the powergiants blades are made of 430 food-grade stainless steel and are corrosion and rust-resistant making them ideal for scaling saltwater fish.
The body is constructed from an ABS material which is the same type of plastic as your childhood lego and offers great resistance to corrosion and physical impacts.
So this is one electric scaler that is built to last.
There are 2 speeds available, low (800 rpm) and high (1600 rpm) which gives great flexibility and the ability to turn down the power depending on the species or what part of the fish you happen to be scaling.
Powered by a built-in 2600mah lithium-ion battery which charges up in about 3 hours, the powergiant gives a run time of 60 minutes on high speed or 90 on low.
There’s also a guard on the back of the unit, that like a lot of scalers, catch some but not all of the flying scales.
- Large ergonomic comfortable handle.
- Strong and powerful torque for quick and efficient scaling.
- Cordless design lets you take it on the road.
- UBS cord for easy charging.
- Fully waterproof so you can scale underwater and don’t have to worry about dropping it overboard.
- The battery is housed inside the handle and cant be removed.
- Doesn’t run in reverse so it’s not a scaler for southpaws.
Why size matters – matching the best fish scaler to what you’ll be cooking
There’s a whole host of different sized scalers out there on the market.
And before you buy it’s a good idea to give a bit of thought to the size and species of fish your most lightly to be working with on a regular basis.
And if you’re in any doubt go for a smaller scaler.
Here’s the deal.
You can scale any size of fish with a small scaler. It will just take you a bit longer to do the big boys.
But you will run into problems when you try to use a large scaler with a broad head on the smaller guys.
You’ll find you just can’t get it in around those hard to reach parts at the end of the tail, beside the fins, and around the head and belly.
The big scrubber type designs that work great on large freshwater fish with tough scales like salmon, walleye, and crappie can also be a bit too heavy duty for the little lads.
And there is a danger that if you apply too much pressure while using one to scale a small herring, bass, or whiting you’ll rip the skin.
Luckily fish scalers are relatively cheap so you can probably afford to have a couple of different sizes in your kitchen drawer or tackle box.
Times when you can leave those scales on
For most cookery methods the scales have got to go.
But there are times when you’ll find it a good idea to leave them where they are.
If your planning on cooking your fish whole and at a high temperature the scales can offer a lot of protection against that fierce radiated heat.
Think roasting or baking in the oven, broiling under a hot grill, and especially when you cook over coals.
Leaving the scales on in these scenarios slows the rise in temperature, stops the heat from penetrating too rapidly, and helps your fish cook more evenly,
And once your fish is cooked all you’ve got to do is peel off the skin, scales and all, to reveal that beautifully moist and tender flesh underneath.
Choosing the best fish scaler – Final Thoughts
We all wish scaling fish was as much fun as catching, cooking, and eating them.
But the truth of the matter is that although it’s necessary, it’s one of the more repetitive, tedious, and messy kitchen chores.
And by far the quickest and easiest way to do it is with a good fish scaler.
If you like me and only clean a couple of fish in your kitchen occasionally and keeping it clean is your biggest concern then the Tikusan is hard to beat. It really is the best for no mess.
While if you’ve got a ton of fish to scale and your not bothered about the clean up the electric Speder is definitely the way to go.
There’s some really inventive cooks and fishermen out there, who’ve come up with some very original ways to speedily rid their catch of scales.
There’s one guy who uses a drill with a mixers beater attachment screwed in, to jimmy up his own electric scaler contraption.
While another video on YouTube shows you how to use a power washer to blast those scales away.
But once you get your hands on a decent fish scaler you’ll never be tempted to try either of those methods. And the spoons and knives can stay in the cutlery drawer too.
cocklesandmussels.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc., or its affiliates.