Whole Fish 101

I bought this Black Sea Bass at the Union Square Farmers market for $7.99 a pound. The same fish, already filleted, was twice that much money! A few simple steps and you can create a dramatic dinner presentation that’s cheap, healthy, summery and cooks in minutes. You also get the added bonus of eating the cheeks and the eyeballs…

First, buy a whole fish, or several if you are cooking for a crowd. One black sea bass feeds two people. This guy was about two pounds. When buying the fish, make sure it is already scaled and eviscerated. It should be but it doesn’t hurt to double check. If you have to scale a fish at home, you’ll be picking iridescent bits off your ceiling until you move.

Using scissors or kitchen shears, remove the dorsal fin,

the pectoral fins on both sides,

and the ventral and anal fins from along the bottom of the fish. Give a rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

Give a heavy drizzle of olive oil, a healthy sprinkle of salt and several cracks of fresh pepper, both inside and out.

Fill the cavity with a variety of aromatics. Here, I used parsley, cilantro, tarragon and oregano from my herb garden, along with a few slices of lime.

You can use a metal skewer to thread the belly flaps closed for easy flipping and retrieval from the grill.

Then, grill the fish over medium-high heat on either charcoal or gas until the skin is crispy and the meat is firm when you poke the fish in its side. Highly scientific, right?

Then, bring the fish inside, remove the skewer if you used it, and break it down into serving pieces as outlined in the video below. I’ll also show you where to find the cheeks, the best part of a whole fish, and what its like to eat a fish eyeball. It helps to sing along to Paul Simon.


  • http://hollydanger.com Holly Danger

    I have that same curvy silverware!! haha.. We share great design aesthetics of course. Congrats for being brave and eating the eyeball.. I havent gotten there yet :) And thanks for the step by step.. my boyfriend and I will attempt to try to fillet a whole fish and let you know how it goes.. I’ve always spent 3 times the price to buy it already filleted for us.. Willing to give it a shot :)

  • http://eclecticrecipes.com Angie

    Love that metal skewer! I need one of those. I have never seen anyone filet it before serving, my husband would love that, he hates the bones, even though I review the anatomy of the bones every time I serve him, LOL. Love the site to, lots of great info.

    • http://www.thegourmandandthepeasant.com Emily

      I’m really picky about bones too! I try to pick fish that have big, identifiable bones and steer clear of tiny-boned fish like snapper, even though they are tasty. I can’t bear the feeling of fish bones in my mouth!