Cooking A Whole Fish: Easy, Beautiful, Delicious

By / Food / April 30th, 2019 / 7
cooking whole fish

A whole fish is the star of any table. Appropriate for both barbecues and dinner parties, cooking a whole fish gives you a showstopper dish, inviting both questions and a little bit of envy. But the truth is, it’s really not that hard.

When picking a fresh fish at the market, it’s important to slightly modify the famous advice of Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights: “Clear eyes, no hearts, can’t lose.” What that means is that the eyes should look plump and shiny, not shrunken and dull, and you should make sure it’s been gutted before you take it home.

What kind of fish should you pick? That depends on where you are, and what you like, but classic selections include salmon and trout. Both are sturdy enough to hold together during cooking no matter how rough you are with them and lend themselves amazingly well to a wide variety of seasonings.

Once you have your fish back home, the next step is to cut some slits in the skin to help the fish cook faster and make it easier to serve after cooking. Don’t cut all the way through the fish, merely slicing the skin is enough.

Your fish is fully prepared, now it’s time to cook it. How? There are a few ways:

  1. Grilling is an all-time classic, but make sure you’ve thoroughly oiled your grill grates first.
  2. Roasting is probably the best choice if this is your first fish. Place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet and let it cook until it’s crisp and flaky.
  3. Deep-frying is definitely a bad idea if this is your first fish, but if you want quick results, and guaranteed crispy skin, this is your ticket.

Overall, most of the work in cooking a whole fish is preparation, and you can get that preparation done for you at your local fish market. So why not cook a whole fish this weekend?

We give a whole fish recipe in our May/June 2019 issue – look for Oven Roasted Sea Bream on page 8. Subscribe today!


Stephen Smith is a freelance writer from Halifax, Nova Scotia. He likes sports, technology, and chocolate chip cookies. For more, visit

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