Enhance your next fish meal with this ancient technique

Enhance your next fish meal with this ancient technique

Roasting a whole fish in a salt crust is an ancient technique. The layer of salt locks in moisture and cooks the fish in its own juices, resulting in tender, flavourful meat. Keeping the skin on the fish prevents it from absorbing too much salt, so don’t try this method with fish fillets, or you risk over-salting. You can serve this simply, as is, or with a sauce (hollandaise, salsa verde, pesto, brown butter and lemon, sesame and soy). Feel free to replace the aromatics inside the cavity with other herbs, sliced ​​garlic, onions, ginger, chili peppers, or lemongrass.


salted fish

Total time: 35 to 55 minutes

Meals: 4 servings

  • Two small whole fish (about 1 pound each) or one large whole fish (2 to 3 pounds), such as dorade, branzino, bass, or snapper (see tip)
  • Extra virgin olive oil, and more for drizzling
  • 2 lemons
  • 5 to 10 sprigs of fresh herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, or a combination thereof
  • 8 cups kosher salt (Diamond Crystal), more if needed
  • Smoked paprika, or Aleppo or Urfa pepper flakes (optional), for sprinkling
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover a rimmed tray with parchment paper.
  2. Dry the fish with a paper towel. Gently brush both sides and cavity of the fish with olive oil.
  3. Cut one lemon into thin slices, and the second lemon into slices. Place lemon slices and fresh herbs inside the fish.
  4. In a large bowl, mix salt with half a cup of cold water, and add more water as needed. You want the salt to look like wet (not wet) sand.
  5. Create a salt bed (or beds) for your fish. Scoop about half of the salt onto the baking sheet and then spread it into a 1/2-inch thick layer (or two separate beds) to place the fish on. Place the fish on top and use your hands to pat the remaining salt around the fish so that everything is sealed and sealed. You may need to make more salt mixture. The goal is to get a thick crust that completely surrounds the fish so you can steam it inside.
  6. Find the thickest part of the fish (usually near the head) and use an instant-read thermometer to poke a hole in the salt crust until it touches the top of the fish. This is so you can measure its temperature without cracking the shell.
  7. Bake for 18 to 25 minutes for two small fish, and 30 to 40 minutes for a large fish. The fish is done when its internal temperature reaches 135 degrees (use the hole you made to insert a thermometer to check). Take the fish out of the oven and leave it for 5 to 10 minutes.
  8. Using a butter knife or spatula, open up the skin, remove it completely from the top of the fish and shake off the salt. Then peel off and discard the skin on top (it’s too salty to eat). Using a spoon or spatula, carefully remove the fish meat from the bones (and scoop out the fish cheeks if you like). Remove the fish skeleton, lemon and herbs, then remove the bottom fillets, being careful not to puncture the skin.
  9. 9. Drizzle the fish fillets with olive oil, sprinkle with smoked paprika or chili flakes, if you like, and serve with lemon wedges.

advice: Your fish should be cleaned and gutted but not boned. If you want to use a flat fish like flounder, turbot, or sole, the roasting time may be shorter, so start checking early.

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