The thought of cooking a whole fish can be very intimidating—just as it's easier to sear a chicken breast in a pan rather than roast a bird whole, we're all more familiar with that convenient fish fillet that's easy to control and cook gently in a skillet. Putting a whole fish in an oven and trusting that it won't come out terribly over or under cooked takes immense faith.
The salt crust method—which is used not for seasoning but to create a hardened shell around the fish to seal in juices—is a dramatic and forgiving way to bake the fish. The salt will conveniently let you know when the fish is done by becoming completely hardened and golden, and the fish will come out tender and remarkably juicy. With no added oil, it's also healthy and light.
About the author: Blake Royer lives in Brooklyn and spends most of his free time cooking and writing about it here at Serious Eats and on The Paupered Chef. From 9 to 5 weekdays, he works as an assistant book editor in Manhattan.
- 1 whole fish for 2, such as branzino, red snapper, trout, scaled, gutted, and cleaned
- 3 1/2 cups salt
- 3 egg whites
- 4 sprigs parsley
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 4 olives
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 slices of lemon
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
In a large bowl, mix together 3 cups of the salt and the egg whites. It will be the consistency of wet sand. Spread the remaining 1/2 cup of salt in the bottom of a roasting pan.
. Crack the salt crust using a wooden spoon of the handle of a knife. Lift the crust away and lift the fillets onto plates.