Pan-Roasted Whole Branzino Recipe

Photograph: Blake Royer

When I started learning to cook, I was terrified of cooking fish, mostly because I always feared it would dry it out. Probably because it usually did. The length of that moment when fish is done—it just begins to flake apart but isn't yet tough—is slim, especially for a delicate fish like branzino with its soft white meat.

But just as roasting a chicken produces juicier results than a chicken breast, roasting a whole fish helps tremendously, almost guaranteeing succulence. The presence of bones and cartilage adds flavor and moisture, helping to keep the temperature more regular as the fish cooks.

This recipe is incredibly simple, just a stove-to-oven technique with basic herbs. But with a great fish, that's all you need.

Recipe Facts

Active: 10 mins
Total: 20 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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  • 2 whole branzino or other white-fleshed fish, about 3 pounds total, descaled and cleaned

  • Salt and pepper

  • 2 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil

  • 1 lemon, halved

  • 4 tablespoons butter

  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

  • 3 sprigs rosemary, thyme, or other mixed herbs


  1. Preheat an oven to 425°F.

  2. Dry the fish thoroughly inside and out with paper towels, then season liberally with salt and pepper. Slice half the lemon into thin slices and lay them inside the cavities of the fish, along with the rosemary, thyme, or other herbs.

  3. Heat the oil in a large, oven-proof skillet or roasting pan large enough to hold the fish over medium heat until almost smoking (or use multiple skillets), ensure that the entire surface of the skillet is coated in oil to avoid sticking. Lay the fish carefully in to the skillet, and cook for a minute. Spoon some of the oil over to top of the fish to coat it, then transfer the pan(s) to the oven.

  4. Roast the fish for about ten minutes, until just cooked through. If desired, finish by broiler to crisp the top of the skin.

  5. Remove from the oven and add the butter and parsley to the pan. As it sizzles and turns golden, spoon it constantly over the fish to infuse with flavor. Sprinkle the parsley into the butter for the last few moments of cooking.

  6. Serve the fish immediately with the second half of the lemon cut into wedges for juicing over the fish.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
321 Calories
22g Fat
2g Carbs
29g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 321
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 22g 28%
Saturated Fat 9g 43%
Cholesterol 95mg 32%
Sodium 493mg 21%
Total Carbohydrate 2g 1%
Dietary Fiber 0g 2%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 29g
Vitamin C 12mg 58%
Calcium 27mg 2%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 440mg 9%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)