Salt baked fish is one of the simplest of all fish preparations. It’s also definitely one of the most festive and dramatic. This salt baked fish recipe is delicious and foolproof, and needs very few ingredients.
Which Fish to Buy for Baked Fish in Salt Crust?
Most any fish takes well to baking in a salt crust, as long as it’s large, and has scales. For this salt baked fish recipe, you’ll want to choose a large fish. Tσιπουρα – Sea Bream, λαβρακι -Sea Bass, and φαγκρι – Red Porgy are all good examples. Trout, which has no scales, may pick up a little more of the salt flavor. Salt baked sea bass is an excellent choice.
How Large a Fish?
When we have large fish at home, I usually count on preparing about 500 g/1 lb per person. This is the weight of the uncleaned fish, with its head on. For a dramatic presentation, go for one large fish. But individual fish of about 500 g/ 1 lb each are also very festive. This would make an ideal social-distancing dinner party main course, as each person opens and cleans an individual fish.
Salt Baked Fish Recipe
- 1 large fish – count on 0.5 kilo / 1 lb per person
- 1.5 – 2 kilos / 3 – 4 lbs. coarse salt or kosher salt (6-8 cups)
- 4 – 6 egg whites
- herbs of your choice – fresh fennel fronds, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves
- lemon slices
- whole peppercorns
1. Preparing Your Fish in a Salt Crust
All you need to do is clean your fish, removing the guts to the gills. Your fishmonger will probably do this for you. Otherwise, it’s a snap to do it yourself – see this easy one-minute clip. Then, you can season the fish to your taste. Fill the cavity with fresh herbs, lemon slices, perhaps some peppercorns. We used fresh rosemary, lemon, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Fresh fennel fronds and fresh thyme are also excellent.
Now you make the salt crust mixture. Wearing thin rubber gloves to protect your skin from the salt, blend the coarse salt with egg whites. You want it to be the texture of wet sand. For our 2 kilo (4.4 lb.) salt baked sea bass, I used about 1.5 kilos (3.3 lb.) of coarse salt, and 5 egg whites. Have both extra salt and extra egg white on hand so you can adjust the consistency. You’re trying for something that can be neatly and firmly packed around your fish. Too loose and it slips off; too dry and it won’t pack well.
Note: for three fish of 0.5 kilo/ 1 lb. each, I would need more mixture to cover the greater total surface area.
2. Sealing and Garnishing your Salt Baked Fish
- Have your oven preheating to 200° C/ 400° F.
- Line your largest baking sheet with baking paper.
- Still wearing your rubber gloves, arrange a bed of salt for your fish on the baking paper. We made a diagonal salt bed so our large fish would fit, and we still had the tail ticking out, which was just fine.
- Place your prepared and seasoned fish on the salt bed, and pack the remaining salt mixture all around the fish, including the head. The fish should be completely sealed in a layer of salt that’s nearly 1 cm / .33 inches thick.
- Decorate the salt crust for a beautiful presentation. Kids are great at this. Next time, we’ll make scales out of lemon slices.
3. Baking and Serving your Fish in Salt Crust
- Bake the fish in the middle of the oven, allowing about 15 minutes for every 0.5 kilo/ 1 lb of fish. If you have individual 0.5 kilo/ 1 lb. fish, give them 20 minutes. The crust on the finished fish will be golden around the edges.
- The fish will keep its temperature sealed in the crust for some time, giving you some flexibility
- Bring your fish to the table on the baking paper – you’ll need room for the salt crust.
- Now the dramatic presentation – the salt crust is really hard, so you’re going to need to whack it with some force. The aroma of the steam is wonderful.
- Remove the hunks of salt, which may take the fish skin with them.
- If the fish still as its skin, you’ll find it can be taken cleanly away from the fish
- Remove the bones from the edge of the fish, and serve the top half
- Remove the spine and any additional bones and serve the bottom half.
What to Serve with Salt Baked Fish
The salt baked fish is tender and moist, and good fish needs little adornment. Greek fish connoisseurs insist that lemon hides the flavor. They eat their higher quality fresh fish it plain, or with just a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. As the fish in salt crust is essentially steamed, it is also delicious with mayonnaise. We had lemons, salt, a pepper grinder, olive oil, and mayonnaise all on the table.
Alongside the fish, a simple salad of seasonal vegetables is ideal. The fish takes up a lot of space so you want a contained, tidy salad. An underrated Greek salad that would be ideal is “michta vrasta” – mixed boiled seasonal vegetables. Alternatively, or in addition, you can also serve “Hotra” – boiled seasonal greens, served with olive oil, lemon, and salt.
What Does Salt Baked Fish Taste Like?
Surprisingly, baked fish in a salt crust is not very salty. The crust seals in all the moisture, but doesn’t contribute much to the flavor of the fish. This is partly because you bake salt crusted fish with the scales on. That’s one of the things that makes the recipe even easier than other fish preparations.
The aromas have been sealed in. Your fish in salt crust will taste very much like itself, a delicate and sweet taste of the sea.