2

votes

Do You Eat the Whole Fish?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 21, 2012 at 1:23 PM

I'd like to add more seafood to my Paleo diet, and as part of this I've tried cooking the whole fish a couple times but to be honest I really don't know what I'm doing... Hopefully there's a fish monger on here that can enlighten me?

I know that eating the whole animal is generally the best in order to get all the nutrients from various tissues, bones, organs, etc... but I still have a few questions:

1) What parts should we avoid and why? (Gills, Guts)

2) Should we eat any organ meat(s), and if so which one(s)?

3) Is the "Dark Meat" along the lateral line good to eat? (assuming it's wild caught fish)

4) What's the best way to cook a whole fish?

My original idea was to cook the whole fish in a slow cooker with EVOO, lemon juice and spices... then eat the meat off the bones and use the leftovers to make bone broth... just looking for some more input on the subject!

166f449979d83186bd876e8f466d0a69

(1317)

on March 27, 2012
at 05:50 AM

As well as anchovies/sardines, I eat the guts of a fish called sanma (I live in Japan) which is Pacific saury in English, I think. Also horse mackerel and mackerel... Salmon, I don't think I've ever eaten, though I'm not sure why. Perhaps because the fish is so big?

44739854bd06eb5c32af5d33aa866864

(859)

on March 26, 2012
at 12:51 PM

Yes, I second the suggestion to make soup... Fish broth works well with most seafood (shrimp, fish, shellfish), I'd experiment to see what you like best! The Thia curry with coconut milk, shrimp, peppers, mushrooms and onions is amazing!

44739854bd06eb5c32af5d33aa866864

(859)

on March 26, 2012
at 12:45 PM

All the guts...? I imagine you're talking about sardines/anchovies right? The idea of eating a salmon including all the guts makes me cringe a bit, haha.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 24, 2012
at 12:33 AM

Or you can throw the heads into a trap and trade them in for crabs!

35ba1f50dad25c85ac1aa2599fe5c5cb

(2485)

on March 23, 2012
at 06:31 PM

Oh good idea... like a thai curry soup with shrimp maybe? Yum.

4b5be253ac1981c690689cab7e4bf06d

(3043)

on March 23, 2012
at 05:54 PM

Make soup! I did a coconut garlic fish soup that was amazing, very tasty, had lots of good fats in it, etc. Boil broth, add onions, carrots, garlic, and ginger, add coconut milk.

A7925ab8ea44e6d4d5d7c6f202632c6c

(404)

on March 23, 2012
at 04:12 AM

yep, tuna cheeks is the best part - tastes like bone marrow

166f449979d83186bd876e8f466d0a69

(1317)

on March 23, 2012
at 03:33 AM

A slow cooker on low can be good for small bony fish like sardines as it softens them to the point that you can eat the bones. However... I can never get them as good as canned-fish-manufacturers can! But fish head soup can be cooked on a low simmer in a slow cooker.

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 22, 2012
at 02:27 PM

I do the salt bake regularly - I definitely just get a large box of the kosher salt.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 22, 2012
at 02:16 PM

TRUE THAT. SO many people do this. It makes me want to cry. It is just such a waste of flesh.

C56baa1b4f39839c018180bf63226f7d

(3499)

on March 22, 2012
at 02:05 PM

Oh no, get some cheap kosher salt. It will add about $2 to the cost of your fish if you are using 3c. When you're done you can reserve the salt to scrub your cast iron with.

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 22, 2012
at 02:04 PM

@jjtitus I think @Jan hit the nail on the head. Fresh fish will smell, but won't smell "fishy". A fishy smell, especially if you're not right next to the fish, means the good stuff insidethe fish (fats, proteins, etc) has already broken down substantially. However, I do something which makes people question sometimes: since I'm training, I'm eating a lot of lean protein, especially fish - I will cook fish, and eat it over that day, and the next two. White fish like pollock, haddock, cod seem to keep when cooked. YMMV.

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 22, 2012
at 02:03 PM

@jjtitus I think @Jan hit the nail on the head. Fresh fish will smell, but won't smell "fishy". A fishy smell, especially if you're not right next to the fish, means the good stuff instead the fish (fats, proteins, etc) has already broken down substantially. However, I do something which makes people question sometimes: since I'm training, I'm eating a lot of lean protein, especially fish. I will cook fish, and eat it over that day, and the next two. White fish like pollock, haddock, cod seem to keep when cooked.

44739854bd06eb5c32af5d33aa866864

(859)

on March 22, 2012
at 01:46 PM

On the topic of really fresh fish, how can you tell before you buy it? I know to look for clear eyes, red gills and a fresh "ocean" smell, but is there anything else that you look for?

44739854bd06eb5c32af5d33aa866864

(859)

on March 22, 2012
at 01:40 PM

Wow, that looks awesome... but I wonder how much salt you go through just doing one fish, seems like a little bit of a waste... definitely not doing that with Himalayan salt, that would cost a fortune! Haha

44739854bd06eb5c32af5d33aa866864

(859)

on March 22, 2012
at 11:41 AM

@Baba I've heard of removing the guts and gills before, but why should we remove the eyes? Don't they have useful nutrients?

Ff1dbd6cecad1e69a8234fb2c2c5c5ed

(1409)

on March 22, 2012
at 10:35 AM

If you ever make fish broth: use fresh fish carcasses, remove guts, gills and eyes beforehand and don't cook more than half an hour.

44348571d9bc70c02ac2975cc500f154

(5853)

on March 22, 2012
at 09:08 AM

The dark meat of salmon is good way to taste if the salmon is _really_ fresh. It will taste fishy if it isnt. But if its very fresh it doesnt.

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 21, 2012
at 03:23 PM

Do you mean the darker, often greyish, flesh near the skin of the salmon? If so, it's fine: it's just normal dark meat, differentiated by pigmentation and how much acitivity it gets v. the other parts of the meat.

44739854bd06eb5c32af5d33aa866864

(859)

on March 21, 2012
at 03:03 PM

I mainly see the "dark meat" on Salmon... you mentioned that it may be wise to avoid it on blue fish, does anyone know about Salmon?

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 21, 2012
at 02:04 PM

@Sue Holt - no, I hadn't heard of that. If you can use them for cooking (and not just presentation with flavor added), that seems like great thing to have around. /me looks into it more. Thanks!

44739854bd06eb5c32af5d33aa866864

(859)

on March 21, 2012
at 02:04 PM

Alright, alright! No slow cooker, got it ;-)

44739854bd06eb5c32af5d33aa866864

(859)

on March 21, 2012
at 02:02 PM

Haha, thanks for the info... I definitely brought, "home a fish you have no idea how to cook." I'll have to check out that book!

662a4ea915eb7c758bdd797d77ead7b6

(656)

on March 21, 2012
at 02:01 PM

Greymouser, have you ever heard of a salt slab? These are great for cooking fish this way.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 21, 2012
at 01:58 PM

I guess the Eskimos used to boil fish- read a book excerpt recently. Heads were reserved for the children so there must be good nutrients in there.

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 21, 2012
at 01:44 PM

Agreed. NEVER in a crockpot. NEVER.

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9 Answers

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6
Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 21, 2012
at 01:53 PM

1) What parts should we avoid and why? (Gills, Guts)

It depends on your preferences, and food presentation. I generally do not eat "guts". However, if I see the roe sack, I may reserve it and use it as a tasty treat. I sometimes eat fish livers, if they are substantial.

I tend to always cut off heads (even with small fish like smelt), but I will reserve them for stock or soup.

In general: discard "guts".

2) Should we eat any organ meat(s), and if so which one(s)?

Liver, roe sack. There may be others, but that's what I do.

3) Is the "Dark Meat" along the lateral line good to eat? (assuming it's wild caught fish)

Yes, it's edible, and often delicious. Sometimes depending on the fish, you may want to minimize the "dark meat" you eat. For example, I love blue fish, but they are known to collect the PCBs they collect in the dark vein that runs through them. So I eat that part seldomly.

4) What's the best way to cook a whole fish?

Some form of roasting or steaming, depending on it's size and moisture content, or an in-salt bake.

I like a simple roast with EVOO, salt, parsley, and lime for something like a mackerel. For other fish, I may wrap them in banana leaves and steam them in there own juices (maybe tossing some things to add flavor in, too).

For some fish, like a porgie, my absolutely favorite thing to do is lay down a bed of salt (literally, a thickness of pure salt), place the fish on it, and then cover with more salt: literally, thickly, completely covered with salt, and baking it. The salt will chunk off when the fish is done, and while I don't eat the skin (too salty), the fish itself is perfect. For me, this is an Italian thing, but I believe many cultures do it.

Pick up a copy of Mark Bittman's book "Fish" - it'll inspire you when you bring home a fish you have no idea how to cook.

Good luck!

662a4ea915eb7c758bdd797d77ead7b6

(656)

on March 21, 2012
at 02:01 PM

Greymouser, have you ever heard of a salt slab? These are great for cooking fish this way.

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 22, 2012
at 02:03 PM

@jjtitus I think @Jan hit the nail on the head. Fresh fish will smell, but won't smell "fishy". A fishy smell, especially if you're not right next to the fish, means the good stuff instead the fish (fats, proteins, etc) has already broken down substantially. However, I do something which makes people question sometimes: since I'm training, I'm eating a lot of lean protein, especially fish. I will cook fish, and eat it over that day, and the next two. White fish like pollock, haddock, cod seem to keep when cooked.

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 22, 2012
at 02:04 PM

@jjtitus I think @Jan hit the nail on the head. Fresh fish will smell, but won't smell "fishy". A fishy smell, especially if you're not right next to the fish, means the good stuff insidethe fish (fats, proteins, etc) has already broken down substantially. However, I do something which makes people question sometimes: since I'm training, I'm eating a lot of lean protein, especially fish - I will cook fish, and eat it over that day, and the next two. White fish like pollock, haddock, cod seem to keep when cooked. YMMV.

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 21, 2012
at 02:04 PM

@Sue Holt - no, I hadn't heard of that. If you can use them for cooking (and not just presentation with flavor added), that seems like great thing to have around. /me looks into it more. Thanks!

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 21, 2012
at 03:23 PM

Do you mean the darker, often greyish, flesh near the skin of the salmon? If so, it's fine: it's just normal dark meat, differentiated by pigmentation and how much acitivity it gets v. the other parts of the meat.

44739854bd06eb5c32af5d33aa866864

(859)

on March 21, 2012
at 03:03 PM

I mainly see the "dark meat" on Salmon... you mentioned that it may be wise to avoid it on blue fish, does anyone know about Salmon?

44739854bd06eb5c32af5d33aa866864

(859)

on March 21, 2012
at 02:02 PM

Haha, thanks for the info... I definitely brought, "home a fish you have no idea how to cook." I'll have to check out that book!

44348571d9bc70c02ac2975cc500f154

(5853)

on March 22, 2012
at 09:08 AM

The dark meat of salmon is good way to taste if the salmon is _really_ fresh. It will taste fishy if it isnt. But if its very fresh it doesnt.

44739854bd06eb5c32af5d33aa866864

(859)

on March 22, 2012
at 01:46 PM

On the topic of really fresh fish, how can you tell before you buy it? I know to look for clear eyes, red gills and a fresh "ocean" smell, but is there anything else that you look for?

4
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 21, 2012
at 01:38 PM

OMG don't do fish in a crockpot or all you will have is fish mush. I like my fish lightly cooked- either poached or fried in butter or BBQ'd. I also love sashimi.

I have no desire to eat fish guts so someone else may want to tackle that part of your question. I have been known to nibble on fish fins when they are crispy enough (deep fried, which is very infrequent), and will eat fish roe.

44739854bd06eb5c32af5d33aa866864

(859)

on March 21, 2012
at 02:04 PM

Alright, alright! No slow cooker, got it ;-)

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 22, 2012
at 02:16 PM

TRUE THAT. SO many people do this. It makes me want to cry. It is just such a waste of flesh.

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 21, 2012
at 01:44 PM

Agreed. NEVER in a crockpot. NEVER.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 21, 2012
at 01:58 PM

I guess the Eskimos used to boil fish- read a book excerpt recently. Heads were reserved for the children so there must be good nutrients in there.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 24, 2012
at 12:33 AM

Or you can throw the heads into a trap and trade them in for crabs!

166f449979d83186bd876e8f466d0a69

(1317)

on March 23, 2012
at 03:33 AM

A slow cooker on low can be good for small bony fish like sardines as it softens them to the point that you can eat the bones. However... I can never get them as good as canned-fish-manufacturers can! But fish head soup can be cooked on a low simmer in a slow cooker.

2
166f449979d83186bd876e8f466d0a69

(1317)

on March 23, 2012
at 03:34 AM

Gills absolutely need to go. I eat everything- guts, bones, eyes (depending on the size of the fish).

166f449979d83186bd876e8f466d0a69

(1317)

on March 27, 2012
at 05:50 AM

As well as anchovies/sardines, I eat the guts of a fish called sanma (I live in Japan) which is Pacific saury in English, I think. Also horse mackerel and mackerel... Salmon, I don't think I've ever eaten, though I'm not sure why. Perhaps because the fish is so big?

44739854bd06eb5c32af5d33aa866864

(859)

on March 26, 2012
at 12:45 PM

All the guts...? I imagine you're talking about sardines/anchovies right? The idea of eating a salmon including all the guts makes me cringe a bit, haha.

2
C56baa1b4f39839c018180bf63226f7d

on March 22, 2012
at 12:31 PM

I have heard tell (and somewhat backed it up through personal experience) that the cheeks have the best meat on the fish. Something to keep in mind if you roast it whole. Also, I like fish eyes just for the lip-smacking gelatin.

A technique you may want to explore when roasting a whole fish (12 to 18"/30 to 45cm) is salt crusting. I haven't yet tried it but the results look impressive. http://www.saveur.com/gallery/How-To-Bake-Striped-Bass-in-a-Salt-Crust

Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on March 22, 2012
at 02:27 PM

I do the salt bake regularly - I definitely just get a large box of the kosher salt.

A7925ab8ea44e6d4d5d7c6f202632c6c

(404)

on March 23, 2012
at 04:12 AM

yep, tuna cheeks is the best part - tastes like bone marrow

44739854bd06eb5c32af5d33aa866864

(859)

on March 22, 2012
at 01:40 PM

Wow, that looks awesome... but I wonder how much salt you go through just doing one fish, seems like a little bit of a waste... definitely not doing that with Himalayan salt, that would cost a fortune! Haha

C56baa1b4f39839c018180bf63226f7d

(3499)

on March 22, 2012
at 02:05 PM

Oh no, get some cheap kosher salt. It will add about $2 to the cost of your fish if you are using 3c. When you're done you can reserve the salt to scrub your cast iron with.

1
Ac1be7d044a82c85cee039f3435a550f

(150)

on May 14, 2013
at 10:55 AM

If your fish is really really fresh, consider going the simple route - steaming. The Chinese (esp Southern - Cantonese and Teochew) loooove this, and it's done very simply. Couple slices of ginger (or ginger powder rubbed in), a bit of fish sauce/aminos (traditionally soy sauce), a pinch of white pepper, and you've got it! You can add slices of chinese mushrooms. Salted vegetables are often added for the texture contrast, sauerkraut will probably be a close substitute (doubt the good bacteria will survive the steaming though). Some styles also add spring onion leaves as garnish, then heat up some oil with lard bits and drizzle over just before serving. The heat of the oil helps release the fragrance of the leaves.

Duration of steaming will have to depend on size and thickness of fish and initial temperature (straight out of the fridge, whether the fish is put with cold water to heat up or added after the water is heated, etc). Google should help with that. Generally works best for whole fish around 1kg or less, and with delicate flesh. Coarser fish or meat slabs tend to be steamed with heavier sauces - think along the lines of (non-paleo) "starchy minced pork with bean sauce". Remember, for steaming the idea is to bring out the original flavours of the fish, so don't overcook it! Once done, remove from any heat sources, even indirect ones.

1
35ba1f50dad25c85ac1aa2599fe5c5cb

(2485)

on March 23, 2012
at 05:13 PM

So, pray tell... once you make this all up, what are you going to do with the fish broth? I have 3 cups sitting in my freezer that I have no idea what to do with.

35ba1f50dad25c85ac1aa2599fe5c5cb

(2485)

on March 23, 2012
at 06:31 PM

Oh good idea... like a thai curry soup with shrimp maybe? Yum.

4b5be253ac1981c690689cab7e4bf06d

(3043)

on March 23, 2012
at 05:54 PM

Make soup! I did a coconut garlic fish soup that was amazing, very tasty, had lots of good fats in it, etc. Boil broth, add onions, carrots, garlic, and ginger, add coconut milk.

44739854bd06eb5c32af5d33aa866864

(859)

on March 26, 2012
at 12:51 PM

Yes, I second the suggestion to make soup... Fish broth works well with most seafood (shrimp, fish, shellfish), I'd experiment to see what you like best! The Thia curry with coconut milk, shrimp, peppers, mushrooms and onions is amazing!

1
44348571d9bc70c02ac2975cc500f154

(5853)

on March 22, 2012
at 09:06 AM

I eat small smelts whole, and small vendace and herrings. I like burbot liver. Its like cod liver but has 5 times more vitamin d. I eat also milts and roes of the fish. You dont need to "boil" fish, it gets cooked at 50C.

0
89985542ffc00c296552951369fe809a

on May 14, 2013
at 03:27 AM

My favorite part of fish is the skin! I love to broil or fry it up until crispy and chow down, oh wow, so good! :)

The meat around a fish's neck is always amazingly good!

0
E7721d0144aae54e1cd0618d1f068dd9

on May 14, 2013
at 12:49 AM

Eat the poop and the bladder of the fish... It tastes goooooooood

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