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Mastering Salt-Baked Fish

Upper Crust

Written by Emily Storrow | Photography by Jonathan Boncek


An easy technique that produces elegant fish

Sometimes, simple is best. Come springtime in the South, we turn to fresh produce, day drinking in the warm sun, and lazy evenings on front porches. When weekend fishing trips bring a beautiful fresh catch to your kitchen, opt for salt baking.

The technique involves encasing a cleaned whole fish in a crust of kosher salt dampened with whipped egg whites, which lends seasoning and seals in moisture while the fish gently steams inside. Start with a whole, thick-skinned fish, such as red snapper, porgy, or sea bass. You’ll want to avoid any that are very oily like salmon and tuna. It’s important the fish isn’t de-scaled, as its scales will ensure the flesh doesn’t become oversalted as it bakes. After rinsing the fish, keep it slightly damp to help the salt crust stick. A one-and-a-half-pound fish bakes in a 450-degree oven for approximately twenty-five minutes, but for complete accuracy, use a thermometer—the internal temperature should read between 125 and 130 degrees. The salt crust will take on a golden hue and be firm to the touch when done. After the fish has rested for ten minutes, use a spoon to break through the crust, elegantly exposing the fish inside (if you’ve got company, do this tableside). Back in the kitchen, gently remove the skin and fillet the fish.


•1 (11/2-pound) whole fish, cleaned with gills removed, but skin, scales, head and tail still on

•Salt and pepper to taste

•1/4 bunch parsley

•1 lemon, sliced

•1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced

•3 cups kosher salt

•6 egg whites

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