Mmmm Salt Encrusted Baked Fish

READY IN: 55mins
Recipe by Busters friend

Nope - not salty & unbelievably easy! Bonus - cracking the salt shell at the table (dramatic in itself) reveals a perfectly cooked whole fish that retains its beautiful coloration! This is a great recipe for anyone trying to get the essence of fresh fish (salt or fresh-water) with the bonus of no added fat & ease preparation (yo! - beginner cooks & those with kids who want to help!). You can leave fish unadorned or add lemon & fresh herbs (fresh baby chervil, thyme, oregano, Italian parsley, chives, garlic cloves or scapes all work well). Directions are explicit & thus appear long - but really truly easy! Mmm good--there are so few foods that are so good & low calorie!

Top Review by La Dilettante

This is quite similar to my good ol' standby recipe from Patricia Wells' *At Home in Provence* cookbook and you are SO right that this is the only way to cook a fresh fish! Now, I do things a little differently: I squeeze a fresh lemon into the fish cavity, and stuff him (her?) with sprigs of whatever herb is handy in my garden---usually rosemary, parsley, thyme. Haven't used the egg whites, but that sounds as if it would bind that salt crust well. And I don't use quite as much sea salt---mainly because I never seem to have enough on hand! But less seems to work, and there is simply not a better way to enjoy a fat fresh fishy! Love your Buster photo, and your memoir about him, by the way. I'm a major kitty-lover myself.

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 3 lbs whole fish (gutted, scaled & gills cut out)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 14 cup fresh herb
  • 8 lbs kosher salt (not rock salt)
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Line a pan 2 to 3 inches longer than the fish with aluminum foil (I have used cookie sheets covered in aluminum foil with aluminum foil lips for larger fish).
  3. Pour the eggs whites into a large bowl. Add salt--goal is consistency of wet sand.
  4. Layer 1 to 2 inches in pan. Make this layer several inches larger than the fish.
  5. Rinse fish & pat dry, then lay onto salt.
  6. Sprinkle 1/2 T zest over area fish will rest.
  7. Stuff fish with herbs &/or diced lemon (pith removed from lemon first).
  8. Lay fish onto salt bed, laying so that abdominal incision is covered (to avoid being filled with salt).
  9. Pack wet salt mixture on & around fish. Pat down gently.
  10. Bake 40 minutes (I add 10 -12 minutes for each additional pound of fish).
  11. Remove from oven & let sit for 10 to 15 minutes (perfect for last minute table arranging).
  12. Crack the salt shell with a mallet or heavy spoon & peel off chunks of shell to expose the fish.
  13. Inhale! Admire the color of the fish (red snapper, sheepshead, strawberry grouper & Spanish mackerel all look brilliant) then lift top fillet from bone & serve (some small bone from fins will be in fillets). Don't forget the cheeks! Mmm!
  14. Lift tail to remove back bone (often with the head) to get to the other side.
  15. Clean up is to lift the foil & throw salt crust, bones & skin away.

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