How to cook a whole fish at home

March 13, 2009 1:31:48 PM PDT
While we all know the benefits to eating fresh fish, cooking fish at home may be intimidating for some. But here are the insider tips from an expert on how to cook a whole fish, including the head, tail and bones, at home. Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone Crab serves their specialty fish dish, Dover Sole, whole and then filets the dish tableside in a few swift movements. Chef Gary Baca from has the tricks to allow you to impress your family and friends with a whole fish dish.

Why mess with a Whole Fish? Leaving all elements of the fish intact including the head, tail and bones intensifies the natural flavors of a mild fish so the sweetness of the fish can shine through.

How to Gauge the Doneness. To help with the problem of gauging a fish's "doneness", look for the lift. Insert a fork or a knife in between the backbone of the fish and the top fillet. If the fish lifts easily away from the bone, then you know it is done.

How to Tackle the Fear of Bones. A great tip for removing the bones is to tap along the backbone with the back of a spoon to loosen the filet and make it easier to slide it away from the bones.

How to add a Crispy Crust to the Dish. Chef Baca also recommends removing the skin from the fish before cooking to add a nice crust to the fish when sautéing the dish and a beautiful golden brown color. Removing the skin before cooking also eliminates the hassle of scales.

Joe's Dover Sole Recipe

1 Dover Sole (skinned)

1 sprinkle salt and pepper mix

1 dusting of all-purpose flour

4 oz. clarified butter

2 Butter pats


1 pinch of chopped parsley

1 pat of brown butter

Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper, and then dust lightly with all-purpose flour. Ladle 2 ounces of clarified butter and 1 butter pat onto griddle. Place sole in butter and sauté until golden. Flip the fish and sauté in additional 2 ounces of clarified butter and 1 butter pat. Finish in 450-degree oven for 6 - 8 minutes and plate the Dover Sole on a warm platter. Garnish with lemon, parsley, and brown butter.