Baked fish in salt.
Have you heard of it before?
Baking food in salt crust is a technique that has been used for ages.
The first time that baking fish in a layer of salt was described goes all the way back to the 4th century BC in Sicily, Italy.
Can you believe that?
Baking food in salt crust we just said, so are there other ingredients you can cook in salt?
Chicken for instance, and vegetables – even beef tenderloin.
You can find this baked salt technique in several countries around the world: France, Italy, Spain, Thailand, China, Turkey and South America – just to name a few.
Why do you salt crust fish? What does salt crusting do? How do you bake with salt?
Cooking in salt crust is a technique where you completely cover an ingredient such as fish, chicken, beef tenderloin or vegetables in salt before you put them in the oven to cook.
The layer of salt protects the food inside the crust from high temperatures.
It also slows down cooking, keeps the moisture inside and allowing ingredients to cook evenly and gently and stay juicy. So you can say that this salt-baking technique is just perfect for foods that would otherwise easily overcook.
What vegetables could you bake in salt?
Mainly root vegetables, such as celeriac, turnips, carrot and beetroot – onions and potatoes as well!
What kind of salt do you use for fish?
Any type of your favorite salt really.
Whether it is kosher or not, it doesn’t matter what brand it is.
You certainly don’t need an expensive salt for this, like pink Himalayan salt – because once the fish is baked, it is best to throw the salt away.
We like to use a more coarser type of salt, wine that will not dissolve fast and make lumps the minute you add water and/or egg whites.
What kind of fresh fish can you use for baked fish in salt crust?
The most common fish that is used here in Europe is sea bream or sea bass.
But other fish are great as well such as trout, sardines, anchovies, black cod and snapper.
Is salt baked fish healthy?
Baked fish in salt sure is a very healthy way of cooking.
It is also a delicious and highly recommended healthy way to prepare meat and vegetables. The greatest advantage of cooking fresh, seasonal ingredients in a salt crust is that you can seal in all the nutrients and natural flavors.
What’s not to love about that!
Can you reuse salt from salt bake? Can you reuse salt on salt crusted fish?
We highly recommend to get rid of the baked salt, especially if it is burnt and if you used egg whites in it.
What will happen if you reuse that baked salt?
Not a lot really.
You might just end up with fishy flavored salt because of the moisture of the fish that has been trapped in the crust. And then that baked egg white in between the salt, nah you don’t want to reuse it again.
Like we said before, this is not the time to put your expensive salts to the test.
Does salt crusted fish taste salty?
Sure you don’t need to season the fish with salt before adding the salt layer.
But baked fish in salt isn’t excessively salty.
Between the salt layer and the fish meat is the fish skin that will keep it from absorbing too much salt.
Once the baked fish in salt is baked and the salt layer and fish skin is removed, the juicy fish meat is ready to be plated up.
Do you really need to use egg whites?
Egg whites serve as a type of glue that holds the salt and water crust together while the fish bakes.
However many recipes for baked fish in salt only use salt and water, and no egg whites.
Adding egg whites is optional, it is up to you to add them or not.
We have tried out both ways, baked fish in salt crust with and without egg whites.
Flavorwise there was no difference really.
About that salt layer
So know you know what goes into that salt layer.
But what is the best ratio between the salt, water and egg whites?
We came a cross this conversion table over at Fine Cooking which has always worked out perfectly for us in the past when making baked fish in salt. So we have taken the liberty to add it to this blog post.
Weigh the fish you are going to use, and then just follow the rest of the ingredient quantities!
Make sure to visit their baked fish in salt crust recipe by Tony Rosenfeld.
How to make baked fish in salt crust
Ingredients for 2 persons
- 1 to 2 lbs (450 to 900 g) whole sea bass or sea bream, gutted
- 3 lbs or 3 ½ cups (1,35 kg) coarse salt
- ¼ cup (60 ml) + 2 tbsp water
- 1 tsp olive oil
- sliced lemon, fresh thyme and/or rosemary (optional)
- Rinse the fish and pat it dry using kitchen paper.
- Place slices of lemon, sprigs of free thyme or rosemary in the cavity of the fish (optional).
- You can use egg whites if you like, or leave them out and add just some extra water to the salt. Combine the salt and water until you get a crumble. Don’t make it too wet or the salt will start to dissolve.
- Spread about one third of the salt mixture on a baking tray. You can first cover the tray with parchment paper if you like.
- Place the fish on top of the salt.
- Cover it with the rest of the salt.
- Bake the fish in a preheated oven at 400°F (205°C) on a rack in the middle of the oven. For cooking times, see the table above.
- Once your baked fish in salt is cooked, remove the tray from the oven and let the fish rest for another 5 minutes.
- Using tablespoons, crack open the hardened, golden salt layer to unearth a moist, evenly cooked and fragrant fresh fish meat underneath.