Salt baked fish / Pesce al sale

September 9, 2019

Baking fish in a salted crust is a lovely and very uncomplicated way to keep the baked fish of your choice moist and capture it’s flavours.

The fish has to be fresh and if possible not farmed. Wild fish is more expensive but worth spending the money for.  Wild fish tends to be larger and more flavoursome.

I usually bake al sale a sea bass, bream or red snapper, which is a slightly shorter and thicker fish than a sea bass for example and needs more time in the oven. 

In Italy when buying a whole fish the fish monger will ask you how you are planning to cook it, so he will know how to prepare it for you.

If you bake the fish in salt it is much better to leave the scales on which will make the process of peeling the skin off of the baked fish much easier.

Serves 2 

  • 1.5 kg of rock salt
  • 150 ml of cold water
  • 1 sea bass or bream (about 1kg)*, cleaned under running water and pat dried
  • a small bunch of parsley
  • half a lemon, sliced

*For a 1-1.3 kg sea bass allow 25-30 minutes. If you have a fish of 750 g in weight you will need less time in the oven, 20 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200-210 C.

Line a roasting tray with baking parchment. In a large bowl mix the water in salt with your hands. You can add more salt if needed and the rule I follow is 100 ml of water per 1kg of rock salt.

Spread about a 1/3 of the salt on the baking parchment (to put the fish on top of it next).

Fill the cavity of the fish with some parsley and lemon slices. Place the fish on the prepared salt bed and cover it all around with the remaining salt mixture pressing it gently to make the crust hold.

You can leave the head and tail uncovered.

Bake your fish in the preheated oven according to the time indicated above.

To serve, carefully crack the casing with a table spoon, remove it from the top of the fish and discard. 

Fillet the fish and serve immediately (drizzling it with a little of lemon juice if you wish) with the vegetables of your choice.