Bronzino is a primarily ocean-going fish and is often sold as Mediterranean sea bass, loud de mer, robalo, lumina, spigot, branzino, or bronzino.
Branzino is a safe and healthy seafood choice. Branzino is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, protein and selenium an antioxidant.
(Mediterranean sea bass should not be confused with Chilean sea bass which has higher levels of mercury.) The sea bass available for purchase in the US is generally farm raised under strict conditions meeting or exceeding US government standards.
I like to grill whole branzino stuffed with lemon slices, garlic and spears of fresh dill. It is mild in flavor, without a strong fish taste when cooked this way.
How to shop for fish:
- Shop from a reputable source. I live inland, so choices are more limited. My go-to source for fish and seafood is Whole Foods. They are always helpful and if you ask they will package your fish on ice for the ride home.
- If you are thinking about buying fish or seafood, ask questions! Don't be shy. If the fishmonger or the person responsible for the seafood department can't or won't answer your questions, move on. There are plenty of fish in the sea and plenty of stores from which to buy them.
- What questions should you ask?
- Is it fresh or previously frozen? (In many instances, the fish you see in the case is something they thawed from a bag in the freezer.) This is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact, I only buy frozen shrimp on advice from a fishmonger who volunteered, "Go get it over in the freezer case. It is the same fish, we just thaw it out in the case."
- For previously frozen fish, ask, How long has it been thawed out?
- Whole fish like brazino are usually fresh, so the next question is crucial. When did you get it in? They should be able to tell you.
- If you are still interested, ask to see the fish you have your eye on. They won't hand it over the counter for you to examine, but they will hold it up or walk it out so you can get a closer look. The flesh should be moist and shiny. The eyes should be clear, not cloudy and sunken, signs that the fish is not as fresh as it should be.
- This is the hardest question to ask but you should ask, May I smell it? Sometimes I am reluctant to ask, but too many times I have found out that hard way that the fish I brought home is spoiled. One memorable time I found out in the car on the way home and actually drove straight back to the store to make it their problem, not mine.
- Where did this fish come from and is it wild-caught or farmed-raised? You shouldn't even have to ask these two questions because since 2005 large retailers (such as supermarkets) selling fresh or frozen fish must indicate on the label the country the fish came from and whether it is wild-caught or farm-raised. Check the label! Restaurants and small fish markets are exempt, but may still be able to give you this information.
If your questions have been answered to your satisfaction, the fish looks good and passes the nose test, bring it home!
How long before fish spoils?
I try to buy fish and seafood the day I plan to use it, the exception being flash frozen fish. This often not possible, so a good rule of thumb is 36 hours at the most under proper handling and refrigeration. I always count on my eyes and nose to tell me if I pushed it too far. For a very thorough primer on how long to store fish and seafood before consuming, please visit Eat By Date's article The Shelf Life of Fish.
Ingredients for two servings:
- Fresh branzino (¾ lb)
- Lemon (1, sliced thin)
- Garlic (2 cloves, sliced thin)
- Fresh dill (6 stems)
- Olive Oil
- Salt and pepper
(See recipe How-To for quantities.)
- Rinse cleaned whole fish under cold running water. You can clean the fish yourself, or ask the person at the seafood counter to do it for you. They usually just take the insides out and remove the head if you ask. Your fish might still have scales on. You will need to move the hair scales before cooking. They scrape off fairly easily but the fish is sometimes hard to hold on to. I recommend grabbing it by the tail with a clean dishtowel for the best grip while removing the scales. (I will add list of my favorite fish utensils at the end of this post including my preferred fish de-scaler.)
- After throughly rinsing out the cavity of the fish, lay 3 stems dill, thin slices of 1 lemon, and 1 clove of garlic sliced thin.
- Branzino will stick to the grates of your grill so I do not recommend putting something between the greater and the fish. You might have a special grill pan or even a closed basket like mine. If you are grilling it in an open pan where you will need to lift the fish to turn it over, you need something between the pan and the fish. The easiest thing is just to place a layer of sliced lemons on the pan and place the fish on top to prevent sticking. I love my closed grill basket for fish, shrimp, and vegetables. If you will be flipping the fish itself you will want to lose tie it with two of three strands of butcher's twine to keep the stuffing in. If you have a basket that holds the fish tight, skip this step.
- Cook the fish on the grill over low heat or indirect heat until they are cooked through, flipping to get both sides browned. The cooking time will vary based on the size of your fish. Fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees.
- Take the fish off the grill, place it on a baking sheet, brush with a little olive oil and put under the broiler just to brown and crisp the skin. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper before broiling.
Serve on a platter over arugula and garnish with extra lemon.
Fresh Grilled Branzino
- Gas or charcoal grill
- Butcher's twine
- Grill basket
- Fish scaler (optional)
- Fish spatula (optional)
- Fish tweezers (optional)
- .75 pounds Branzino whole
- 2 Lemons, sliced
- 3 cloves Garlic, sliced
- 1 bunch Fresh dill weed
- Rinse cleaned whole fish under cold running water. You can clean the fish yourself or ask the person at the seafood counter to do it for you.
- Slice the lemons and garlic into thin pieces. Open the cavity of the fish and place the dill inside, then top with the lemon and garlic slices.
- Close the cavity and tie with butcher's twine or place whole fish into a closed grill basket.
- Place the grill basket on an outdoor grill over low heat or indirect heat. Cook until the flesh of the fish flakes away with a fork. Internal temperature should be at least 145 degrees.
- Remove fish from grill and place on a sheet pan. Sprinkle the fish with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Place under the broiler under constant supervision until the skin is crisped and browned.
- Serve immediately, be careful to avoid bones.
Approximate nutrition information is provided as a convenience and courtesy only. You are encouraged to do your own calculations if precise data is required.