Grilled Sea Bream
Grilled sea bream can be prepared in various ways depending on the accessories we have available, the size, and the type of fish purchased (caught or farmed).
Sea bream caught or farmed, what changes in grilling
Each fish has its seasonality. In the case of sea bream, the best time to enjoy fish is summer. I have explained why here in great detail, as well as providing many indications on how to easily distinguish a farmed fish from a caught fish. However, know that between a farmed sea bream and a catch there is a substantial difference in terms of fat and, consequently, the cooking times change a little.
The caught specimens have a more important muscle mass and the meat, as well as tastier, is more compact. On the other hand, farmed ones have less developed musculature and are decidedly fatter. The breeding specimens, although less tasty, are ideal for starting to practice grilling. The greater body fat in fact means that the meat remains soft even if the ideal cooking time is accidentally exceeded. The specimens caught, on the other hand, allow fewer errors.
How to clean and prepare sea bream for the grill
Preparing fish for the grill is very simple. It will be sufficient to eviscerate it, dry it well, and sprinkle the ventral cavity with herbs. I generally use garlic, parsley, and thyme. If you’ve never done this, you may find this blog guide of mine on how to clean fish useful. However, keep these 3 things in mind:
- Do not remove the scales. They will act as a “heat shield” and will make your life a lot easier when you have to unplug the fish from the grill.
- Do not remove the dorsal fins. You can possibly trim them slightly to avoid pricking yourself, but by no means cut the fins off the base. Once the sea bream is cooked it will be much easier to remove the bones from the meat simply by “pulling” the dorsal fin.
- Do not make cuts in the meat. I know that many recommend it to make aromas penetrate. However, I prefer to leave the meat intact and limit the loss of liquids during cooking. You can always add the aromas to the dish by preparing an emulsion of oil, garlic, and aromatic herbs with which to sprinkle the meat.
Speaking of barbecues, grills, plates, and grills for fish.
A barbecue with a lid is ideal. These tools allow you to cook the fish with indirect cooking (ie without flames or embers directly under the fish) eliminating the risk of flames due to the fat that drips under the grill. In this case, I advise you to adjust the burners (or the air draft if you use a charcoal bbq) aiming to have a temperature of about 200 ° C on the lid.
If you have a traditional grill without a lid, make sure you have a “safety zone” away from the embers. This way you can keep the fish safe in case of sudden flare-ups.
The accessories for smoking, and cooking whole fish as in this case, are rather useless. However, if you really want to feel the smoky aroma, it is better to fillet the fish first, in this way the smoke will adhere to the meat and you will feel it on the plate.
The fish grill
If you love to win easily, you should buy a barbecue grill like mine (see on Amazon) for at least 2 reasons:
- you can turn the sea bream at any time without running the risk of them sticking together. It is ideal for those who still do not have clear ideas about what is the right time to turn the fish.
- you can move the fish to a “safe” area if there are too many flare-ups.
Cook the fish directly on the grill (and remove it without breaking it)
If you don’t have a grill, you will have to adapt to cooking the seabream directly above the grill. In this case, I advise you to arrange the fish parallel to the rods of the grill with the head facing you. Positioned in this way it will be easier to turn them without the skin sticking to the grill. Just insert a metal spatula between the grill and the fish to easily detach it. The scales that you will have left in the cleaning will act as a “shield”. By placing the fish with its head facing you, the spatula will slide over the grid and advance in the same direction as the scales (from the head to the tail).
The cast iron plate or the grill pan
Another excellent way to cook seabream involves using a cast iron plate like mine (see on Amazon) (or, at worst, a grill pan) over a sufficiently powerful stove. In this case, you will not be able to count on the oven effect given by a barbecue and cooking will therefore take a little longer.
The cast iron plates are particularly suitable for cooking caught fish or for small to medium-farmed sea bream. The melted fat released by larger specimens tends to be excessive. Not being able to pour down as in the barbecue it ends up splashing everywhere and greasing the kitchen. On the plus side, sea bream cooked this way tastes even better than those cooked on the barbecue grill. Not to mention that cast iron plates and grills can be used really anywhere. In the photo below, for example, I am cooking sea bream (which until a few minutes before was still swimming) in the cockpit of our sailing boat!
A grill pan and a field stove are enough to cook the seabream even in a spartan environment such as a small sailboat. NB: observe how the fish are “curved” and not perfectly stretched out, denoting the extreme freshness. This is due to rigor mortis which stiffens the fish’s muscles. The phenomenon begins a few tens of minutes after the death of the fish and ends after 7-8 hours.
The cooking time
These seabreams are now cooked. Notice how the eyes have turned white. Similarly, the meats have also assumed a whitish color, and the melted fat drips from the belly which ignites instantly in contact with the flavoring bars of the barbecue.
The cooking time for grilled seabream varies according to the size of the fish. For medium-sized farmed fish you can set a total cooking time of 20-25 minutes. The larger specimens, on the other hand, require longer times (even 40 or 50 minutes). Obviously, these are only general indications.
If this is the first time you try this preparation, you can get an idea of the doneness by inserting a probe thermometer (see my favorite) at the point where the meat is thickest. The sea bream is cooked when it has reached a core temperature of about 60-65 ° C.
If you don’t have a probe thermometer you can make a small incision in the fish and observe the central bone. The meats adhering to the spine should appear white and not bloody.
Finally, another way to check the doneness is to grab the dorsal fin and pull lightly. When the fish is cooked it will come off very easily, pulling all the bones of the dorsal area with it.
Over time you will learn to understand the right degree of cooking just by observing the fish. Here are some tissue changes you should learn to observe:
- The first thing that changes in fish is the eyes which, when cooked, become whitish.
- As the cooking continues inside the fish, it is possible to notice how the flesh visible in the ventral area from translucent tends to become whitish. If you are cooking caught fish (which becomes stringy more easily if overcooked) pay close attention as you are close to optimal cooking.
- Another signal is the fluids that the fish releases in the ventral area. If you see them boiling you have reached the end of the line.
- Also, observe the skin: if you see it rising and falling (as if it had bubbles inside) it means that the subcutaneous liquids are boiling and the fish is almost certainly cooked.
What to combine
I usually serve large fish accompanied by a few slices of lemon and with an emulsion of oil, garlic, and parsley with which to flavor the meat.
I generally serve large sea bream only accompanied by a few slices of lemon and an emulsion of oil, garlic, and aromatic herbs. If, on the other hand, I have cooked smaller specimens, a side dish becomes a must. If you have time, you can try your hand at preparing flavored duchess potatoes. Otherwise, a couple of boiled potatoes or a mixed salad with rocket and cherry tomatoes are a side dish that goes universally with any grilled fish.
The printable recipe
Grilled sea bream
- 2 medium-sized sea bream
- 1 clove of garlic
- extra virgin olive oil to taste
- chopped parsley to taste
- aromatic herbs to taste
Gut the sea bream and dry them very well. Do not remove the scales or the dorsal fins. Flavor the belly with a clove of garlic and a sprinkling of aromatic herbs.
Bring the barbecue or cast iron plate to temperature. If you use a barbecue, set it for indirect cooking with a temperature on the lid of about 200°C.
Arrange the fish on the hot grill (or plate) parallel to the metal rods.
Cook for about 10-15 minutes per side, turning the sea bream once.
Serve and serve accompanied with an emulsion of oil, garlic, and chopped parsley. Enjoy your meal!