Easy Step-By-Step Guide to Salt Baking Fish (plus recipe)

Step-by-step guide to salt-baking trout: test kitchen secrets (plus recipe)

  • serves 6
  • Easy

Cookery writer Adam shows us tips and tricks from the olive test kitchen on salt-baking. Impress your friends with our easy step-by-step guide to salt-baking the perfect trout

Advertisement

“Salt-baking. What’s the point?” You may ask. Here’s why…

When baking in a salt crust, you are creating an oven within an oven. Modern ovens are designed to be a moisture-free environment, so any steam released from cooking is whipped away by a fan. This is because caramelisation and moisture don’t get on (with too much moisture you wouldn’t achieve that golden skin on roast chicken).

When salt-baking, however, you are creating a mini oven, between the fish and the salt crust, that steams the fish. The salt absorbs the oven heat and then evenly cooks the fish but allows little steam to escape. This means that the flesh will remain beautifully moist, as the juices are locked in.

Salt Baked Sea Trout

One of the things that worries people about salt-baking is the scary amount of salt. However, trout has lovely thick skin, which it needs as protection from the cold British water. It’s this skin that stops the fish from being overly salty.

As it cooks, the salt gently penetrates the fish, leaving the flesh perfectly seasoned. Adding spices and herbs to the salt is also a great way of flavouring the fish. I blitzed mine in a food processor with toasted, crushed fennel seeds, lemon zest and herb stalks until it was a vibrant green.

The salt crust cooks the fish faster than normal, so it needs less time than you might think. This also gives you time to rest the fish, in its crust, for 10-15 minutes. Here it will finish cooking and retain all of its moisture.

Salt Baked Sea Trout

Resting means the juices can re-distribute themselves after the shock of the heat in the oven (just as it does with steak or a roast joint of meat). Don’t worry – it will still be piping hot when it comes to serve.

A wee note when shopping for this recipe – a 2kg trout can be pretty large, so if you have a small oven, bear this in mind. You don’t want to be beheading your fish just to get it in the oven! If you’re having trouble tracking down a large rainbow trout, sea trout or salmon make great alternatives.

The salt you use is also important. If you use good flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, you’ll most likely have to re-mortgage your house. Using cheap table salt will leave a chemical taste to the flesh. Good, coarse sea salt will do the job perfectly.

When you carry this green, salt-encrusted parcel to the table, there will be ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from all. Especially after the big reveal, when you gently chisel away at the crust to reveal beautifully juicy, blushing pink flesh. It’s a bit of a party piece.

Salt Baked Sea Trout

*This recipe is gluten-free according to industry standards

Ingredients

  • rainbow trout or wild sea trout 2kg, gutted and cleaned

Salt crust

  • fennel seeds 2 tbsp
  • parsley a small bunch
  • dill a small bunch
  • lemons 2, zested and sliced
  • coarse sea salt 2kg
  • egg whites 5

Courgette salad

  • extra-virgin olive oil

  • lemon 1-2, zested and juiced
  • garlic 1 small clove, crushed
  • red chilli 1, seeded and finely chopped
  • courgettes 3, cut into thin strips
  • mint a small bunch, leaves picked and torn
  • basil a small bunch, leaves picked and torn

To serve

  • crusty bread optional

Method

  • Step 1

    Heat the oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7.

  • Step 2

    To make the salt crust, add the fennel seeds, stalks from the parsley and dill, and the lemon zest together with 350g of the salt to a food processor and whizz to a purée.

  • Step 3

    Pour the remaining salt into a bowl, tip in the purée and mix. Add the egg whites and mix again.

  • Step 4

    Put 1/3  of the salt mix in a layer diagonally on a large baking sheet (mimic the shape of the fish).

  • Step 5

    Lay the trout on top. Stuff the parsley leaves, dill fronds and lemon slices into the trout’s cavity. Season with ground black pepper.

  • Step 6

    Pour over the remaining salt mix, leaving the tip of the tail and the head exposed, patting it round the body of the fish so it is totally encased.

  • Step 7

    Roast in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and rest for 15 minutes.

  • Step 8

    For the salad, whisk together 4 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil, the lemon zest and juice, crushed garlic and chilli.

  • Step 9

    Add the courgettes, season with salt and black pepper, and toss well. Leave to marinate while the fish rests.

  • Step 10

    Carefully break away the salt crust and remove the skin of the fish.

  • Step 11

    Stir the torn herbs through the courgettes and serve with portions of the cooked trout and crusty bread, if you like, mopping up the juices.

Nutritional Information

  • Kcals 435
  • Fat 21.8g
  • Saturates 4.5g
  • Carbs 2g
  • Sugars 1.3g
  • Fibre 1g
  • Protein 57g
  • Salt 2.61g
Advertisement