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Someone gave me a fish head

  • r

My friend brought me a fish head yesterday from the fishing docks. I have a recipe for stock and for fish chowder, but I've never made fish stock before. Is there anything i need to know?

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  1. Only that you will need more than one head to make anything like a usable quantity of stock.

    1. Cover the head with water, bring to a soft boil, simmer for 30 minutes, skim and strain, then reduce. I add a touch of salt. You can use a moir poix and different spices, but I prefer my fish stock plain use in any one of a number of later applications.

      Harters is correct unless you have something like a billfish head.

      If you have something like a yellowfin and the head includes the collars--make sure to do those under the salamander/broiler! Delicious!

      6 Replies
      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

        I don't quite know if or how to get the collars out. This fish head buisness is all new to me. It looks to be about 1 1/2 pounds, and some kind of tuna...probably yellowtail since I got about a 2 lb. fillet from him as well.

        1. re: Rizza

          Wow! The collar is just that whole curved bit that braces the head and brackets the gill opening. Feel the bone structure around the gill opening, cut all that out. Broiled with a bit of salt, its the best fish dish in the world. Rich, oily delicious meat!

            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              Sam, do you have to cut out the collar before broiling? I don't really know what I'm doing, admittedly, but I've always just left it in -- and it turned out edible. What's the rationale for cutting it out?

              Rizza: definitely broil rather than boil. It's incredibly tasty broiled. To me, it would be a crying shame to waste yellowtail cheeks on fish stock.

              1. re: cimui

                The head itself cooks at a different rate. Get it right and the collar is a bit overdone. But overall, just broiling a yellowtail head would be fine.

        2. Fish head curry is a Singapore fusion favorite (Indian/Chinese I think). Search for it in CH, or try this one:


          There's actually a lot of meat and lots of flavor in the head.

          1. I've heard old timers talk about eating fish heads and grits- in fact growing up in South Carolina, I never heard of Shrimp and Grits, just fish heads and grits- I think that you just simmer the fish head(s) in a little water with some onions, bell pepper, salt and pepper and serve it over some grits...

            Might be a good way to use it if you don't have enough for stock...

            1. Sometimes gills can be bitter, at least salmon gills are; and they can ruin a stock. I wouled roll the head in melted butter and roast it at a high temperature, like 450 F, then you'll be able to pick at the cheeks and collar. Do not forget the cheeks! At any rate, if you just roast the whole head, you'll be able to find all the meat before it's been ruined by boiling, and you could actually still use the picked over head for stock along with some additions.

              3 Replies
              1. re: wearybashful

                Sounds interesting...will my whole (small) house smell like roasted fish head? Do I remove the eyes? For some reason I am freaked out by the eyes. i really want to get to that cheek though...I love the dark oily parts of the fish. I am actually a little tempted to bring it to my sushi chef, though I am sure these things are offered to him all the time.

                1. re: Rizza

                  DO NOT THROW OUT THE EYES.

                  The eyes are some of the tastiest parts of the head.

                  Many a times my family has nearly come to blows over who gets to suck out the fish eyes (and clean out the rest of the fish head) during dinner -- only to be saved by that very wise Chinese proverb ... always respect your elders and your elders' first dibs on the fish head.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    i grew up with asian cuisine, but could never bring myself to suck out the eyes!

              2. Maybe by now you have done whatever worked for you - but... based on what others have said I would agree to take the collar off ( the crescent shaped area below the "smile" of the fish head, and salt and broil or grill it. The head itself I would do in a simple soup and then dig out the tasty cheek and other bits.

                1. So someone gave me a fish head. I don't know what to do with a fish head, so I satrted calling and asking everyone I would see. Here's what happened to the fish head.

                  First I had to take it out of the bag. It was so big and bloody and ugly that i ended up wearing gloves to do it. I boiled it with carrots and celery and onion and white wine (good idea, Carol). I strained it and now have lots and lots of stock.

                  Last night the first go around with the stock made fish chowder. This was a Joy of Cooking recipe and was pretty darn good. I never knew that bay leaves and thyme are what make chowder taste like chowder.

                  Now I am freezing the rest of the stock.

                  Not exactly the most effecient use of such quality ingredients, but being that it was my first fish head I think I did okay. Thank you for all your suggestions.

                  1. I have been looking for a Tuna Head about two years now. How can i get one and how much do they cost.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: peerinto

                      ask your fishmonger or go to an asian market. how much they cost will depend where you are.