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Mackerel (Holy and otherwise)

Well, it seems the Atlantic Spanish Mackerel are making their way past NJ now. A buddy dropped a pair off for me yesterday and I finished cleaning 'em, leaving me with four nice, skin-on filets. I grilled one last night, over a medium, fruit wood and lump fire - basting with a garlic and olive oil mixture. In a short while, I will cut up a second filet and make a ceviche for lunch - lime juice, habanero, cilantro, a little tomato, and some thin slices of green onion.

The other two filets are in the freezer as mackerel can be a bit much to eat day after day. Out of curiosity's sake, I was wondering how others treat this somewhat funky fish? I have done sashimi, foil pouch, and fried "fingers" for tacos, in the past, but was wondering about any other ideas, especially in terms of flavorings, marinades, etc.

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  1. Whole, grilled with salt, pepper and olive oil. I love both mackerel and fresh sardines this way.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mike0989

      This. And a good squeeze of lemon all over the crispy skin.

    2. Foil pouch all the way, with veg (onions, tomato, whatever) and a dab of butter. I'm lazy, and it's so good.

      1. Marinated in soy sauce and orange juice, then grilled.

        1. Delicious- what a nice gift!

          Another way I've enjoyed mackerel is glazed with a mixture of soy, honey (or maple) and mirin. Squeeze over a bit of fresh lime at the end.

          1. Heavily salted, rested, then heavily salted some more. Grill. Serve with a small mound of grated daikon (daikon oroshi) and a bowl of hot rice. A beer is an excellent accompaniment.

            1. I meant to post this earlier, but time has that funny way of slippin’ away at times.

              Over the Labor Day Weekend, I thawed the mackerel and cut the filets into strips. We had friends comin’ over and I thought maybe doin’ some ‘satay” on the rarely used hibachi might be fun. At least as an ice-breaker.

              I marinated the fish in garlic, Scotch Bonnets, orange juice, honey, and soy sauce for a bit more than two hours. Once skewered, the pieces rested, skin-side down, over the cherry wood coals. A final brush of the reduced marinade was applied to the top-side flesh and let caramelize over the heat for a minute or so.

              The dish was well received, even from those who were afraid to try it when they learned it was mackerel, but, I think some kind of dipping sauce would be in order next time. I’m open to ideas, especially if anyone tries such a thing.


              4 Replies
              1. re: MGZ

                The simple yogurt and herb sauce in this recipe looks like it would be nice with the mackerel:


                1. re: MGZ

                  You are speaking my language, M! I am in the middle of a fierce mackerel kick right now...

                  This is probably my all time favorite mackerel preparation: http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/godeun...

                  The braised radish just makes the dish. And feel free to kick up the heat!

                  1. re: joonjoon

                    Thanks for the link, joon. I'm looking forward to trying that prep - different than anything I've done before and the chiles already seem to have nice place at the table.

                    As an aside, it looks like it could be a decent way to cook eel as well. Is that already a thing?

                    1. re: MGZ

                      Hmm I've never seen eel prepped that way personally but why not! It works pretty well with any fish. Hope you enjoy!

                2. Mackerel is on my short list of things to try so I'm just here for ideas.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                    So are the rest of us, my friend. So are the rest of us.

                  2. Mackerel can take a bit of spice.
                    I like to grind up dried chillis, fennel seeds, sea salt, cumin and coriander (or whatever mix takes your fancy) and add a bit of plain flour. Fillet the mackerel and dip in the mix shaking off the excess.
                    Fry the fillets and serve with yellow split pea dhal ,with spinach wlltded into it at the last minute.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Paprikaboy

                      Ooh, good to know, thanks! I'm always very cautious mixing fish and spice, but if mackerel is quite resilient then I have some exciting fish curry recipes on my shortlist to try!

                      1. re: DavidPonting

                        Mackerel for curry sounds like a fine idea. I tried it once with Bluefish and seem to recall being pleased with the result. Guess I'll have to try again soon.

                        1. re: DavidPonting

                          I think fish curries are one of my favourite foods ever.
                          My local Malaysian place uses mackerel to make fish sambal (Sambal Ikan). I'm also very partial to a Chettinad fish curry.

                          1. re: DavidPonting

                            I don't know what your mackerel is like compared to the king mackerel - which we call seer in Sri Lanka and batang in Singapore - we get, but I always cook my mackerel in pretty heavy spices. Look up vanjaram (which I think is the Malaysian word for it) spicy fried recipes - I don't have a favourite yet, still tinkering, but oh my goodness is it good when done well! Which it is in most hole-in-the-wall places here in Singapore.

                            My favourite way of cooking mackerel is in a tamarind curry. Second favourite is marinated in tamarind and spices, then deep-fried.

                            1. re: LMAshton

                              Spanish mackerel are a slightly (but related) species than king mackerel or cero mackerel.

                              I find them less oily and less "funky" than their cousins...so less need for assertive flavours to offset the "funk".

                              Removing the dark "bloodline" (it's not really blood, but that's what I've always heard it called) from the centre of the filet will make it a very mild fish.

                        2. I've used a Martha Rose Shulman recipe with mackerel and it paired deliciously! Super quick marinade of s/p, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and cumin. Originally posted the recipe (used mullet) here:


                          1 Reply
                          1. re: meatn3

                            I was looking through the fish volume of the Good Cook series and came across a Tunisian version of this recipe. Virtually the same but with the addition of harrisa.

                          2. Spanish mackerel tend to not be quite as oily and "funky" as some other species of mackerel.

                            Having said that, however, it tends to perform better in "drier" applications -- baking/grilling, especially with more assertive spices and citrus-based sauces.

                            1. This is for next time that awesome friend drops off some more bounty. I trust you thanked them with something appropriate. Please make mine a Manhattan.

                              Put a metal bar between two uprights and build a small charcoal or hardwood fire below. Butterfly the fish and skewer vertically with stiff wire. Lean against the bar on the down wind side and periodically brush with a light oil using fresh tarragon or rosemary branches. Turn the fish over. Add some wood so the fire will flare and crisp the skin.

                              I first saw this method in Augsberg Germany. There were a couple dozen cooking at a time and there was always a line waiting. Hasen Brau was the accompaniment, not only for quaffing, but also for cleaning our hands.

                              Another favorite use is from a Jamaican friend. She loves mackerel for her fish soup. Either use fillets cut into 2 inch pieces or steak with the bones.

                              Start with fish stock. Add cracked peppercorns, allspice berries, ginger root, and bay leaves wrapped in muslin. Add your tuber of choice. I like white yam or boniato, but you can also use once fried plantain slices with allspice and cayenne powder, sliced green bananas (boring), or potatoes if that is all you have. Next add a hard yellow squash chunked up, skinned overripe tomatoes or a can of crushed tomatoes, and finally a large red habanero with a slice in it. Leave the stem on for ease of identifying and yanking it out when ready. This pepper is not for the heat, but the flavor.

                              Pull out pepper, add sturdy greens. Calaloo is great but anything with a strong flavor and won't fall apart is OK. Simmer 10 to 15 minutes, add salt to taste, and then add the mackerel. Simmer another 10 minutes or so, add more salt and serve in large bowls with lots of bread and yellow butter.

                              This soup also works for blues, mullet, or salt cod.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                Right now, the Snapper Blues are jumpin' in the Lake behind my Pop's house. The plan is to take the niece & nephew out in the dinghy witha couple light rods and bobbers while I row 'em out far enough so as to be unable to see the fear in their mother's face.

                                The kids aren't huge fish fans (yet), but they have eaten Uncle Z's fried scallops, as well as his Striper tacos (with cilantro, onion, and (mild) chile paste). Consequently, I'm thinkin' if they sit on the water and manage to catch a few little shiners, I might have a chance to get their developin' palates to try a new food. I'm gonna have to use the old man's Weber kettle and Kingsford briquettes, but I have no fears.

                                The really cool thing is, Dad has two well developed tarragon plants in the yard and the kids both like licorice. Maybe, I can take your prep approach, let 'em taste a "leaf" or two of the herb while we cut some stems, explain "anise" flavors in a Sesame Street way, and involve 'em in the basting. I think I'm just gonna need Mrs. Z to hold their attention while I clean and butterfly the fish (I am resigned to the fact that trapping and gathering bait, threading Spearing on the hooks, and cleaning our catch is best done without callin' too much attention to the activities.).

                                Nonetheless, thanks for the ideas! I'll have to consider doin' a stock if we really get lucky (and the kids don't start yearning for their iPhones or returning the contents of their juice boxes into the Lake. Oh, and if I don't need to get a break from the foul smell of the eleven layers of sunscreen Mommy applies before I can push off.).

                              2. MGZ, Atlantic Spanish Mackerel and any Mackerel deserves the grill. You done did it good, fellow 'Hound.

                                That said, I rarely fillet fish as I see no reason to throw out half a perfectly good fish, but if you already did... I'd still grill the fish, plate it and spoon a little Greek on it...

                                ...in a bowl, whisk together olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice.
                                add salt and pepper. whisk.
                                mix in some chopped parsley and some thin slices of green onion.
                                crushed garlic is optional to add at this point. so is a little fresh hot peppers / habanero, from the garden.
                                spoon this over the plated fish and enjoy.

                                and there you have it, grilled mackerel Greek style.

                                14 Replies
                                1. re: Gastronomos

                                  Habanero or hot peppers Greek style?

                                  Is that a regional thing? I don't think I've ever had anything even remotely spicy in Greece.

                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    habenero, no. it was in reply to MGZ's OP.
                                    and I don't add them to this mixture, but one can certainly add whatever floats their boat.

                                    hot peppers, yes. Very much, YES!
                                    Not in the south. Not in the Peloponnese. Not on some islands. Not in tourist traps.
                                    Go North. Follow the "pepper trail". Trading routes.

                                    My family, islanders, always add a little "hot pepper" to their food. whether dried in winter bean soup - fasolada. Or fresh in the summer in a salad - horiatiki. Even in the classic Bougiourdi - spicy peppers are added to feta and sliced tomato and baked. It isn't the east. There is no OVERSPICING of food. No need to cover up the flavors. No need to cover up rancid anything in a ton of spices and hot peppers. Just a little. Fresh. Clean. Balance in flavors. Yes. That's Greek.


                                    1. re: Gastronomos

                                      I've been in the north, south & middle and hadn't ever encountered it, which is why I was curious.

                                      FWIW, my "Greek" mackerel only involves being brushed with olive oil, lots of 'rigani, s&p, and maybe some paprika.

                                      Generous squeeze of lemon once it's off the grill.

                                      1. re: linguafood

                                        sounds delish!
                                        paprika? Greek?
                                        1970's Greek diner broiled fillet classic maybe.. LOL
                                        heck, paprika IS red pepper anyways...

                                        my family, late Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., born and raised in Athens, from great grandparents from islands. no rigani in Athenian cuisine.

                                        that said, I do enjoy a sprinkle on many foods, including horiatiki, despite the ridicule I get from my family in Athens Greece.

                                        Greek cuisine, based on the sea, is a regional cuisine. no one over the other in my cookbook. just good olive oil, lemon, rigani and fresh.

                                        BTW, here's two recipes for Bouyiourdi:



                                        1. re: linguafood

                                          herbs and spices in a market in Greece, including "Boukovo" - crushed Hot red pepper [bottom center] , "CHILLY" - small dried Hot chili peppers [bottom left], and ground Hot pepper (like cayenne) [top right]

                                          just a small sample I found online.

                                          rigani (oregano) [top left] very popular

                                          1. re: Gastronomos

                                            Well, I never claimed those didn't exist. Just that, in all of the regional cooking I've had, nothing has ever been even remotely spicy.

                                            And most Greeks I know aren't particularly fond of spicy food, either.

                                            1. re: linguafood

                                              may I ask, where in Greece are they from? :-)

                                              1. re: Gastronomos

                                                The few I remember -- Crete, Athens, Patras, Saloniki... I could go on, but I honestly don't memorize all of my friends' places of birth.

                                                  1. re: Gastronomos

                                                    No, but my mom's ex was.

                                                    (Nice website, btw).

                                    2. re: Gastronomos

                                      I filet fish, and save the head and carcass for fish stew. It's a win-win.

                                      1. re: TroyTempest

                                        Couldn't the head and carcass still be used for stew if it went on the grill with the rest of the fish, as in whole?

                                        1. re: linguafood

                                          I don't see why not. I've just never tried it

                                        2. re: TroyTempest

                                          i'll admit to doing the same, when I rarely do filet fish. it is a win-win...

                                      2. Here’s a Fish Curry that is very popular in the Konkan Belt (West Coast) of India, where the Indian Mackerel is one of the cheapest and abundantly available fish. There are variations, of course, of the dish, but here’s how I do it. This curry can be adapted to any fish (I often use Tilapia filets here in US) and it still tastes yummy!

                                        Clean the guts n gills n fins/tails of the fish. Be sure to remove the black lining in stomach cavity, which seems to add a bitter taste to the dish. No filets for the Mackerel please, just cut it in to 3-4 steaks. Use the head in the curry too, it just adds flavor. Add ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp turmeric powder to the cleaned pieces and marinate for about ½ hour.

                                        Meanwhile grind together 1 tsp of coriander seeds, 1 cup of grated coconut, 3-4 red dry chilly peppers (more or less per your taste), 2 tsp tamarind paste, 1” chopped piece of fresh ginger into a smooth paste, by adding just enough water. Heat 2 tsp Coconut (or any other) oil, fry a finely chopped onion on low heat. Add 1 tsp of finely diced ginger and 2-3 green chilli peppers (slit into two pieces) and fry for another minute. Add the ground coconut paste, mix and cook for another minute. Add ½ cup of water and bring the curry to a boil. Slowly add the fish pieces and simmer for another 5-6 minutes till the fish is cooked through. Adjust salt to taste and serve with warm cooked rice.

                                        Be careful with the bones of the fish while eating, but since I do not eat fish with spoon or fork , I can feel the bones with my fingers, before the fish goes into my mouth ;-) Thats just a more fun way to enjoy fish curry, in my opinion.

                                        I know at least 2 other fish curries made with Mackerel that my family loves, but they need some very local-to-konkan belt ingredients. There are several fish fry recipes too.

                                        1. The following is true so don't come down too hard on me. The way I, and we usually treat Spanish and King Mackerel on the Texas Coast is throwing them back or giving them away. Inshore, it's all about Speckled Trout, Redfish, and Flounder. Offshore it's Red Snapper, Grouper, Ling, and Dolphin Fish. That put the Mackerel in 8th place, at best.

                                          8 Replies
                                          1. re: James Cristinian

                                            Well, as they say, there are a lotta Mackerel in the sea. We may, after all, be talkin' about different fish: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic...

                                            Nevertheless, I'd rather have a surf caught Striper myself.

                                            1. re: James Cristinian

                                              I'm from the Texas gulf coast as well, and i agree about Kings. I can take em or leave em. But, I like spanish mackerel. Growing up, we always bled them right after catching (as ospreycove below mentions), so as not to be as fishy. Don't know if that helped, but we always did it.
                                              By the way, Mahi Mahi is the new term for Dolphin fish. Invariably, someone will think you're talking about the mammal if you say dolphin.

                                              1. re: TroyTempest

                                                I mostly wade fish and the things die the second you put them on a stringer. Nothing worse than dragging a dead fish, or seven, the limit, around for four hours in 85 degree water. I know about dolphin mahi but I use the old dolphin fish as shock value for the Flipper lovers. See, I'm not real fond of Flipper either, conventional and field tested wisdom is the fish leave just as the unwanted mammal appears. Not long ago however, we were on a school of trout and reds so big even several Flippsters couldn't scare them away. Caught the dog poo out of them.

                                                1. re: TroyTempest

                                                  I said something about dolphin (the fish) here a few weeks ago and about caused someone apoplexy.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    Must be a lawsuit pending. I'm guessing American Indians ate them, no proof, but a big animal swimming slowly in shallow waters had to be a target.

                                                    1. re: James Cristinian

                                                      dolphins are not slow by any stretch of the imagination. 3-7 mph isn't fast by land standards, but it's hella faster than anybody could swim or paddle a canoe (and with short-burst speeds of 20mph or so, probably not a great target for a spear, either)

                                                      I have, however, heard a few old-timers say that manatee was well worth the effort.

                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                        When feeding they roll up and down quite slowly, also giving away by blowing air through the blow holes. I've been in the water many times with them 20 feet away or less. Here's an article about the local Galveston Karankawas fishing for them of canoes.


                                                        1. re: James Cristinian

                                                          This is so totally politically incorrect, that you know I am going to enjoy it immensely.

                                                          The Calusa nation of southwest Florida had built canals between villages for secure transportation as well as large pens for the live storage of Flipper, manatees, and schools of fish. Manatees were sought after as they have a reputation for rotting slower in hot weather than the other available animals.

                                                          The last time I testified before Florida Fish and Wildlife concerning manatees, I asked what the carrying capacity of Florida waters was. Knowing the maximum number of sustainable manatees, we could start harvesting them to restore traditional meals. Melbourne was famous for the roast manatee served in the hotels prior to the ban of around 1900.

                                                          I was not well received.

                                              2. Mackerel for breakfast! Mackerel with whole roasted tomato served on top of sturdy toasted dark rye bread.

                                                Oven 375F
                                                On a baking sheet place mackerel fillet and a small whole tomato brushed with olive oil
                                                Bake until tomato is roasted and starts to give inside (maybe 10-15 min)
                                                Toast rye bread

                                                To serve
                                                Place tomato on top of toast and smush and spread the tomato on the bread with a fork, then add the mackerel shredding it on top of the tomato. Enjoy.

                                                PS I also love mackerel in a Curry and I like mackerel on a taco with a little yoghurt mixed with smoked chili powder. And I like mackerel cooked and mixed with a little creme freche and black pepper and then served on crackers as an snack or with a pre-dinner glass of something. In the spirit of Dr. Suess, I would eat mackerel in a curry, in a taco, on a piece of toast.....It's a great fish!

                                                1. Here in the Southwest Florida Gulf, Spanish Mackerals are plentiful and easy to catch. I have found that they are best cooked whole ofer a hot fire, with seasonings of your preference. The thing that "Spanny Macks" do not do is freeze well. Try to ice them as soon as you catch and bleed them, and keep them iced until you gut and clean it for the grill. My fav is fresh Rosemary and dry or fresh oregano, S & P and finish after cooking with a little good olive oil!!

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: ospreycove

                                                    Curious about the bleeding as that involves cutting the tail and or head off. Here that will get you a hefty fine as game fish can't be altered until the final destination. What's the law in Florida?

                                                    1. re: James Cristinian

                                                      We used to cut the throat. That would keep the fish intact.

                                                        1. re: James Cristinian

                                                          obviously, not a good idea if you're wading

                                                          1. re: TroyTempest

                                                            We have enough problems keeping the sharks away from the fish, fortunately most are of the angle biter variety. I have seen a few 6 footish bulls close by, increase pucker factor especially with trailing fish.

                                                  2. Well I wouldn't ordinarily chime in on a thread about ugggghhhh mackerel.....but you and joon brought this back up top so this is what I would do;

                                                    I would take those last two filet's you have in the freezer and carefully make a hole in the middle of each filet. Take some string or twine and bring it up thu the hole and tie the filet's individually to the bottom of a crab trap and catch me some nice blue claws!

                                                    Take those blue claws and sautee them with a lot of garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and a fair amount of chili's chopped fine in there for a little kick, awww yeah that's how I would enjoy that mackerel!!

                                                    6 Replies
                                                    1. re: jrvedivici

                                                      I used the heads, fins, and tails for the traps, but I simply steamed the crabs with Old Bay.

                                                      1. re: MGZ

                                                        I'll tell you this much, I use to love blue claws but in recent years it just seems the average size(s) have really declined. Even late in the season it just seems the average size is on the smaller side, with all the work involved to extract the meat it has become a labor of love.

                                                        Have you noticed that? I remember getting some monsters as a kid, I rarely see 6-7+ incher's anymore. I would say 95% are around the 4-5 inch range. With 4 inches being the minimum size for a keeper I believe.

                                                        1. re: jrvedivici

                                                          You guys know of any good spots for crabbing? I've always wanted to try catching some...seems like fun.

                                                          1. re: joonjoon

                                                            An excellent spot is as you travel East on 37 going over the Seaside Bridge you follow the exit for Seaside Heights and on the bay side there is a pier/docks that are a very popular crabbing location.

                                                            Closer to home you can crab right in Marine Park in Red Bank where the old Boon-Docker(s)? use to be.

                                                            **Edit, sorry folks I forgot this wasn't a regional board, the OP as well as Joon and I are all from New Jersey that is where the crabbing area's I'm reporting are located. lol

                                                            1. re: joonjoon

                                                              I haven't had a post deleted in almost two weeks now, so I decided not to get too far off topic here. Consequently, joon, I started another thread on the NJ Board: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/963343

                                                              As to the size question, I do feel like there have been fewer "giant" crabs in the Bay in the past few years. Last summer probably shouldn't count in any guestimations, given the impact of Sandy, but I feel like I haven't even seen many bigger crabs, from local waters, available for sale lately either.

                                                            2. re: jrvedivici

                                                              here on Long Island the sizes are just as you say, small. I catch an occassional decent sized crab or two, but the commercial crabbers here on Long Island are sending all their catch to Maryland.........

                                                        2. I've only had Pacific mackerel and I'm not sure how it differs from Atlantic, but a Japanese neighbor I used to have who was an avid fisherman would marinate the filets in soy sauce and a bit of sugar, then smoke them delicately on a smoker. Not sure what wood was used, but it may be worth looking up.

                                                          I remember the fish coming out smoky, a bit sweet, with a bit of chew at first and meltingly tender inside. It was a great way to do it.

                                                          1. For mackerel fans: http://thegarumfactory.net/2014/01/24...

                                                            The salad alone is worth the effort, and an excellent winter option.