Cooking fish inside a hard shell made of salt is an ancient cooking technique that has been practiced in southern Spain for centuries and that creates a perfectly cooked, flavoursome and super healthy fish.
Originally done with clay instead of with salt, cooking salt baked sea bass (or any other fish) using a hard shell made of salt is an ancient cooking technique from around the Mediterranean which dates back many centuries. In the southern Spanish region of Murcia, fishermen have been practicing it for hundreds of years aboard their fishing boats.
There are actually plenty of reasons why this way to cook salt baked sea bass has been used for such long time and it is still practiced:
Perfect point of saltiness
Despite what you might think, covering the fish with salt does not make it salty. All the contrary, because the salt does not actually penetrate the fish, this will come out with the perfect point of saltiness.
Moist and juicy
Because the hard shell prevents any moisture to escape whilst cooking, this way of cooking fish preserves all the juices inside the salt baked sea bass, keeping it very moist and juicy.
Because the fish cooks itself in its own juices whilst inside the shell, it does not require the addition of fat. The result is a super-healthy fish meal which is fat-free, very low in calories and very high in nutrients.
Amazing flavour and aroma
Nothing escapes the shell. That is why you will be able to enjoy the full flavour and aroma once you take the salt baked sea bass out of the salt-made shell.
- 800 g Seabass – gutted with scales left on
- 1.5 kg Coarse sea salt
- 125 ml Water
- 2 unit Egg white
- 1 tbsp Ground fennel
- Preheat your oven at 200ºC.
- In a big bowl, use your hands to mix the salt, the fennel, the egg whites and the water until you get a firm and sticky paste.
- Get an oven tray big enough to place the sea bass. Lay down a 1 cm-thick layer of salt, covering the entire bottom of the tray.
- Place the sea bass on top and cover it entirely with salt other than the fish head, which should remain uncovered. Make sure you pat the salt down until it becomes well firm. Bake in the oven for 18 minutes at 200ºC. Avoid opening the oven during this time.
- Remove from the oven. If the sea bass eye is solid white, that means the fish is correctly cooked (hence the reason to leave the head uncovered).
- Use a sharp knife to make a cut into the salt alongside the bottom of the sea bass, following the fish as if you’d be drawing its silhouette. Eventually, the salt cover will break into one whole piece and then you can lift it up carefully, avoiding any salt to go into your fish.
- Remove the fish skin carefully and use a couple of spoons to fillet the fish. Then take and discard the bones in one piece and lift the second fillet up.
- Drizzle with some parsley oil and serve warm together with some ‘patatas panaderas’ or even some ‘pisto manchego’.
Remember to avoid scaling the fish as the scales protect the fish from the heat and help keeping all the moist in.