Thursday, 18 April 2013

oven grilled mackerel

I am not a good cook.

It is an overstatement to even consider myself a cook. After several years of preparing meals for my family, my culinary knowledge and experience doesn't go beyond the entry-level.

So, naturally, I was elated when I could pull something together which was easy, quick, yet deliciously yummy and best of all with minimal cleaning up and no culinary skills required! (I know, my cooking skills will never improve if I stick to simple dishes forever, lol)

Here's sharing a simple fume free dish with anyone who hates cleaning up an oily kitchen after frying fish. No, I am not talking about using cookwares such as the happycall pans, which I don't own any...but grilling fish with my trustworthy oven ;)

It was really by chance and a real coincident when I saw whole mackerel or saba fish at the wet market. I had actually cooked the same dish the night before, but with frozen saba fillets not the whole fish. The fish wasn't that expensive, at four dollars for one whole fish which worked out to be almost the same price as the frozen fillets I bought earlier.

From lesson learned the night before, I realised mackerel is a very oily fish! The fillets were literally sitting on a tray of oil after they were out from the oven. The skin side was very crispy but not the meat side. For the whole fish, I did a little improvisation. I first lined my roasting pan with foil, to help in easy cleaning, before placing the rack inside the pan. I then cut a sheet of baking paper, that fits just nicely over the rack. The baking paper prevents the fish from sticking onto the rack and I won't have the tough job of scrubbing the rack later (you could use foil too, but I try not to have my food come into direct contact with aluminum foil). To allow the oil to drip down the rack, so that the fish would not be swimming in its own oil, I cut random small holes on the baking paper. All you need to do is to hold the paper a few times, and snip off small corners on the folds.

With my limited knowledge, I have always thought that cutting slits on fish helps it to cook faster, gets it cooked through and also for it to be well marinated. But for grilling saba fish, I learned that the slits also help prevent the skin from 'bursting' or 'shrinking' as it cooks in the oven. So this is a step that one shouldn't over look.

The mackerels were only lightly seasoned with salt and pepper, nothing else. I set the oven to the grill or is it broil(?) function...that is, top heat with fan mode. The fishes are cooked on high heat so that the skin is crispy but the inside is cooked through but moist and juicy. Never over cook saba as it tends to turn dry rather quickly.

Gorgeous grilled mackerels from my oven! I would probably end up with a plate of torn and tattered fishes if I were to pan fry them in the wok ;)

I was pleasantly surprised at how moist and juicy the mackerels had turned out. It reminds me of the grilled mackerels we had in Seoul.  My kids and I had a great time enjoying our long dinner...we cleaned up the mackerels from head to tail...even my younger child enjoyed eating the fish head and found it amusing feeding his brother with the fish eye...his way of showing his affections towards his brother ;) The only downside was, mackerels have got lots of fish bones! I had to keep reminding them to be careful and not to talk when eating the fish. You bet, this dish is going to be a regular on our dinning table. Never mind that my cooking skills hardly improves, such simple and easy meal is the way to go, for me.

Oven Grilled Mackerel


whole mackerels
salt (I use sea salt)
grounded black pepper
some olive oil
lemon or lime wedges


  • Clean and rinse the fish and pat dry with kitchen paper towels. Cut several slits on both sides (do not cut through). Rub some salt inside the fish and on the skin. Set aside for about 30 minutes. The salt will draw out some of the fishy taste.
  • Set oven to Grill or Broil function and preheat to 200 degC.
  • Rinse the fishes again. Pat dry thoroughly with paper towels.  
  • Lightly rub skin with a little olive oil (just to prevent sticking). Lightly sprinkle some salt and freshly grounded black pepper on both sides. 
  • Set the fish on a baking tray lined with foil (lightly oil the foil), or on the rack of a roasting pan (line the pan with foil and brush the rack with oil, or line the rack with parchment paper as described above).
  • Cook fish (place it at a higher rack position, nearer to the top heat) in preheated oven for 10~12 mins, turning once in between. Do not overcook. Transfer fish to a serving plate and serve immediately with lemon or lime wedges. 


PH said...

I am sure you are a good cook! The mackerels were nicely done. I must try your technique next time. And of course I will eat my grilled mackerel with my favourite smelly condiment - budu :)

Bakericious said...

HHB, I love fuss free cooking too but cos my mil is a good cook so sometimes have to look into more complicated cooking to please my family's tummy lol. Me and husband love this fish, really yummy!

Grace @ Perpetual Nomming said...

This is such a summer time food, I love it! When I used to go to Wisconsin in the summertime, I would have something similar to this. mmmm :)

Happy Homebaker said...

Hi Phong Hong, thanks for your kind comments! Hope this oven grilled method gives u the same result! I have not tried budu, sounds good to me!

Jess, I am lucky that my family members eat whatever I cook ;)

Hi Grace, thanks for hopping by! This is great for outdoor bbq during summer!

Recipictory said...

I also have limited skills when it comes to handling fish, but your experience makes it look easy. Might as well try this recipe on the weekend.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thanks hhb for this recipe. I did a bake frozen saba few weeks ago and i think i overcooked it, the meat was tough tho the skin was crispy.

Thanks for the tips;) hope to see more of your cooking and baking:). have a blessed week ahead.


The Experimental Cook said...

Saba is really great grilled. No fuss and great taste. The observation about slitting the skin is spot on. Thanks!

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Elena said...

I like fish, I even eat five times a week..

Kayvene McJannett said...

Tried this tonight - it was perfect! I ate it with mashed green bananas - yummy. Thank you!