How to Shop For and Cook A Whole Fish

I am giving you all my tips for How to Shop For and Cook A Whole Fish! It’s way easier than you think and it’s a healthy and delicious way to feed a crowd!

A whole fish is something I love cooking! It may look intimidating but honestly it’s really, really easy to make. On our travels I see whole fish on the menu all the time. In fact, many times it’s the star of the show! However, I don’t see it as often at restaurants at home, so I wanted to recreate this dish! All you need are a few tips for purchasing the fish and some simple ingredients!

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How To Shop For A Whole Fish

When you are purchasing a whole fish there are few things you should look for to ensure you are getting the best possible fish. This applies to any whole fish you may be buying whether it be a Snapper, a Trout or any type of fish. These tips will help you identify a fresh fish that is perfect for cooking!

  • Clear Eyes- the eyes of the fish should be clear and not cloudy or murky looking.
  • Skin Should Bounce Back- if you press on the fish, the skin should bounce back not leave an indentation that lingers.
  • No Fishy Smell– ok, I know this sounds weird but the fish shouldn’t smell very fishy. It should smell like the sea and not have an overly stinky scent.
  • Scaled and Gutted– ask the fish monger to scale and gut your fish. This will make preparing the fish at home so much easier!


Tips For Talking With The Fish Monger

When you are purchasing the fish, I advise to always ask the fish monger what is fresh or what they recommend. The fish mongers always know what came in when and what is looking best that day. Let them help guide your fish purchasing. Just like you would talk to a sommelier about your wine preferences and what you would like to drink, do the same with the fish monger!

Watch the Video How To Cook A Whole Fish!


How To Prep A Whole Fish For Cooking In The Oven

This is how I prep my whole fish for cooking in the oven. It is the easiest way to cook a fish in my opinion and it always turns out delicious!

  • Remember to have your fish scaled and gutted at the market. If you forget, you’ll need to do this at home and it’s not pretty. I’ve scaled a fish at home and it gets really messy. I don’t recommend doing this at home.
  • Rinse the outside of the fish and pat dry with a paper towel.
  • Pre-heat the oven and prepare your baking sheet or pan. I recommend using a rimmed baking sheet or large casserole dish like a Pyrex.



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How to Shop For and Cook A Whole Fish

Serves 4-6


1 3-4lb whole fish

3-4 stalks of rosemary

3-4 stalks of oregano

3-4 stalks of thyme

1 lemon, sliced

1 orange sliced

4-6 garlic cloves, peeled

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoon olive oil




  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika and garlic powder with olive oil.
  3. Brush the fish all over with the olive oil mixture, inside and outside on both sides.
  4. Place fish onto prepared baking dish. Stuff the fish with the fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, garlic, lemon and orange slices. Make sure the garlic is stuffed all the way inside the fish so it will not burn.
  5. Bake fish for 20-25 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees.


How To Serve A Whole Fish

If you are wondering how to serve a whole fish, I recommend serving it just like this on a beautiful platter! Yes, there are bones you need to be careful of, so it would be best to help children to ensure there aren’t any bones in their portions.

When you prepare the fish this way, the flesh is surprisingly easy to be removed with just a spatula or spoon.

I love making a fish this way and serving it with warm tortillas and guacamole! It also goes perfectly with roasted veggies and a fresh salad!


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Natalie Paramore

The places I go, the things I do and what I eat.



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