Tips & Recipe: Cooking a Whole Fish

striped bass

striped bass

There’s something about the idea of cooking a whole fish that seems intimidating, but trust me, it’s actually very easy. I’ve found that I just need to dive in and try something new in the kitchen. Most of the time, it just takes walking through it once to get a new technique down. I was lucky enough to have Julie Robles by side as we prepped this fish together — anytime you can have a chef in your kitchen cooking with you is a great thing.

C’mon, try out this recipe for whole roasted striped bass and I promise you’ll realize how special, delectable and easy it is to prepare.

roasting whole fish

This is my favorite way to serve fish at a dinner party. It feels special to arrive at a table with a whole fish and then portion out servings to your guests. Let them be dazzled, you don’t need to confess how simple it is to make!

You can prep this dish in advance and then let it cook while you enjoy cocktails with your friends. Serve it along with this fresh and satisfying farro salad and your meal is complete.

Roasting time will vary depending on the size of your fish, it’s always good to ask your fishmonger what they recommend for cooking time.

Speaking of fishmonger, here are some of my tips for the fish market:

  • Ask for your fish to be scaled and gutted, have the fins removed.
  • Look for fish with clear eyes.
  • The fish should be firm to the touch. If you push in on the flesh with your finger it should bounce back. Don’t be bashful to ask them, they will appreciate your interest.
  • The gills shouldn’t be too dark.

Side note: If you’re going to skip this recipe and just order fish at a restaurant remember this tip– don’t order fish on a Sunday or Monday because the last fish delivery happens on Saturday. This is why many good sushi restaurants are closed on Mondays. 

garlic in fish

roasted fish

cutting fish roasted

roasted fish with lemon and parsley

Tips & Recipe: Cooking a Whole Fish

Oven Roasted Striped Bass

Serves 2 -3


2 ¼ to 2 1/2 pound striped bass

1 Meyer lemon, sliced

Fennel fronds, about three

2 cloves garlic, sliced into four slices each

4 thyme sprigs

2 bay leaves, fresh or 1 dry

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped


Preheat oven to 450. Place the pan that you are going to cook the fish on in the oven — it should be a nice roasting pan that will hold the entire fish comfortably.  Preheating the pan sears the fish nicely and it won’t stick to the pan when you remove it after cooking.


Stuff the fish with the fennel fronds, three or four slices of the lemon and the bay leaves and thyme. Score the fish four times on each side and slide the garlic pieces into the slits. This step imparts wonderful aromatics into the meat.


Drizzle olive oil over the fish and season with salt. If you want to prep this in advance, go up to this point and then store it in the fridge on a parchment lined cookie sheet until 30 minutes before you want to eat your meal. Bake for 23- 25 minutes (checking for doneness at about 20 minutes).


For serving: Place the fish on a large serving platter, reserving all of the juices from the roasting pan, pour them into a small pitcher. Cut gently along the backbone, separating the meat from the bone (use your fingers to lift the fish — you’ll feel a natural separation) and then run your knife behind the gill and under the belly – use the skeleton as your guide.  Remove the skin — it will be flaccid.


Using a fish spatula to help you remove the meat from the bones, portion out two fillets and scoop them off the bones and onto a serving dish.  Flip the fish over and repeat (the second side is a piece of cake). Drizzle the leftover juices reserved from the pan on the fillets. Also drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Garnish with leftover fresh lemon slices and chopped parsley.