If you’ve spent much time in an American family’s home, you’ve likely heard at least one person sing the praises of a barbecue or grill. Grilling is a prized part of American cooking culture and usually involves meat. But today, we’ll be looking at one of the most deliciously underrated fish out there: branzino. We’ll go through what branzino is, how to clean and prepare grilled whole branzino, how to grill branzino, and even what to serve it with.
So if you’re curious about ways to mix up your grilling and smoking game, read on to learn more.
Table of Contents
What type of fish is branzino?
Branzino is also known as the European Sea Bass. This ocean-going fish is native to the waters of the European western and southern coast, Africa’s northern coasts, and many shallow coastal waters and rivers in the summer. The branzino fish is one of just six species in the Moronidae family, which are collectively known as the temperate basses.
Branzino is fished and raised commercially and is extremely popular in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Mediterranean. Branzino is lean and long, with plenty of silver scales, weighing about 2 lbs. As a cuisine, branzino has flaky, white flesh and is prized for its delicate taste. In terms of flavor, branzino is often compared to halibut and sea bass.
You’ll often find this fish served whole with lemons in high-end restaurants in Europe and across the US. You may also be able to find wild-caught branzino, but overfishing means that it’s becoming harder to find, so buy farmed branzino when you can.
How to Choose the Perfect Branzino for Grilling
Depending on whereabouts in the country you’re living, you might be able to find branzino at your local grocery store or fishmongers. Branzino is farmed across the country, particularly in Connecticut.
Freshness is important when choosing the perfect branzino. You can determine whether your branzino is fresh by smelling it. Your fish should smell like the ocean and shouldn’t have any strong or unpleasant odors, particularly a mild-tasting fish like branzino. An ideal fish has firm flesh, shiny eyes, and red gills.
As for size, the perfect branzino should comfortably feed two people, so look out for a 2lb fish if you’re feeding yourself and another person. Flavor-wise, branzino’s naturally mild taste makes it the perfect protein to mix with fusion flavors like Italian oregano and tomato or Thai chilies and lemongrass.
How to Clean and Cut a Whole Branzino
Here’s a step-by-step guide to gutting, cleaning, and cutting a whole branzino:
- Firstly, remove the fins. If you’re not confident using a knife for this, you can use a pair of scissors to cut them off. Do the same with the gills, making sure nothing is left loose.
- Make an incision starting about ⅓ of the way down the fish, cutting up the middle of the fish.
- Remove the innards with your hands, using gloves if you prefer.
- If there are any bits of flesh hanging off, give your fish a rinse.
- Cut off the head, following the direction of the gills. If there’s any residual blood, simply wipe it away with a paper towel.
- Run your knife down the fish spine, removing the bone entirely. When you reach the tail, chop it off in a straight line so that the tail is removed too.
- Pick away any remaining bones, either using your hands or with tweezers (just be sure to wash them thoroughly before using them on your eyebrows!)
Equipment and Ingredients for Grilled Whole Branzino
Now that you know all about the mighty branzino fish, it’s time to think about how you’re going to cook it. We’ve put together a list of everything you’ll need for a grilled whole branzino:
Equipment & Grill Accessories
If you’re new to grilling fish, our Wood-Fired Chef Bundle is just what you need. Here’s what comes in this set:
- Natural bamboo cutting board
- Heat-resistant grill mat
- Bear paw shredder claws for chicken, pork, and fish
- 12-inch barbecue grill cleaning brush
- Stainless Steel pestle and mortar
- Semi-automatic stainless steel whisk
- Pepper grinder
- Four-piece stainless steel wood flatware set
To make a delicious grilled branzino fish, the most basic ingredients you’ll need are oil, salt, and fresh lemon. We’ll go into more details and share full recipes below, but at its most fundamental, these three ingredients are all you’ll need.
What are the best wood pellets for your smoker when grilling branzino?
When cooking any fish, you can really choose any type of pellet you prefer. Oak pellets are the most versatile and are a good go-to, but don’t be afraid to try whatever you have to hand, provided they’re quality hardwood pellets.
Best Pellet Grill Smoker for Grilled Branzino
- If you’re looking for a top-rated pellet grill and smoker, the Pioneer 450B is the one for you. With easy-to-use digital controls and heavy-duty steel construction, the Pioneer 450B offers unmatched consistency and effortless cooking every time.
- Our Smoke Engine 550B2 is perfect if you love to grill and smoke but don’t have a lot of garden space. This grill infuses the signature wood-fired flavor you want from a grilled fish without smoking it too heavily.
- If you’re ready to take your grilling to another level, you have to get your hands on the Multitasker 11002B – this is the future of grilling and a must-have for those ready to take their grilling to the next level.
How to Grill a Whole Branzino on a Pellet Grill
We recommend you grill your branzino on an outdoor pellet grill for the best flavor:
- Heat your grill to about 450F, 500F if your grill can
- Transfer your branzino to the grill
- Allow it to cook for about 25-30 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 135-140F
- Transfer your fish to a plate, split open if you have not already, drizzle with lemon, and serve
What to Serve with Grilled Whole Branzino
As branzino is mild in flavor, you can get as creative with side dishes as you’d like. If you’re partial to an East Asian pallet, you can serve your grilled whole branzino with garlic and soy bak Choi and crispy potatoes. Similarly, if you’re a fan of Mediterranean cuisine, serve your branzino with a small portion of spaghetti in a creamy white wine sauce. For a simple fish dish, serve your branzino with a fresh gremolata on top.
Best Times and Temperatures for Grilled Whole Branzino
When cooking branzino fish you speed up the process with high heat or slow things down at a medium heat, being careful not to leave it on the grill for so long it dries out.
- Set your grill to 450F (500F if you can)
- Open the cavity and add a few slices of lemon plus the fresh thyme
- Lightly season the inside of the fish with salt and pepper
- Pat salt onto the outside of the fish
- Place the fish directly onto the grill grates and allow to cook until it reaches 135F inside (20-30 minutes)
- Serve immediately
Whether you’re an experienced grill master or want to take up a new hobby, barbecuing, grilling, and smoking is an extremely satisfying and practical ways to prepare meals. If your grill gives you lackluster results there’s no need to put up with it – we offer some of the best pellet grills on the market at affordable direct-from-manufacturer prices, so what are you waiting for? Click here to explore our deals now.