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Fire Roasted Whole Branzino

fire roasted whole branzino on a pan with roasted cherry tomatoes

I have a genuine love-hate relationship with fish. Some fish I love, others I just can’t stand because, well—they taste like fish. Odd right? That a fish would taste like a fish? In any case, I’m all about the lighter tasting fish, but the fishy fish, nooo thanks.

Enter whole roasted branzino, which doesn’t taste fishy at all. For me, that is a good thing. In fact, its light, flaky body takes on flavor very well, and this fresh fish with lemon, rosemary, and thyme is quickly becoming a favorite around casa de seeker.

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You can find branzino recipes online, all using the oven of course, and those are great. Today, though, we’re not only going to take advantage of fresh herb and citrus notes, but also the subtle but definitely present flavor the grill brings to it. We’re including cherry tomatoes, and you may want to make an entire batch of roasted tomatoes—they are a treat on sandwiches, salads, and pretty much everything.

Before we get into the recipe, I’ll answer a few often asked questions about branzino fish, and then offer a few tips for cooking it on the grill.

Whole fish, stuffed with lemon and rosemary and tied closed with twine.

Are Branzino and Chilean Sea Bass the Same?

No. Chilean Sea Bass isn’t even a bass actually, and if you’ve ever seen a picture of one, you’d probably have wished you hadn’t. Clever marketing put it on the map. Chilean Sea Bass has a much nicer ring to it than Patagonian Toothfish. Branzino fish on the other hand is a member of the bass family, sometimes called European Sea Bass.

They are also very different flavor profiles. As I mentioned earlier, this fish is very light, almost sweet even—and takes on the flavor from herbs and seasoning very well. Chilean Sea Bass is much hardier, with a more robust texture.

What’s The Difference Between Branzino and Branzini?

Nothing! They are the same. However, depending on what country you’re in, they are called different names. I’ve also heard some refer to more than one of these fish as branzini, like branzini is the plural version of the word. I’m no English teacher, but I’m pretty sure that’s not right.

Where to Buy Branzino

I’ve found the best source to find branzino is online. Some larger grocery store chains with extensive seafood sections have it on occasion, but availability can be inconsistent at best.

Tips For Roasting Branzino on the Grill

The Placement: The head “end” will cook slower than the tail end, so grill the fish with the head end towards the fire.

The Temperature: We’ll be roasting at two different temperatures, 425°F and 500°F. Be sure to remove the fish from the grill while it’s heating from 425° to 500°, or it will overcook.

The Flavor: If you want to kick this up even more, feel free to add a wood chunk to the coals and infuse some smoke. I recommend a mild wood like pecan as the fish takes smoke quickly and more intense woods will overpower it.

The Prep: If at all possible, have your fishmonger gut the fish and remove the scales. Neither are hard to do, but both are messy, and the scales get everywhere.

Fire Roasted Whole Branzino Recipe

Serves: 3 | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 20 minutes total

Ingredients
2-3 fresh whole branzino fish, cleaned and scaled
12 cherry tomatoes
5 lemons
6 sprigs rosemary
12 sprigs fresh thyme
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

How to Roast Branzino

Step 1: Light your grill and set up for two zone heating. Using a reliable leave-in thermometer, establish grill temperature at 425°F.

three silver fish on butcher paper, surrounded with lemon slices and rosemary

Step 2: Using a sharp knife, make three to five 1/4″ deep slices (oriented top to bottom and spaced evenly) on the side of each fish. Then flip the fish and make an equal number of slices on the other side. Evenly coat the inside and outside of all three fish with olive oil. Make sure the oil penetrates the slices. Season with salt and pepper, both inside the cavity and on the skin.

Step 3: Slice two lemons into 9 slices. Cut the remaining lemons in half and set aside.

Step 4: Stuff the cavity of each fish with three slices of lemon, two rosemary sprigs, and four sprigs of fresh thyme. 

fresh whole fish stuffed with lemon and thyme

Then, using butchers twine, tie the fish closed. Toss tomatoes in remaining olive oil and sea salt.

three whole fish tied together

Step 5: Place the fish and tomatoes on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan. Transfer to the grill over indirect heat. Close the grill’s lid and allow to roast for 10-12 minutes.

three fish and cherry tomatoes on sheet pan lined with parchment paper, ready to grill

Step 6: Remove the pan from the grill. Then quickly stoke the coals to raise the grill’s temperature to 500°F. Return the pan to the indirect heat zone of the grill. Next, place the lemon halves cut-side down over the direct heat zone of the grill. Close the lid and allow to roast for 5 minutes.

partially cooked fish and tomatoes rest in a sheet pan while grill is stoked to higher temperature

Step 7: Remove fish from the grill and serve with charred lemons (for juice), your favorite veggies, rice, or chimichurri.

fire roasted whole branzino on a wood plank with roasted tomatoes, lemons and chimichurri

fire roasted whole branzino on a pan with roasted cherry tomatoes

Fire Roasted Whole Branzino

5 from 9 votes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 3

Ingredients

  • 2-3 fresh whole branzino fish, cleaned and scaled
  • 12 cherry tomatoes
  • 5 lemons
  • 6 sprigs rosemary
  • 12 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt to taste
  • fresh cracked pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Light your grill and set up for two zone heating. Using a reliable leave-in thermometer, establish grill temperature at 425°F.
  • Using a sharp knife, make three to five 1/4″ deep slices (oriented top to bottom and spaced evenly) on the side of each fish. Flip the fish, and make an equal number of slices. Evenly coat the inside and outside of all three fish with olive oil, ensuring the oil penetrates into the slices in the sides of the fish. Season with salt and pepper, both inside the cavity and on the skin.
  • Slice two lemons into 9 slices. Cut the remaining lemons in half and set aside.
  • Stuff the cavity of each fish with three slices of lemon, two rosemary sprigs, and four sprigs fresh thyme. Then, using butchers twine, tie the fish closed. Toss tomatoes in remaining olive oil and sea salt.
  • Place the fish and tomatoes on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan, and transfer to the grill over indirect heat. Close the grill’s lid and allow to roast for 10-12 minutes.
  • Remove fish from the grill and quickly stoke coals to raise the grill’s temperature to 500°F. Return fish to the indirect heat zone of the grill, and place the lemon halves cut-side down over the direct heat zone of the grill. Close the lid and allow to roast for 5 minutes.
  • Remove fish from the grill and serve with charred lemons (for juice), your favorite veggies, rice, or chimichurri.

Notes

I have a genuine love-hate relationship with fish. Some fish I love, others I just can’t stand because, well—they taste like fish. Odd right? That a fish would taste like a fish? In any case, I’m all about the lighter tasting fish, but the fishy fish, nooo thanks.
Enter whole roasted branzino which doesn’t taste fishy at all. For me, that is a good thing. In fact, its light, flaky body takes on flavor very well, and this fresh fish with lemon, rosemary, and thyme is quickly becoming a favorite around casa de seeker. 

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