Named after a signature dark spot located behind the gill covers, the spot fish is slight in size but possesses a mild taste that lends itself to a variety of flavor profiles. Averaging 5 inches in length, the spot fish is typically sold whole and dressed, either fresh or frozen. Best prepared pan-fried or grilled, this fish works with basic seasonings for a simple dish, or you could go gourmet and drizzle it with a lovely white wine sauce.
Things You'll Need
- Paper towels
- Sharp knife
- Olive oil
Pan-Fried Spot Fish
Rinse the whole spot fish, including the inner cavity, under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. If desired, score the fish by making a few shallow slices with a sharp knife across the skin of the fish in a criss-cross pattern. Scoring allows the fish to cook more evenly by distributing the heat.
Heat a hearty drizzle of olive oil in a pan over medium to high heat. Season the fish inside and out with salt and pepper and dredge through flour or cornmeal until evenly coated. Add the fish to the pan once the oil shimmers with heat.
Saute the fish for 4 to 5 minutes per half inch, or 8 to 10 minutes per inch, flipping once halfway through cooking time. Remove the fish from the pan and serve immediately with a savory sauce, if desired.
Grilled Spot Fish
Rinse the whole fish, including the inner cavity, under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. If desired, score the fish by making a few shallow slices with a sharp knife across the skin of the fish in a criss-cross pattern. Scoring allows the fish to cook more evenly by distributing the heat.
Preheat your grill to medium. Rub the grill grates with olive oil to prevent the fish from sticking as it cooks.
Rub a small drizzle of olive oil on the outside of the fish and season with salt and pepper. If you would like, insert a bundle of fresh herbs like thyme or basil into the inside cavity.
Grill the spot fish for 4 to 5 minutes per half inch, or 8 to 10 minutes per inch, flipping once halfway through cooking time. Remove the spot fish from the grill and serve immediately with a savory sauce, if desired.
Tips & Warnings
- Create a simple white wine sauce by simmering wine with shallots until reduced by half. Add cream and simmer until the sauce thickens. Add desired seasonings such as salt, pepper and chives, then cook for an additional minute or two and serve spooned over the spot fish.
- When purchasing fresh fish fillets, make sure they have a fresh odor, firm texture and a moist appearance.
- When purchasing frozen fish fillets, make sure they are solidly frozen and don't have an odor. Do not purchase frozen fish fillets if there are any white, dark, icy or dry spots present.
- Consumption of undercooked fish can result in a foodborne illness. Insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the fish. When the thermometer reads 145 degrees Fahrenheit, it's done.
- Whole fish contains bones, so carefully remove the bones before eating, especially when serving to children.
- Virginia Seafood: Spot Fact Sheet
- The Washington Post: Pan-Fried Spots
- Fish & Shellfish: The Cook’s Indispensable Companion; James Peterson
- UDSA: Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart
- Bon Appetit: How to Grill a Whole Fish, Step by Step
- Photo Credit Thomas Jackson/Digital Vision/Getty Images