How to Cook California Yellowtail Fish


With its sweet, mild flavor and buttery, delectable texture, California yellowtail is ideal for grilling, broiling or pan-frying. Yellowtail typically averages lengths of 2 to 3 feet, which is why you'll usually find it already cut into serving-size portions. Whether you're lucky enough to score a tender, delicious collar or you're cooking fillets or steaks, you can serve a flavorful dish within about 30 minutes, depending on the cooking method you choose.

Things You'll Need

  • Salt and pepper
  • Additional seasonings (optional)
  • Cooking spray or oil
  • Spatula
  • Fork or knife

Grilling Fillets or Steaks

  • Season yellowtail fillets or steaks on boths side with salt and pepper. Marinate the fish for about one hour in your favorite marinade or a soy marinade made with soy sauce, dry sherry, fresh ginger and garlic.

  • Clean and preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Spray or oil the grates to keep the fish from sticking.

  • Grill the yellowtail for about 10 to 15 minutes per side or until the flesh is firm. The flesh should be opaque and easy to separate with a fork once it's done.

Pan-Frying California Yellowtail

  • Pour breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl or plate. Brush both sides of the yellowtail fillets with oil or aioli to coat it evenly.

  • Season the fish liberally with salt and pepper and/or your favorite spices and herbs. Press the yellowtail into the breadcrumbs to coat both sides.

  • Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add clarified butter or cooking oil to the pan. Lay the fillets in the pan once the butter or oil is hot enough to shimmer. Arrange the filets so that they aren't touching.

  • Cook the yellowtail for 5 minutes, flip the fillets and cook them for another 5 minutes. Test the fillets for doneness by inserting a knife into the meatiest part. If you can easily flake it, the fish is done and ready to serve.

Broiling Yellowtail Collars

  • Preheat the broiler. While the oven is heating, prepare the fish collar by rubbing salt into the skin.

  • Allow the salt to sit for a few minutes.

  • Rinse the salt off the collar and sprinkle it with a little more salt to season the fish. Place the yellowtail collar skin-side down on a baking sheet that's been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

  • Broil it for 5 to 7 minutes. Flip the fish so that the skin side is facing upward. Continue cooking the yellowtail for another 6 minutes, or until the skin is crisp and golden. Brush the fish collar with olive oil. Alternatively, drizzle it with a citrus-infused soy sauce before serving it.

Tips & Warnings

  • The process of salting the skin removes the strong, fishy-flavored slime from it, leaving you with a milder, more pleasant flavor.
  • Serve cooked California yellowtail with a flavorful sauce on the side. Although the fish itself has a delicate, distinct taste, it's also well suited to pairing with bold flavors such as such as citrus butter, pickled onions or Asian-influenced sauces made with chilies, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and scallions.

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