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See also: King Mackerel - Spanish Mackerel - Mackerel Recipes

Excerpt from:
The Ethical Gourmet by Jay Weinstein

Wild Both dark-fleshed Atlantic mackerel and its light-fleshed cousin, Spanish mackerel (also harvested in U S waters, despite its name), are fish lovers' fishes. Bristling with lush oceanic savonness, they have a delectable combination of star quality flavor and meltingly tender texture thanks to their abundant fish oils. Atlantic mackerel is more assertive, prized by Japanese sushi chefs for its distinctive personality. Spanish mackerel's milder flavor makes it a good "introductory mackerel" for uninitiated tasters of this abundant species.

Like bluefish, mackerel needs to be uncompromisingly fresh to exhibit its stellar qualities. While you'll have a few days' leeway with white-fleshed fishes and large tunas, oily, dark fleshed fishes lose their fresh taste extremely quickly, and can take on a strong "fishy" taste. When people say they don't like this fish, it's probably because they've experienced second-day mackerel. When fresh, its meat, though darker than cod or tilapia, isn't dark gray It's off-white Its color deepens as it sits.

Match power with power Intense soy based marinades, zesty tomato sauces, and complex Mexican moles pair beautifully with mackerel. Light, delicate butter sauces that would work perfectly with milder fish disappear on the palate next to this bold taste. Once you've tasted my favorite way to cook fresh mackerel—with a sweet-salty miso and sesame marinade—you'll become a believer, too. Mackerel is one of the few fish I feel benefits from grilling. Its bold flavor is the perfect foil for the smoky taste imparted by the grill. It also stands up to zesty barbecue sauce marinades and bastes.


Mackerel fillet easily. Their skin, cleaned of scales, is deliciously edible, and adds another silky texture to this tender fish. Many recipes call for wrapping the whole fish or fillet in foil before cooking. What they don't tell you is that this fish's skin is very delicate, and tears easily. You should grease the foil before wrapping it around skin-on mackerel. A better choice, both culinanly and environmentally, is simply to cook mackerel in a covered casserole or roaster.

When grilling mackerel, make sure the grill is seasoned to nonstick perfection, and brush the fish with oil before it goes on. Or, to ensure faultless mackerel grilling, use a specially designed grill basket for fish, which allows you to cook the fish over the grill, without it actually touching the grill itself. Since mackerel are small, usually only a pound apiece, watch carefully to avoid overcooking. Properly cooked mackerel is highly juicy. It has two kinds of meat, a lighter colored meat on the bones, and a darker, redder meat near the skin. Both are excellent to eat.

Two Atlantic species, King mackerel and Spanish mackerel, mature quickly and reproduce prolifically. Stocks are considered abundant in both species. They are a recommended choice by Environmental Defense, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Blue Ocean Institute. King mackerel caught in the Gulf of Mexico, however, are recovering from a long period of overfishing, and are a significant bycatch of the shrimp industry there. Gulf mackerel should be avoided.

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