When it comes to fishing, I was a late starter. I didn’t have my first fishing session until the age of 22. Maybe it was beginners luck, but that day was incredible. Snapper was literally jumping onto our hooks and no sooner had we pulled one in, another was waiting in line to be caught. I’ve only been fishing a few times since then and it’s never been anything like that.

I’ll never forget the taste of that snapper though – fresh out of the ocean and onto the grill. Store bought snapper isn’t always as fresh, but it still can provide for a fantastic meal. Whether you serve up tender fillets or impress the table with a whole fish on the plate, most will love your choice of protein.

So what does snapper taste like? It’s a good question to ask: there’s nothing worse than buying fish and grimacing at the flavor. This article will give you an understanding of the snapper flavor profile and what dishes it’s suited to. Let’s get started.

Introduction

Given the opportunity, red snapper can grow big. They’ve been known to reach 35 pounds; however, the ones you’ll find at the markets are usually around 5 pounds.

As the red snapper ages, it’s appearance changes. Up until they reach 4 pounds their shin in a metallic pink shade. As they continue to grow, the skin reddens, as do their eyes.

Snapper gets its name from teeth that look like they can do a lot of damage if provoked! They’re large and spiked looking. Thankfully they have no interest in humans when we’re in the water.

The red snapper’s flesh is a pink colour with streaks of yellow. This colour reduces in intensity when cooked but doesn’t turn completely white.

What does red snapper taste like?

Red snapper is a lean, firm textured fish that has a mild, slightly sweet flavor. It has a versatile flavor profile that pairs well with a range of ingredients.

Red Snapper

“Fishiness”

Very low. The opposite of a sardine.

Oiliness

Very low oil content. A light fish.

Texture

Firm yet delicate and moist.

So to summarise, snapper is a mild fish that is perfect for those new to seafood and those that don’t like an overly “fishy” fish. If you’re cooking for kids this is an excellent option.

What flavors complement snapper?

SeasoningSidesWine
GarlicSteamed vegetablesRose
Sea saltPastaPinot Noir
PaprikaRoast potatoesMerlot
OreganoFriesGamay
ThymeSaladsSchiava
BasilColeslawCarignan

5 tips to help you buy the best fish

  1. Avoid shonky fish sellers. The unscrupulous ones will market cheaper fish, like West Coast rockfish, as red snapper. Remember, the only fish that can be sold as red snapper is Lutjanus campechanus. You won’t forget that name will you?
  2. Buy your fish with skin on so that you can be sure that the fish in the bag is what you’re paying for. Red skin is what you need to be seeing.
  3. Clear eyes are a sign of fresh fish. Avoid the cloudy eyed version.
  4. Another method of spotting fresh fish is to look at the backbone – it needs to be bright, not dull in color.
  5. Fillets shouldn’t be browning and if you poke the fish, it should bounce back.

How to clean a snapper

How to cook snapper

There are plenty of options when it comes to cooking methods: Bake, steam, broil, grill or saute your fish.

Lemon Herb Snapper Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 lemons
  • 4 red snapper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F (220C) and line a baking tray with aluminium foil that’s been lightly sprayed with oil.
  2. Slice one of the lemons into 8 pieces and place them on the baking tray grouped in twos.
  3. Take the second lemon and grate the zest into a small bowl. Combine with butter and parsley and set aside.
  4. Carefully place a snapper fillet on top of each pair of lemon slices.
  5. Combine seasoning and sprinkle over the fish.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until just cooked through.
  7. Serve fish with lemon slices and topped with parsley butter.

Frequently asked questions

Is the red snapper called any other names?

Yes, alternative names include Caribbean Red Snapper, American Red Snapper and Mexican Snapper.

How do I store snapper?

Store red snapper in the fridge for 1-2 days in its original packaging (if bought from a store) or in an airtight container. Freeze snapper in plastic wrap or foil for up to 8 months.

If you’ve cooked the snapper, store in an airtight container for 2-3 days in the fridge.

Final words

Seafood can be a hit-and-miss protein. Form many, that fishy taste is too much for our pallet. Sardines or mackerel? No thanks! Red snapper is a far cry from those flavor packed, pungent fish commonly eaten in Europe. The flavor profile is mild and the texture is delicate.

This is a fish that’s loved by “fish eaters” and acceptable to those that aren’t big fans of eating fish. What I love about snapper is its versatility. It’s delicious with or without lots of seasoning and it’ll go with most sides. I love cooking these fish in a salt crust whole. The end result is a super moist fish that melts in your mouth.

Do you enjoy red snapper? What’s your preferred method of cooking it? Let me know on Facebook or Instagram.

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