I was recently fortunate enough to be invited to go on a fishing trip with tv and radio host Ronnie Kovach, which I wrote about over at our outdoors blog, Greene Adventures. We had a great time out there, and hit on a large school of barracuda that were a lot of fun to catch, fighting like hell, and looking impressive when you brought them on board, with each fish yielding an average of two full pounds of meat, in two long boneless fillets!
The problem is, I had always heard that barracuda was a garbage fish, sort of like the carp of the sea, and really not worth eating. In fact, if you Google “barracuda recipes”, you will find a lot of negativity out there about eating this fish, including the classic joke recipe that I have heard over the years for carp, coots (mud ducks), and now barracuda: “1. Season carp/coot/barracuda with salt and pepper 2. Place on a cedar plank 3. Grill or bake for 45 minutes 4. Throw away carp, coot/barracuda 5. Eat plank.”
But as a guy who likes to cook and grill and smoke and write about it here later, I really wanted to try to eat it, even if only to report back on what a disaster it was! I asked our host and his sidekicks if they ate it and if so, how, and they insisted that it was really good smoked. As you may guess from my past posts, that was music to my ears! They said because it was an oily fish (like salmon), it stood up well to a smoker without drying out, and also absorbed the flavors well. It was also recommended that when I had the crew dudes fillet my fish, that I have them leave the skin on, to put on the grill grate while cooking. They didn’t have a specific marinade recipe, but they said it was basically soy sauce and brown sugar, so I figured I could figure it out for myself when I got home.
I was still a bit nervous, because other than smoked salmon, campfire trout, and fish tacos, I really am not a huge cooked fish fan, especially of “fishy fish”, and the online negativity had me worried, but I was really pleasantly surprised! It was definitely not a mild white fish flavor, but it was not very different from the taste of smoked salmon, and while I had heard barracuda turns to mush when it is cooked, the texture was somewhere between smoked salmon (which I love) and cooked tuna (which I don’t).
While I don’t know if I would ever buy barracuda in a fish market, it was certainly good enough that the next time I am out fishing and barracuda are being caught by the bushel like they were the day we were out there, I will not only keep my own fish, but encourage others to keep theirs as well (way too many guys on the boat just dumped their barracuda).
Note: We ate it as a main course, with our roasted broccoli and wild rice on the side, but I think you could easily substitute it for salmon in our superb smoked salmon dip as well. For more info on smoking meats, see my primer here.
- 2 one pound boneless barracuda fillets, skin on
- ½ cup low sodium soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp ground ginger
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic
- Mix marinade ingredients into resealable plastic bag, squeeze or shake to mix.
- Add barrracuda fillets to bag, one to two hours before ready to smoke.
- Fire up coals for smoker 30 minutes before ready to smoke
- Add barracuda to smoker grill
- Add wood chunks/chips (I used hickory, but pecan would be good as well) to fire box or charcoal.
- Smoke about an hour at about 225 degrees. Should break/flake when bent if it is done.