Cooking Frozen Salted Mackerel
Its name denotes simplicity, but also belies its complexity. A common side dish in Japan, where it’s called “sabo shio,” and a popular street food in Korea, where it goes by “godeungeo gui,” the dish consists of salted, skin-on mackerel fillets grilled over a high flame or fried in a hot pan to give it crackling, crispy skin that pairs beautifully with its moist, fatty meat.
Since it’s partially cured, you only have to cook it long enough to heat it through, which happens in about the same amount of time it takes the skin to render into crisp deliciousness.
Things You’ll Need
- Paper towels
- Kitchen knife
- Squirt bottle of water
How to Cook with Frozen Salted Mackerel
Take the mackerel out of the freezer and place it on a plate in the fridge to thaw for a few hours.
Set up the grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat after the mackerel thaws. If you have a gas grill, set the burners to medium-high, close the lid and let it heat for about 15 minutes.
If you have charcoal, light a chimney starter of natural, lump charcoal and dump it on the charcoal tray when it ashes over. Spread the charcoal out in an even layer. Throw a few pieces of hardwood on the charcoal for a smoking effect, if desired. Close the grill and let it heat for about 10 minutes.
Take the mackerel out of its wrapping and pat it dry on all sides with paper towels. You don’t need to salt the mackerel; it’s well-seasoned as-is, but you can add spices, if desired.
Cut a few diagonal slashes across each side of the mackerel just through the skin to prevent it from curling during cooking. Space each slash about 3/4 inch apart.
Coat the mackerel with a thin layer of oil, just enough to prevent it sticking on the grill. Scrap the grill grates clean with a long-handled grill brush and tap the grates to shake off the carbon.
Place the mackerel on the grill, spacing each piece about 2 inches apart. Leave the cover open as it cooks.
Grill the mackerel on each side until the skin crackles golden brown and the fish heats through, about three or four minutes each side. Keep a squirt bottle of water close by if you have any extreme flare ups you need to tame. Turn the mackerel over after the first side browns and crisps using a spatula.
Thaw, dry and slash the mackerel as you would for grilling. Heat a few tablespoons of oil or a combination of oil and butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat. You want the oil to snap and pop when you lay the mackerel in it, which comes from a combination of the last bits of moisture evaporating and the skin crisping.
Fry the macks until golden brown on both sides, about eight minutes total. Turn the fish only once using a spatula.
Remove the mack from the pan and place it on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Blot the top of the macks with paper towels to absorb extra oil, which makes the skin crispier.
You can check the internal temperature of the mackerel by taking it off the grill or out of the pan and inserting a meat thermometer through the side. Fully cooked mackerel has an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.