Sea bass became popular in UK cuisine in the 1990s, thanks to promotion by TV celebrity chefs and grocers. It was around this time that commercial sea bass farming began to boom. And this made stock more readily available and less pricey.
Today, mainland Europe and the UK are still very big markets for sea bass. In the UK alone we consumed over 5,000 tonnes of it in the 12 months ending June 2022!
But aside from its accessibility, what else about this fish makes it a favourite in many kitchens throughout the UK? Why do we love sea bass?
Sea Bass Basics
The European sea bass is a slim, silver-colored fish with large, hard scales and two fins on its back. It has 8 or 9 big spines on the front dorsal fin (which are not poisonous) and sharp gill covers.
This species is native to the Northeast Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and around the coasts of the UK. They travel between shallow coastal waters during the summer where they breed and deeper waters in winter months. They feed on shrimp, mollusks, squid, and smaller fish like herring and sandeel.
After many decades of overfishing wild sea bass, a lot of efforts are now underway to make this fish more sustainable. Today much of the European sea bass we have in the market are farmed varieties from the Mediterranean.
Farmed sea bass are raised in floating cages or net pens in seawater. They are harvested after 1.5 to 2 years when they weigh about 300 to 500 grams each and are about 40-50 cm long.
Other “Sea Bass”
There are a couple of other popular varieties of “sea bass” which you might confuse with the European sea bass:
- Black sea bass is a species found in the Atlantic coast of the US that has black and white markings. It is a lean white fish with a delicate taste and unique small flakes. The low-fat content makes it easy to overcook.
- Chilean sea bass is often (mistakenly) called the most delicious type of bass. It is actually a grey or brown toothfish found in South American and Antarctic waters. Its white flesh has a rich flavour due to its higher fat content. This fish is also prone to overfishing due to their long reproduction cycles.
This is why it is a good idea to buy whole sea bass or with skin on so you can be sure what species you are getting. Not all “sea bass” are the same!
Sea Bass Flavour and Cooking
A Not-Too-Fishy Fish
Like many white fish, the European sea bass has a mild and delicate flavour. This makes it easy to cook with and appreciate. The taste has a subtle sweetness, like grouper or cod. But it also has a “meatier” quality than other fish and can take on or absorb bolder flavours.
If you are sensitive to “fishy” tasting seafood (like anchovies or sardines), give sea bass a try.
Click Here to Buy Sea Bass Fillets
In spite of this being a lean fish, the meat is moist, buttery, and firm, with medium-sized flakes. Because of its mild flavour and firm texture, the sea bass holds up well with many different cooking methods. It also works well with many types of cuisine.
The usual herbs and seasonings are fennel, lemon, dill, sage, rosemary and thyme. But don’t be afraid to use ginger, lemongrass or soy sauce. Sea bass works well with stronger flavour profiles like Thai, Chinese, or other Asian cuisines.
Whole Sea Bass
Cooking fish whole with skin and bones locks in more flavour and moisture. Just remember to remove the guts and gills as they can leave a bitter taste.
You can bake the whole sea bass in salt, barbecue, or roast it. Baking with a salt crust is one way to seal moisture so the fish remains tender and flavourful. If you barbecue or roast in the oven, wrap the fish in foil to prevent the fish from drying out.
For oven-roasting, a cook time of anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes is recommended at about 200⁰ Celsius. When cooked, the flesh is firm, flaky, and white.
Filleted Sea Bass
Sea bass fillets must be carefully pin-boned, and you can remove the skin or leave it on. These are tender, thinner pieces of fish but they do well with pan frying, grilling, or even deep frying. Just be mindful of cooking time so you don’t burn or dry out your fillets. Of course gentler cooking methods such as steaming, poaching, and cooking en-papillote work very well too.
Pan-frying is a popular (and easy) method of cooking sea bass fillets. Leave the skin on as it provides a great texture and flavour. Fry the skin side for about 3-4 minutes and the flesh side for another 1 minute. You can then pair it with different types of sauces and salads.
You can even whip up a Mexican-inspired sea bass dish. Pan-fried fillet with a stew and rice makes a hearty, complete meal.
You can order fresh sea bass fillets here.
Heart Healthy Eating
The sea bass is lean and non-oily which is great for those watching their caloric and total fat intake. It also has some omega-3 fatty acids which are good for heart health and prevent many other diseases.
|Nutrition Facts||Per 100 gram serving|
|Total fat||8.80 grams|
|Saturated fat||1.24 grams|
|Omega 3 fatty acids||1.73 grams|
How To Order
Are you inspired to put some sea bass on the menu this week?
Click here to order the whole fish
Click here to order the fillets