Sea bass became known in UK cuisine in the 1990s, thanks to promotion by TV celebrity chefs and grocers. Yet today it is a very minor player in terms of total seafood we consume.
Let’s get to know the sea bass and find out why this may be the next great addition to your menu.
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.
Don’t confuse with other “Sea Bass”
There are a couple of other popular fish called “sea bass” which are different from the European sea bass we are talking about:
- 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
The taste is mild and not too fishy
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.
It is a good-sized fish for the home cook
Restaurateurs love the sea bass for the elegance of being able to serve a whole fish as one dish. A 300-500 gram fish could be prepared by a home cook as well, with a regular sized pans and ovens. It is a good-sized fish for those who want the fuller flavour of a whole fish in a manageable size. You can cook one for a solo meal, or a few to serve a bigger group.
Flavourful whole sea bass
Cooking fish whole with skin and bones locks in more 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, you can also 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. Try this lightly seasoned baked whole sea bass recipe with lemons and capers.
East to Cook Filleted Sea Bass
For those who might have less time for food preparation, sea bass also comes in fillets.
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.
A great fish for 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|
Sometimes certain seafood can get so popular to the point of extreme overfishing and unsustainable farming. In the UK, only 5 seafood (cod, salmon, tuna, haddock and shrimp) make up 80% of our total consumption. This means there is a lot of pressure on these marine life, especially the wild caught ones.
Introducing more variety into our protein selections can help reduce demand for particular seafood. Hopefully this allows wild populations to recover and eliminates the need for harmful farming practices.
So, add in some sea bass and other less popular seafood to your grocery list. Trying out different seafood is great not just for the taste buds and your health. It can benefit ourthe oceans too.
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