Branzino is a mild white fish that is popular in Italian cuisine and is usually roasted whole and served with lemon. Also called European bass, the fish is showing up on menus around the country and the world as chefs and diners enjoy branzino’s sweet, flaky meat.
The branzino is a white saltwater fish that thrives in the Mediterranean, although the population has declined over the years due to overfishing. The fisheries in their native region have taken branzino into farming to help prevent overfishing.
Branzino has many names, from cap mouth and sea perch to loup de mer and “king of mullets”, although most of the time it is called branzino or European sea bass. Outside of its native Mediterranean, branzino can be found in the Atlantic Ocean east from Norway to Senegal, as well as the Black Sea. Since it is a migratory species, the branzino travels south in warmer waters for the winter. This night-hunting fish grows up to three pounds, although most branzino you’ll see on the plate is closer to a pound or two—making it a perfect dish for two.
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How To Cook Branzino
Since branzino is on the smaller side and does not have large bones, it is a great fish to eat and cook by grilling, steaming, or baking. Fill the cavity with lemon and fresh herbs, and let it bake at 325F for about 25 minutes, then let it rest for 5 minutes before serving on a plate decorated with citrus slices and more fresh herbs.
If steaming, season the fish with plenty of freshly squeezed lemon juice and herbs or dried rub. Cooked fish can also be flaked in a dish before serving. Because it flakes in small pieces, branzino is a great fish to use in casseroles, stews, pasta, and other one-pot meals.
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What Does Branzino Taste Like?
Branzino is light and flaky with a mildly sweet flavor, unlike sea bass or halibut. The mildness helps provide the ingredients you mix with it, whether it’s Southeast Asian ingredients like lemongrass and chili, or a classic Mediterranean preparation with fennel and tomato.
Branzino Vs. Chilean Sea Bass
Chilean sea bass is not a bass at all, it is a Patagonian toothfish. Branzino, on the other hand, is actually a member of the Moronidae family, also known as “temperate bass”. Where branzino flavor proves mild and sweet with the ability to soak in, Chilean sea bass has a more meaty texture and clarified butter flavor. When it comes to substitutions, the two are not comparable in taste or texture – one is thick and substantial, and the other is mild and can be served whole.
Branzino can be easily substituted for most other fish, especially if the recipe calls for lighter, flaky white fish.
Where To Buy Branzino
You can find branzino under the name European bass. It is cultivated in various regions around the world, including New England. You can also buy wild-caught branzino, although it is becoming more difficult to find due to overfishing. Many local fish shops carry the whole branzino, and you can even see them in larger groceries that sell fresh fish. It is rare to find frozen branzino.
All fish should be refrigerated for up to two days, or wrapped tightly in plastic, for maximum freshness. Take the fish out to defrost a few hours before cooking time, or let it thaw in the fridge overnight.
Branzino is one of six species of the Moronidae family, which also includes the white perch, yellow bass, white bass, and striped bass. All varieties of temperate bass are treated as game fish and have similar tastes and textures.