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Smoked Mackerel

Smoked mackerel

Other Names: Common or Atlantic mackerel, Spanish mackerel, tinker mackerel, Pacific mackerel, king mackerel, kingfish

Range & Habitat: Most species are harvested off the Atlantic coasts of Europe and North America; there is a Pacific variety as well.

Identification & Biology: There are many species of mackerel; most are iridescent bluish-green in color with dark horizontal stripes. Common (a.k.a. Atlantic) and tinker mackerel weigh 1 to 2 lbs. on average, while Spanish and king mackerel tend to be somewhat larger.

Market Description: The firm, dark flesh of the mackerel is fatty and rich with a strong, sweet flavor. The high fat content of the meat should not deter you–most of this is “good” fat rich in Omega-3 oils; only a trace amount is of the cholesterol variety. Mackerel is a scaleless fish; the skin is edible.

Sold as: Whole, steaks, fillets; smoked, salted

Buying tips: An oily fish, mackerel does not freeze well; it’s best purchased fresh from the sea. Look for bright, iridescent skin (the fish tends to lose its shimmer soon after the catch–the extent to which the skin has faded should give you a sign of how long the fish has been sitting in the market). It should smell fresh and of the sea.

Recommended Preparation: It’s a good idea to complement the rich, fatty meat with acidic ingredients like citrus- or tomato-based sauces or marinades. You can do almost anything with mackerel–the firm flesh broils, grills, bakes, poaches, and sautés nicely. It can also be minced and used as the base ingredient for Thai-style fish cakes. *When using salted mackerel, soak it overnight in cool water to reduce the saltiness.

Substitutes: Bluefish, butterfish, mahi-mahi, pompano, striped bass, tuna

Available in: Year Round


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