Grilled Branzino with Fennel, Lemon, and Shallot


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Ruhlman's Twenty

By Michael Ruhlman

Published 2011

  • About

Grilling is a great technique for whole fish and fish on the bone. The bone keeps the meat very moist and succulent. The high heat of the grill dehydrates the skin, crisping and browning it, and the fruit and vegetables stuffed in the fish help, along with the bones, to keep the flesh moist. I recommend serving the fish with the Sautéed Summer Squash, including in the mix the fennel not used for stuffing the fish. Or accompany the fish with potatoes poached until tender, halved, and stirred with fresh thyme, parsley, and chives and plenty of butter, plus a shaved fennel salad. It’s a good idea to serve a wedge of lemon on the side as well. For those who don’t like skin, consider setting out a bowl for the skin and bones; most of the bones in this mild, flavorful fish peel right out.

Branzino, a European sea bass, is also an excellent fish to roast whole in a very hot oven, 450°F/230°C/gas 8 (convection if you have it), prepared as below but simply set on a preheated baking sheet/tray.


  • 1 fennel bulb with fronds
  • Fine sea salt
  • 4 branzino, scales, gills, and pectoral fins removed (each will be 10 to 12 inches/25 to 30.5 centimeters long and a little under 1 pound/455 grams.)
  • 8 thin lemon slices
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • Olive oil


Prepare a very hot fire in a grill, using enough coals to grill all the fish over direct heat.

Remove the fronds from the fennel to use for stuffing the fish. Halve the bulb and cut eight thin slices, also for stuffing the cavity. Lightly salt the fish cavities. Stuff two lemon slices, two fennel slices, the fennel fronds, and some shallot in each fish. (If you’re concerned about the garnish falling out when you turn the fish, secure it with two toothpicks.) Rub both sides of the fish with olive oil. Sprinkle both sides with salt.

Rub the grill rack with oil and lay the fish on the rack. Cook until the skin is browned, about 4 minutes. Turn the fish, being careful not to let the stuffing fall out. Cover the grill and cook until the fish is warm in the center. An instant-read thermometer inserted high into the cavity against the spine should read about 140°F/60°C. (The fish, thanks to the bones, can rest for 5 minutes or so while you finish any side dishes, and will remain hot and moist.) Remove and discard the stuffing before serving the fish.

  1. Mise-en-place for branzino.

  2. Stuff the fish with aromatics.

  3. When browned on one side, flip the fish.

  4. Remove and discard the stuffing before serving the fish.