Fish Stock

Fish Fumet


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • yield:

    3 quarts

Appears in


By James Peterson

Published 1991

  • About

Fish stock, also called fish fumet, is normally prepared with bones and trimmings of lean flatfish such as sole and flounder. Oily varieties of fish, such as salmon and mackerel, should be avoided except when preparing red wine sauces. In areas where fresh fish is abundant (an increasingly rare occurrence), fish stock can be made with fresh baby whole fish rather than bones. Whether fish or fish bones are being used, it is essential they be impeccably fresh and that the fish stock be prepared within an hour or two from the time the fish is filleted. If the bones have a fishy or strong iodine smell, throw them out.

Fish skeletons should be thoroughly gutted (fishmongers do not bother gutting fish for fillets), and the gills should be removed. The bones should be soaked for a couple of hours in cold water to remove any traces of blood, which would discolor the stock. Never add the skin from fillets to a fish stock; the stock will turn gray. The vegetables used for the stock, as well as the bouquet garni, can be varied depending on the final use of the stock. Fennel branches add a lightness and freshness and are too often ignored in recipes for fish stock. In any case, since the cooking time is so short, the vegetables should be chopped fine.

If impeccably fresh ingredients are not available, it is often better to substitute court-bouillon or the cooking liquid from mussels or clams in sauces that call for fish stock. Remember that fish stock and fish sauces should smell and taste of the sea and should not be fishy.


assorted fish or fish bones 5 lb 2.5 kg
onion, 1 medium 8 oz 250 g
carrot, 1 medium 4 oz 125 g
celery, ½ stalk 2 oz 50 g
leeks, green parts only 1 bunch 1 bunch
butter 1 oz 30 g
fennel branches, sectioned 4 oz 125 g
garlic head, cut crosswise in half 1 1
cold water 3 qt 3 L
dry white wine 2 cups 500 ml
bouquet garni (1 bay leaf, 1 small bunch fresh thyme, 1 small bunch tarragon sprigs,1 bunch parsley, preferably with roots) 1 1


  1. Carefully smell and examine the fish or fish bones, checking for freshness. Remove the gills and pull out any roe or viscera from inside. There is often a vein containing blood running along the spinal column where the ribs join. This should be scraped with the tip of a paring knife so the blood can be washed away during soaking. Snap the bones over themselves so each skeleton is broken in two or three places. Soak the bones in cold water for an hour or two and transfer to a colander to drain.
  2. Peel and roughly dice the onion, carrot, and celery into ¼-inch (5 mm) cubes (they are cut small to cook quickly). Cut the leek greens into 1-inch (2.5 cm) lengths.
  3. Melt the butter in an 8-quart (8 liter) pot. Sweat the diced vegetables, leek greens, fennel, and garlic in the butter for 5 minutes, and then add the fish or bones. Stir the ingredients over medium heat for about 5 minutes more, until the bones turn white and start to smell appetizing.
  4. Add the water, just enough to come three-quarters up the sides of the bones. Pour in the wine. Gently bring the stock to a slow simmer.
  5. When the stock simmers, carefully skim off any fat and scum that float to the top. Add the bouquet garni. Continue gently simmering the stock for 20 minutes.
  6. Strain the stock through a fine chinois and let it cool in a plastic or stainless-steel container. If a perfectly clear fish stock is required, leave the stock undisturbed for an hour or two, then carefully draw the stock off the top with a ladle. The particles of fish, which are harmless, will have settled to the bottom. The remaining cloudy stock is perfectly acceptable and can be used for sauce finished with cream or for poaching liquid.