How to cook sea bass

In this handy guide, we will take you through the best ways to prepare, cook and enjoy sea bass at home...

How to cook sea bass
(Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

From oven baking to en papillote, here are the best ways to cook sea bass including how to prepare and our top tips too.

Sea bass is a white fish with a firm texture and a sweet and subtle flavour. It has been a common feature on restaurant menus for the past decade but is very simple to cook at home. Sea bass works particularly well with sweet flavours like roasted vegetables or with an acidic element like vinegar or lemon juice. However, a good rule of thumb is to let the bass be the star of the plate and to serve it simply with a good sauce and a side of lentils or boiled potatoes.

Due to its popularity sea bass is very easy to source. It is available in almost all supermarkets, even the smaller ones, and can also be found at your local fishmonger. When buying lookout for clear eyes, shiny and intact skin, and bright red gills.

How to pan-fry sea bass How to bake sea bass Cooking sea bass: en papillote How to cook a whole sea bass How to prepare sea bass Storing leftover sea bass  Our best sea bass recipes

How to cook sea bass fillet

How to pan-fry sea bass

The best way to make the most out of the flavour and texture of this delicate fish is by pan-frying it.

  1. Use a kitchen towel to dry the excess moisture off the fillet. Season both sides generously with salt. Bring a nonstick pan up to high heat, add a thin layer of neutral oil, like sunflower oil, to the pan and let it heat up for a minute.
  2. Add the fillet, skin side down, to the pan, and use a spatula to press down on it lightly, to push the fillet into the hot fat.
  3. Leave it to cook for 3-4 minutes until the skin is golden and very crispy, then carefully flip it over and cook the other side for a further 30 seconds - 1 minute.
  4. Remove it from the pan and place it on a kitchen towel to absorb excess oil and keep that crispy skin.

How to cook sea bass

How to bake sea bass

Cooking sea bass in the oven is a great fuss-free method. Coat the sea bass in a marinade of your choice. Great marinades for sea bass are tamarind and brown sugar, olive oil, lemon, and thyme or soy sauce, honey, and ginger.

  1. Marinade the sea bass a couple of hours before you want to cook it, or you could do it the day before.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200C, Gas 6. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and lay the sea bass fillets on top.
  3. Place in the oven for 6-8 mins. Serve with rice or potatoes.

How to cook sea bass en papillote

Cooking fish in paper - or en papillote as it is known is a traditional method of cooking fish. You create a little parcel out of baking parchment which you then place the fish in and roast in the oven.

It is a brilliant method because it keeps the fish very tender, due to all the steam that is generated, and you can add flavourings as well as other ingredients - to create a whole meal. For example add diced sweet potato, tender stem broccoli, and the sea bass to baking parchment along with some curry paste and coconut milk.

  1. Preheat your oven to 200C, Gas 4. Cut out 30cm squares of parchment paper, as many squares as pieces of sea bass you wish to cook.
  2. Place a fillet of sea bass in the middle of each square of parchment along with a drizzle of oil and any other flavourings that you want to add.
  3. Bring together the edges of the paper and scrunch together to seal it. Place the parcels onto a baking tray and roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Carefully remove from the paper to serve.

How to cook sea bass

How to cook a whole sea bass

Cooking a whole sea bass may seem a little ambitious but it is actually relatively simple and it will look very impressive. See our notes above on the preparation of a whole sea bass before you start cooking.

We have a wonderful recipe for Mediterranean whole sea bass below that you could try but here is our more general step-by-step guide for how to cook a whole bass.

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C, Gas 4.
  2. Make sure that the bass is scaled and gutted. Cut three scores into each side of the bass, place it in a roasting tray and rub over a little olive oil, along with salt. Stuff the cavity with herbs and citrus.
  3. Place the tray in the oven and cook for 20 - 30 minutes, basting once with the pan juices.

How to cook sea bass

How to prepare sea bass

You can either buy a whole sea bass or sea bass fillets. If you want to cook a whole sea bass ask your fishmonger to clean it out. This means getting rid of the innards as they give a bitter taste to the fish and removing them leaves space in the cavity to add aromatics like herbs or lemon slices.

Fillets of sea bass come with the scales and bones removed so there is very little that needs to be done to them, though you could remove the skin if you prefer.

As always with meat and fish make sure that you generously season it with salt before cooking it. You could also add a marinade to it if you wish to add even more flavour to it. Make a few scores in the skin of the bass if frying it or roasting it whole, to keep the skin from tearing unevenly.

You do not need to wash sea bass prior to cooking it. As we discussed above; when you buy a whole sea bass you should ask your fishmonger to clean it out for you, however, this is referring to removing the innards of the fish rather than cleaning it in the traditional sense.

When you cook sea bass the heat kills off any harmful bacteria, so you do not need to clean it before hand. However, if you are not a big fan of sea bass, or fish in general, you can soak it in milk prior to cooking it. The milk proteins bind with the compound in the flesh that makes it taste and smell "fishy" and it results in a sweeter and milder tasting piece of sea bass.

Our best sea bass recipes

Mediterranean sea bass

This fresh summer bass recipe is packed with green pesto and cooked on a bed of vine tomatoes, olives and fennel.

Get the recipe: Mediterranean sea bass

Crispy Asian sea bass

Meals under 300 calories

Sea bass is a wonderful carrier of flavour, and this Asian-style bass adds depth to the fish. The root ginger, groundnut oil and sesame oil work wonders.

Get the recipe: Crispy Asian sea bass

Grilled sea bass with Greek dressing

Cook these sea bass fillets on the BBQ. Served with a fresh Greek salad, this sea bass recipe is ideal in the summer months.

Get the recipe: Grilled sea bass with Greek dressing

Roasted sea bass on fennel

How to cook sea bass

Quick and easy to cook, with a wonderful mix of fresh flavours. If you can’t get hold of sea bass, you could use red mullet or red snapper instead

Get the recipe: Roasted sea bass on fennel

Spanish-style sea bass

Spanish-style sea bass

Pair beautiful flakey fish with spicy chorizo, fennel and garlic for a real Spanish feast.

Get the recipe: Spanish-style sea bass

How to store leftover sea bass

If you have not cooked all of the sea bass in the pack, wrap it up in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge and then ensure that you cook it all before the use by date.

Alternatively you can wrap up the raw sea bass and keep it in the freezer for up to three months. If you have cooked the sea bass it can be kept in the fridge in an airtight container for 2-3 days. You could then flake it into a salad or stir it into a risotto to use it up.

Although it is possible to safely freeze cooked sea bass we would not recommend that you do so. The texture of the fish is so delicate that the process of cooking, freezing, defrosting, and then reheating results in a fillet of sea bass with very little flavour, an unattractive appearance, and a tough texture.

Can you eat sea bass skin?

Yes, you can safely eat sea bass skin. Keeping the skin on when cooking can actually protect the flesh from getting torn or flaking apart.

The skin will be most pleasant to eat if it is nice and crispy, it is best to pan-fry it in oil to get this desired crispy texture.