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Can You Eat a Monkfish?

Monkfish fillets
Fresh fish monkfish with ingredients

You can eat monkfish, although you might not want to if you see its face. Despite its off-putting appearance, monkfish boasts a taste that can accommodate most dishes. Combine that with its easy preparation, monkfish is a great staple fish you should try at least once.

There are plenty of benefits of eating monkfish, and even more ways to prepare it. Once you learn how great monkfish tastes and how easy it is to cook you will be sure to want to try it for yourself.

Horrible Face but Beautiful Taste

If you have ever seen a Monkfish you probably understand why their heads are usually removed before they even go to market. Their wide heads and rows of sharp teeth are not exactly enticing to customers.

Surprisingly, they have a delicious mild taste. Monkfish is easy to prepare and can be cooked using virtually any method, making it a great choice for beginners.

It is also commonly referred to as the “poor man’s lobster” because they are similar in both appearance and taste. Monkfish does not flake, and its mild taste has a slight sweetness that is similar to lobsters.

How to Prepare Monkfish

If you get the chance to get your hands on the whole fish you should harvest the cheek meat first. Remove the skin and search for the cheeks under the eyes. While most of the face is hard and boney, these soft spots should be easy to find and cut away with a knife.

Apart from the cheeks, the monkfish’s tail is the only other part to harvest. Their tail takes up most of their body, and the meat is firm with virtually no bones to fish out.

To harvest the tail, first remove the head using a heavy knife (if it has not already been done). Make sure you remove the hard, inedible skin. On either side of the spine you will find the thick fillets of the tail. Remove these, and then remove the greyish-blue membrane before cooking.

This should give you two fillets of modest size.

How to Eat Monkfish

Because it is a sturdy meat, monkfish can be prepared any number of ways. It has a taste that can easily accommodate any dish, and monkfish fillets can be as large as 4lbs.

Because monkfish tails are firm and do not tend to fall apart a favorite cooking method is grilling. Using your favorite marinade, you can throw them on a medium-high flame for about five minutes per side, brushing with oil to prevent drying out.

Apart from grilling, you can cook monkfish practically any way you like, including:

  • Pan-frying
  • Oven roasting
  • Kabobs
  • Stews
  • Baking
  • Poaching

If you want your monkfish to taste like lobster your best bet is poaching it. This is the best way to preserve the slight sweetness that likens it to lobster. Considering that lobster prices are on the rise, this is a great way to save money without sacrificing flavor.

Monkfish Liver: a Foie Gras Contender

The liver of a monkfish is high in fat, making it an excellent competitor for foie gras. In fact, on top of being the “poor man’s lobster”, monkfish is also known as being the “foie gras of the sea”.

While geese raised for foie gras are treated questionably, monkfish wander the sea until they are caught. This makes for a more ethical approach to the traditional dish.

If you want to use monkfish liver as a replacement for foie gras you should know that it does retain its fishy taste. Do not expect it to be an exact exchange.

To prepare the liver, rinse it and pat it dry. Let it marinate for at least 4-6 hours before you tend to it like you would foie gras, removing the veins. Take care, though; monkfish liver is more delicate.

After this you can prepare it as you would any other foie gras dish, searing it, rolling it up to create a torchon, whipping it up into a mousse, or really any other preferred method.

Best Side Dishes for Monkfish

Because Monkfish has a mild taste it pairs easily with every side dish. While your personal taste may influence your choices, monkfish goes great with whatever vegetables are in season, whether they are grilled, sauteed, or roasted.

Rice pilaf is another great side to compliment the simple yet savory monkfish flavor without distracting from it. This can also be accomplished with buttered rolls, mashed potatoes, or roasted potatoes.

It also goes great with wine of any type. Whether you prefer champagne, rosé, or anything in between, you do not need to worry too much about monkfish playing nice with the flavor.

Nutritional Benefit of Eating Monkfish

Monkfish is a great choice for someone looking to eat more lean protein. The fillets are high in protein, low in sodium, and are an excellent source for many vitamins and minerals such as:

  • Vitamin B
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorous
  • Selenium

As far as calories go, a 4 ounce cut of monkfish meat contains only 86 calories. That same 4 ounces also has a whopping 16 grams of protein and only 1 gram of fat.

While monkfish tend to have more moderate mercury levels than smaller fish species (likely from eating the smaller fish), the mercury levels in monkfish are usually lower than fish of similar size, including sea bass and mackerel.

Final Thoughts

Do not let that face fool you. Monkfish is one of the best fish out there that you should try at least once. It is even easy enough to prepare and cook that you do not need to rush out to a fancy restaurant to order it.

The mild flavor of monkfish makes it a great choice for picky eaters, and its ability to be cooked using virtually any method takes some stress out of trying something new. Pair it up with your favorite side dish for a bit of stability and dinner is bound to be great.