Lemon Garlic Baked Red Snapper

Delicioso from Under da' sea!

Hey Loves,

I wanted to share this simple recipe that goes with any kind of fish, it's light and summery and you can throw it on the grill, pan sear it or even bake and it tastes delicious every single time. When you are having a hankering for fish, there is nothing better than a simple lemon and garlic flavoring to enjoy with a light beer and a warm summer evening.

For starters, I made this dish in celebration of me and my husband's relationship anniversary. August 20th, 2011, we got together while I was living in California and he in Indiana. So we are an example of an online relationship gone totally right! After speaking online for 9 months, I hopped on a plane and made my way to Indianapolis to see him for the first time, in person. I never left and 5 years later we got hitched. Since then, we have been turning the page on our first year of marriage, but we haven't forgotten to celebrate the little milestones in our relationship.

 Since our relationship was a little different, I decided to try something a little different for me, cooking with a whole fish! There are a few nice things about cooking a whole fish. For one, it tends to be a cheaper alternative to getting the same amount of fish already cleaned and deboned. For another, you can stuff the body cavity with herbs and spices to further flavor the meat. It may seem like a chore to get a whole fish ready to eat, and to a degree this is true, but it is definitely a labor of delicious. Truly, there are only a few steps to get the whole fish prepared to eat.

For this example, I baked a whole Red Snapper that I was excited to cook for our anniversary dinner. No dinner is complete, however, without a side dish. I made a chard, fennel and peach salad to go with this, which will be explained in a separate post. Fennel pairs beautifully with fish in my opinion, especially since I made a citrus dressing to go with the salad and the entire meal just turned out PERFECT!! Let's get started.

List of Ingredients:

Red Snapper - 1 Whole Snapper
Lemon - 3, 1 sliced and 2 zested and juiced
Chili flakes - 1 Teaspoon
Olive Oil - 3 Tablespoons
Garlic - 3 Cloves, minced
Salt - 1/2 Teaspoon

So, first off, you're going to need to clean the fish up so that it's ready to be cooked. That means scaling and slicing of the fins, if any. We are going move forward with the assumption that the fish has had the internal organs removed by the butcher you bought it from, which was the case with our snapper from Cosco. With a sharp knife, slice off the fins where they meet the body. Make sure to get all of the spines so that you don't get stuck while cleaning the rest of the fish. You can see in the below photo how my husband cut off the anal fin and made sure all of the spines were removed. Next, you need to scale your fish. Let's face it, they can make the fish unpleasant to eat.

You could use the blunt edge of your knife or something like that, but my husband showed me a real easy way to quickly scale the fish while leaving the skin. All you need is a spoon. Starting at the tail fin, "scoop" the scales off. Just slide the spoon from tail to head and you'll scrape off the scales. You will want to do this either outside or in your sink because the scales will go everywhere. Keep working on it until all of the scales are removed. Don't forget the top and bottom and the opposite side. You can either hold on to the tail while scaling the fish or you can get an actual cutting board with a heavy duty clip that's meant to hold the head or tail of the fish in place while you work.

Fo Drizzle.

The last step in prepping the fish is to slice a few X's into the skin like you can see in the photos throughout the post. This will aid in allowing the marinade to permeate the meat. You don't need to slice very deep, maybe between 1/4 and 1/3 inch should be plenty. You also only need to do this on the one side that will be facing up while the fish cooks.

Now, the fish is prepped so we need to get some flavor into it. Put the fish on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. On a side note, how you intend to cook the fish should determine what you place it on. If you are going to use an oven, parchment paper is going to work well. If you choose to grill the fish, I suggest putting it in aluminum foil and wrapping it up so it keeps the marinade in and not all over the coals. You could also wrap it in foil when you cook it in the oven. Either way, I suggest wrapping up the cooking time with the fish uncovered and under the broiler for a few minutes to crisp up the skin well. Now that that is out of the way, I'm going to tell you how to do this fish in the oven and on a charcoal grill.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest and juice with the chili flakes, garlic and salt. Once everything is mixed, drizzle it over the fish and set it aside and let it bathe on those lovely juices. During this time you will get your cooking method prepped and ready to go.


This is my husband's favorite way to cook almost anything. Yes, a little stereotypical, but he does cook some amazing food this way. We also only have a charcoal grill, so if you are using a gas grill, just set up like you normally would. We like the charcoal grill really well and while it's not as simple as a gas grill, it's not much more to get ready.

It's also a little nostalgic for me since my daddy used to do the earth pit oven cooking, called a Lovo, in Fiji. He would get the pit and everything ready and my mom would wrap fish and other delicious things up in little pouches made from banana leaves and we would let everything slow cook under a mound of hot rocks, banana leaves, wet burlap and dirt. Using a charcoal grill is a much different way of cooking but it's still a great time when we smoke and slow grill large bits of meat and enjoy a couple beers or cocktails.

So, to get your charcoal going, we use our charcoal chimney. Pour your charcoal briquettes in the top, fill the chimney but you don't want to go above the top, you don't want red hot briquettes to fall out while they are heating up. In the small space underneath the chimney's grate, you can stuff newspaper or paper towels, anything that will get the coals started. Chris uses a paper towel, rolled up then tied into a loose knot, then very slightly soaked with cooking oil. The oil will allow the paper towel to stay lit for an extended period of time but you're not using a bunch of paper to get it started. Light the tinder and place it on the charcoal grate at the bottom of the grill then place the chimney over top of it. It will take about 15 minutes, give or take, for the coals to catch totally, you'll know when you look at the coals at the top and they are mostly covered with the white ash and there are flames shooting out the top. When you get to this point, CAREFULLY lift the chimney off of the charcoal grate and tilt it and dump the hot coals into the grill, trying to keep them all on one side of the grill. close the lid and let the coals warm up the cooking grates while you get the fish ready.

If you aren't used to cooking on the grill, the reason we put coals on just one side is to create a hot zone and a cool zone. This will help you to control the temperature of the fish while it cooks. If you need to get it over a higher temperature, just slide it closer to or over the coals, if you need it to be lower temperature, move it away from the coals.You can also leave the lid up to further isolate the heat to just over the coals.

So, now that your grill is hot and ready to cook, finish getting the fish taken care of. Wrap it up in aluminum foil and seal it a the top by rolling the foil, making a nice foil bag to keep in the marinade and steam which will cook the fish through. If you like, you can stuff the abdominal cavity of the fish with some herbs, like thyme and garlic, or citrus, like lemon slices, which is what I did.

Now, take your pouch and place it on the grill, near the coals but not over top of them. Close the lid and let it cook for about a hour and a half. Every 10-15 minutes rotate the fish so that the other side can get some time nearest the heat and cook the meat evenly. At about 1 hour and 15 minutes, it's a good idea to open the bag up and check to make sure that the fish is cooked. Using a fork, pull at the skin of the fish. If it is cooked, the skin should break easily and the meat underneath should flake off nicely. When your fish reacts like that, time to remove it from the grill.

This next step is completely optional but I find I like the results better overall. Just before taking the fish off the grill, turn your oven on and set it to broil. While it's heating up, pull the fish off of the grill, open the foil bag and lay it out so that the whole fish is exposed. Put it all on a baking tray and slide it into the oven. This will evaporate the excess liquid and crisp up the skin. As with any time you use the broiler, keep an eye on your oven constantly as it shouldn't take more than 3-5 minutes to get the moisture burned off and past that it will start to burn.

When the fish is done, pull it out of the oven, let cool for a few minutes then serve. Full disclosure, I wasn't exactly sure how I wanted to serve this so I just sliced through the fish to make a "steak" and we picked through it while we ate. It was absolutely delicious! Fair warning though, be careful of the bones when you eat. You don't want one of them stuck in your throat.

And that wraps it up for this method, the next way to do this requires far fewer steps and is easier.


So, you've decided that there's no reason to break out the grill and you just want it done quick. That works too! Just wrap the fish in foil like we did for the grill. OR you can cover the whole baking tray. Either way, we need the fish covered so the steam it generates cooks it all through. Before you get the fish ready, however, it's a good idea to preheat your oven to 350 degrees. When the oven and the fish are ready, slide in the fish and let it cook for 45 minutes to an hour.

At the 45th minute, I would open the foil and check the fish. Like before, use a fork and pull at the skin and see if the meat flakes. If it does, then the fish should be done. Open the foil all the way and turn on the broiler. Let the fish hang out under the broiler in the oven for 3-5 minutes until the skin starts to brown slightly and crisp up. The excess moisture in the foil pouch should be dried up as well.

Before the fish burns, pull it out of the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before serving. It should look like the photo below.

Yummy yummy fishy!

And that's about it! I hope you enjoyed the two ways to make this red snapper! You can do this recipe with really any kind of fish you like and the steps will be roughly the same. You could even just get some fillets from the store and cook them in a similar fashion. It's all up to you! I just hope I helped you learn something new with this post and I hope you enjoy this way of cooking up some fish.

Coming soon, I will share with you the side salad that I made to accompany this fish. If you like this post, please comment and share with your friends! Have a great day Loves!

1 comment

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