Are you thinking about trying grouper for the first time? If you’re interested in what it tastes like, then keep reading as we take an in-depth look at this unique-looking fish.
Grouper is a salt-water fish, found on the menu in restaurants and within stores throughout the United States. There are three varieties available that vary in flavor and price: red grouper, true black grouper, and gag.
What does grouper taste like?
Grouper is a mild-tasting, oily fish with a faintly sweet undertone. Compared to other fish, it is one of the mildest with very little taste. Its flavor profile is a cross between a halibut and a bass.
The texture of a grouper is firm with large flakes that easily break apart. A stand-out feature of the fillets is the high levels of moisture. For a mild-tasting fish, it has very high levels of oil, which offers a pleasant buttery mouthfeel. If cooked correctly, the flesh will melt in the mouth.
Summary of Grouper
|Taste||Mild tasting with a faintly sweet undertone|
|Texture||Firm, large flakes|
|Color||White, once cooked|
Red Vs. Black
At the start of this article, we mentioned that there are different varieties of grouper. In the United States, three types are sold for consumption. The most common is the red grouper, which makes up approximately 70% of production each year.
This variety is a relatively small fish weighing in at 5-15 pounds compared to the black, which weighs 15-20 pounds. The smaller size impacts the taste of the red grouper as it has a milder, sweeter flavor. It is the preferred choice by chefs across the U.S.
The black grouper has a firmer texture and yields more edible fish content than the red variety.
How to pick the freshest grouper
Consider frozen fish
Nothing beats fresh fish. If you don’t have a reliable source for fresh grouper, consider buying the frozen product. That way, you know it has been frozen when fresh. You can also pop it in the freezer until you’re ready to eat it.
Do a smell test
Smelling is a good option if you’re at a market where the fish hasn’t been pre-packaged. A fresh grouper should have little or no aroma. If you smell fishiness, then leave it for someone else.
Do a visual check
Check that the fish looks fresh and that the eyes haven’t glazed over or darkened. If you can do a touch test, give it a poke to make a dent in the flesh. It should bounce back to its original shape. If it’s packaged, avoid fish that has liquid or signs of ice on it.
How to Clean a Grouper
Cooking grouper is easier than cooking other lean, mild-tasting fish like walleye or seafood like scallops. Its high levels of oil help it maintain a lovely moist texture even if it’s a little over-cooked. Most cooking methods are suitable for this fish. Pan-frying, deep-frying, baking, blackening (see recipe below), broiled, or steaming are all possible. You may also want to check out our review of the best fish roasters for succulent fish every time. Fish sandwiches, chowder, and fish casserole are delicious with the addition of grouper. It’s also tasty eaten on its own, on skewers, with a zesty lemon marinade, a creamy tartare sauce, or a combination of butter, garlic, and lime juice. The debate for whether grouper is best eaten with batter, crumbed, floured, or with nothing added will always rage on. The best option will come down to personal preference.
How to make blackened grouper
Blackening is a quick and straightforward method that produces moist fish encased in a flavor-packed coating. Although blackening is suited to outdoor grilling, you can also cook the fish in the oven or fry it in a pan.
Prep time: 10 minutes
- 4 grouper fillets
- ½ cup melted butter
- ½ tsp dry mustard
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2 ½ Tbsp paprika
- 1 ½ Tbsp chili powder
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- Lemons for garnish
- Preheat a large skillet on the grill or stovetop on high heat for at least 10 minutes.
- Rinse the fish fillets in cold water, then pat dry with paper towels.
- In a large bowl, combine the melted butter with all the dry seasoning. Once all the ingredients are evenly distributed, transfer the mixture to a platter or large plate.
- Place the fillets on the seasoning mix and gently turn until they are well coated.
- Add olive oil to the skillet then cook the grouper on a high heat, covered. Cook the fish for three minutes on each side or until the fish easily flakes with a fork.
- Serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Seasoning that pairs well with grouper
Recommended side dishes
- garden salad
- grilled vegetables
- bean salad
Food safety warning: As groupers are reef-dwelling fish, they have the potential to be contaminated by toxins, which can lead to Ciguatera poisoning. Cooking the fish won't destroy these toxins. Your best option to avoid getting sick is to check with the seller if the fish comes from a hotspot for Ciguatera. Some problem areas include the Caribbean Sea, Hawaii, and coastal Central America. Source.
Frequently Asked Questions
A gulf grouper is a unique tasting, moist fish that is endemic to Mexico. It has a subtle, sweet flavor with a less fishy taste than black grouper or gag. Its texture is dense but easily flakes apart.
The grouper is one of the mildest tasting fish in the sea with very little taste. It is prized for its moist meat that easily flakes into big chunks once cooked.
Grouper is considered to be a white fish, along with haddock, catfish, tilapia, and snapper. These species are considered mild in flavor and quick to cook. They are versatile fish that can be fried, baked, grilled, seared, broiled, or slow-cooked.
Grouper is an excellent choice of fish for those that enjoy mild-tasting fish that’s moist and buttery. Its relatively high oil content makes it a simple fish to avoid overcooking.
The beauty of grouper has to be its mild, almost bland flavor. It is a blank canvas that allows the creative cook to pair exciting ingredients with the fish. If you enjoy fish that isn't too full of flavor then you might also like to check out our sea bass guide.
What do you think of the taste of grouper? Do you enjoy it? Let us know in the comments below.