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How to Cook Whole Red Snapper: Grilled Red Snapper Recipe

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jul 15, 2020 • 2 min read

First time cooking whole fish? Mild red snapper is versatile and a great place to start.



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What Is Red Snapper?

Red snapper is a saltwater fish found off the southeastern coast of the United States. It is usually sold whole or cut into skin-on red snapper fillets to show that it’s genuine: Real red snapper has red skin and flaky white flesh that tastes mildly sweet. (“Pacific red snapper” is actually a type of rockfish.) A typical red snapper averages two to six pounds, meaning that a whole fish will serve about two to six people. Red snapper is delicious when baked, broiled, grilled, poached, or steamed, and the bones and head are good for fish stock.

How to Serve Red Snapper

Red snapper is a favorite among home cooks and chefs alike for its mild flavor and easy-to-work-with size. These entrees illustrate fresh red snapper's versatility”

  1. As Pescado a la Talla: Gabriela Cámara’s Pescado a la Talla is a butterflied whole fish (ask your fishmonger to do this for you) served with fresh corn tortillas, salsa, and refried beans. It’s a perfect recipe for red snapper.
  2. Flavored with Shaoxing marinade and fried: Substitute red snapper for branzino in Gordon Ramsay’s Crispy Whole Branzino recipe, and serve it with lettuce cups and a Thai dipping sauce. Gordon recommends pairing with a dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc.
  3. In fish tacos: Along Mexico’s Pacific Coast, seafood is a natural choice for taco fillings. The Baja area in particular is famed for its fried whitefish tacos, which are perfect with shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, and a drizzle of sour cream.
  4. Salt-baked: If you're looking for a recipe for baked whole red snapper that's a little unusual, try Thomas Keller's Salt-Baked Branzino recipe, which requires coating the outside of the fish in a layer of kosher salt. You'll need to ask your fish market for a very small snapper—Chef Keller's recipe calls for a one-pound branzino nestled into a small baking dish, but he also recommends substituting a small whole snapper.
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Grilled Whole Red Snapper Recipe

Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
Cook Time
20 min


  • Vegetable oil such as olive oil, for oiling grill grates
  • 2 2-pound whole red snappers, cleaned
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 lemons or limes, one thinly sliced and one cut into wedges
  • 1 bunch fresh herb sprigs, such as cilantro, oregano, rosemary, parsley, or dill
  1. Using a grill brush or rag, lightly oil the grates of a grill or grill pan with vegetable oil. Heat the grill or grill pan to medium-high heat (or build a charcoal fire to the equivalent of medium-high heat).
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the fish on a clean rimmed baking sheet. Season the inside and skin side of each fish with salt. Stuff each fish with lime or lemon slices and herbs, then tie closed with about three pieces of butcher's twine.
  3. Place the fish on the oiled grates of the grill or grill pan and cook until skin has grill marks and flesh looks opaque and feels firm, about 10 minutes. Flip fish and continue to cook until the other side also has grill marks, looks opaque, and feels firm, about 10 more minutes.
  4. Serve whole or transfer to a cutting board to cut fish fillets. Serve with citrus wedges for squeezing fresh lime or lemon juice onto the fish.

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