Culinary Arts

Baking: Salt-Baked Branzino With Fennel and Red Pepper Vinaigrette

Thomas Keller

Lesson time 20:35 min

Sautéing and pan roasting are not the only ways to cook seafood. In this lesson, Chef Keller shows you how to create a salt crust for a branzino to capture and intensify the flavors.

Thomas Keller
Teaches Cooking Techniques III: Seafood, Sous Vide, and Desserts
Chef Thomas Keller’s third MasterClass is devoted to preparing seafood, sous vide cooking, and making classic desserts.
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[MUSIC PLAYING] CHEF: Another way to use our oven is to bake fish. I don't mean just put a piece of fish or a filet of fish in the oven. We've all done that before, and that's fine. But I'm going to cook a fish in salt crust-- salt-baked branzino, carmelized fennel bulb, and red pepper vinaigrette. One of the reasons I love this is because you're encasing this beautiful piece of fish in the salt. It's actually steaming with its own juices while it's encased in the salt. We have our salt here. I've just finished mixing it. This is just kosher salt with egg whites in it. One way to tell you have enough egg whites in your salt, as you're mixing, take a fistful. Compress it. Open your fist. Let that fistful fall out. If none stick to your hand, then it's a good indication you have enough egg whites in your salt. It may appear to be like wet sand at a beach, for all of you who've made sand castles at a beach. You just set that aside. We're going to begin by removing the fins, the gills, and a little bit of the tail. And we have our gratin dish, so our bass has to fit in there. Any fins. Be careful, because they are sharp. You can stick yourself. We don't want to have an accident. So we've removed all of our fins. Now we're going to remove the gills from the gill cage. So just stick your finger inside and pull it up like that. I'm going to revert back to my other hand. And then just snip off the head. Follow it down. Then very simple. Same on the other side. Put my fingers underneath down to the edge. Cut. Release it. Follow on up. Boom. I'm going to take it over to the sink and just rinse it out with some cold water. So we cleaned her up inside. There's no blood, no excess blood. The gill-- the gill cage is clean. We have no fins left. So just dry out that moisture, get a little residue blood probably from that. Yeah, you see? That's good. Going to just make sure that our fish is going to fit there. We'll trim it. There's a story about a great friend of mine who, when he was married, he bought a pot roast, beautiful pot roast to bring home to his new wife, Jane, to cook. Jane immediately hacked off two ends of the pot roast before she began the process of cooking it. Charlie was aghast. He said, my god, why did you cut off the ends of the pot roast? Said, well, my mother did. Charlie said, well, get your mother on the phone and find out why she cut off the ends of the pot roast. Just seems like such a waste to me. Jane gets her mother on the phone. Mom, Charlie's upset. I cut off the ends of my pot roast because you always did it. Why did you do it? I don't know. That's the way Grandma always did it. Well, damn, get Grandma on the phone and let's find out, because Charlie's really upset. Gets grandma on the phone, grandma says, I cut the ends off the pot roast because my pot wasn't big enough. So just goes to show you that sometimes these old wives' tales are practical at some point but not at another. The point her...

Elevate your cooking

In his third MasterClass, Chef Thomas Keller focuses on preparing fresh seafood like lobster and salmon, making classic desserts such as apple pie and lemon tart, and showing how sous vide cooking can be done at home to enhance flavor and texture. Whether you’re a beginning or advanced cook, you’ll learn the techniques and principles that will give you the understanding and skills to get the most delicious results.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Always impressive - love the class - hope Mr. Keller continues.

Awesome class! Thank you so much! I've really enjoyed all three of his classes.

Technique - perfection - new cooking method - EXCELLENT - THANK YOU SO MUCH - BRING ME MORE AND MORE AND MORE

The Thomas Keller classes are excellent. I feel like there is a lot of value in what he teaches. Some of the other cuisine classes don't show you that much. His first class was the best, this class was the second best. It would be great if he did more.


A fellow student

Wonderful recepie, but by the time you are done filetating the fish it is cold. Except having pre heated plates what can you do to keep the fish warm ?

A fellow student

Hi, I made this tonight and the fish was delicious; however, the instructions say to cook the fish in 350F oven for 20 minutes or until fish reaches 125F temperature. How can we measure the temperature since the fish is fully encased in the salt? Is it ok to pierce the salt through with the thermometer without disrupting the steaming process? Unfortunately, I cooked it for the 20 minutes and ones I opened up the salt, my fish was registering at 116 so I had to try to reassemble the salt back on the fish (mine didn't come out in one nice piece as Chef Keller's) and put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes and then it came out to temp. Still tasted great but guessing it would have tasted even better if I wouldn't have opened it. An answer would be appreciated. Thanks!

A fellow student

this looks delicious but I feel everything would be cold by the time it was served. Also, who the heck has a "circulator"? Are these courses for pros only? I have basic kitchen gear that does not include a "circulator" :/

A fellow student

This recipe looks delicious and would like to try it. How many red peppers would I need to make 180 g red pepper juice. It would have been good to give us, in the lesson plan, an approximation of the quantity or weight of peppers needed to get that quantity of juice extracted from juicer. Would appreciate a response from anyone who has tried juicing the peppers.

Thomas G.

When that butter kept coming, it gave me a happy memory of Chef Keller’s pomme purée episode!