Mastering the Art of Cooking Mackerel

Mastering the Art of Cooking Mackerel

Published by Tolu on 3rd Jul 2023

Mackerel, is a type of fish known for its rich flavor and abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, it is a type of seafood that can be enjoyed in various delectable styles of cooking. Whether you're a seafood lover or looking to incorporate more healthy options into your diet, learning how to cook mackerel is a great way to explore fun ways to go about meals. In this article, we will delve into the techniques, recipes, and tips that will help you decide the best way to cook this fish. From grilling to baking, frying to marinating, get ready to discover the art of cooking mackerel and create mouthwatering dishes that will seduce your taste buds. 

Health Benefits of Mackerel 

Mackerel wouldn't be one of the most eaten fishes if it didn't come with it's perks, Mackerel is a fish that comes with benefits like: 

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Mackerel is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fats have been shown to support heart health, reduce inflammation, and improve brain function. 
  • Protein: Mackerel is a great source of high-quality protein, which is essential for building and repairing tissues, supporting muscle growth, and maintaining a healthy immune system. 
  • Vitamins and Minerals: Mackerel is packed with important vitamins and minerals. It is a good source of vitamin D, which plays a role in bone health, immune function, and mood regulation. Additionally, mackerel provides significant amounts of vitamin B12, selenium, and niacin, which are all essential for various bodily functions. 
  • Antioxidants: Mackerel contains antioxidants such as selenium and vitamin E, which help protect cells from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. These antioxidants have been associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases. 
  • Supports Heart Health: The omega-3 fatty acids found in mackerel are known to have heart-protective properties. They can help reduce triglyceride levels, lower blood pressure, and decrease the risk of heart disease. 
  • Supports Brain Function: The omega-3 fatty acids in mackerel are crucial for brain health and development. They have been linked to improved cognitive function, memory, and mood regulation. 
  • Promotes Healthy Skin: The omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants in mackerel contribute to healthy skin by reducing inflammation, protecting against sun damage, and supporting skin cell regeneration. 
  • Aids in Weight Management: Mackerel is a lean source of protein that can help promote satiety and reduce cravings, making it a valuable addition to a balanced diet for weight management.

Tips to Selecting Fresh Mackerel 

It's important you get fresh and good quality Mackerel when you go out to shops, here's some tips to identify fresh mackerel:

  • Look for Bright and Clear Eyes: Fresh mackerel should have bright, clear, and bulging eyes. Avoid fish with cloudy or sunken eyes, as it may indicate poor freshness. 
  • Check the Skin: The skin of fresh mackerel should be shiny and have a vibrant color. Avoid fish with dull or discolored skin, as it can be a sign of age or deterioration. 
  • Inspect the Gills: The gills of fresh mackerel should be deep red or pink in color. Avoid fish with brown or gray gills, as it can indicate spoilage. 
  • Smell Fresh: Fresh mackerel should have a mild and pleasant sea-like aroma. Avoid fish with a strong, ammonia-like smell, as it can indicate decomposition. 
  • Firm Flesh: Gently press the flesh of the mackerel with your finger. It should be firm and spring back when touched. Avoid fish with soft or mushy flesh, as it can be a sign of poor quality or age. Whole Fish or Fillets: Whether you prefer whole fish or fillets, the same freshness indicators apply. However, if you opt for fillets, ensure that they are moist, free from any discoloration, and have a fresh smell. 
  • Trust Your Fishmonger: If you're unsure about selecting mackerel, seek advice from a trusted fishmonger. They can guide you in choosing the freshest options and may even provide recommendations on the best cooking methods. 

How to Clean and Gut Fish

Cleaning and gutting fish is an essential step in preparing fresh fish for cook. You'll need a sharp fillet knife, a cutting board, a bowl of water, and a trash bag or container for the fish waste.

Hold the fish firmly by its tail and scrape the scales off using the back of a knife or a fish scaler. Start from the tail and work your way towards the head. Rinse the fish under cold running water to remove any loose scales.

Then lay the fish on the cutting board and use a sharp fillet knife to make a shallow incision along the belly from the anal opening towards the gills. Be careful not to cut too deep to avoid puncturing any internal organs.

After cutting it open, insert your fingers or a spoon into the incision and gently scoop out the entrails and organs, being cautious not to rupture the gallbladder or intestines. Place the guts directly into the trash bag or container.

Rinse the inside of the fish cavity thoroughly under running water to remove any remaining blood, debris, or slimy residue.

If you're not a fan of fish gills, you can remove the gills by reaching inside the fish's mouth with your fingers or pliers and gently pulling them out.

Rinse the entire fish once again, including the cavity, under cold running water to ensure it is clean and free from any lingering impurities.

Use a clean towel or paper towels to gently pat the fish dry. This will help remove excess moisture and make it easier to handle during cooking.

Cooking techniques for Mackerel

There's a number of ways you can prepare a Mackerel, some of which are by:

  • Grilling
  • Baking
  • Frying 
  • Smoking
  • Curing


Grilling mackerel is a fantastic way to infuse it with smoky flavors while creating a crispy exterior. Here's how to grill mackerel:

  1. Preheat the grill: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Make sure the grates are clean and well-oiled to prevent the fish from sticking.
  2. Prepare the mackerel: If you're using whole mackerel, make a few shallow diagonal cuts on each side of the fish to help it cook evenly and absorb flavors.
  3. Season the fish: Brush both sides of the mackerel with olive oil or melted butter to prevent sticking and enhance the flavors. Season the fish generously with salt, pepper, and any desired herbs or spices. Popular options include lemon zest, garlic, dill, thyme, or paprika. You can also squeeze some lemon or lime juice over the fish for a tangy kick.
  4. Preheat the grill: Before placing the mackerel on the grill, make sure it is preheated to medium-high heat. This will ensure proper cooking and searing.
  5. Grill the mackerel: Place the seasoned mackerel directly on the grill grates, skin-side down. Close the grill lid and let it cook for about 4-6 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness of the fish. Avoid moving or flipping the fish too frequently to allow it to develop a nice char and grill marks. The fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork and is opaque throughout.

Remember that mackerel has a relatively high oil content, so it may cause flare-ups on the grill. Keep a close eye on the fish and adjust the heat if needed to prevent excessive charring or burning.


Baking mackerel is a simple and delicious way to prepare this Mackerel fish as a standalone dish or to be incorporated in a recipe. Here's how to bake mackerel:

  1. Preheat the oven: Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C) to ensure it's hot and ready for baking.
  2. Season the fish: Place the mackerel on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Drizzle the fish with a little olive oil or melted butter to keep it moist during baking. Season both sides of the fish with salt, pepper, and any other desired herbs or spices. Popular choices include lemon zest, garlic, dill, thyme, or paprika.
  3. Optional additions: Enhance the flavor of the mackerel by adding additional ingredients. You can lay thin slices of lemon or lime on top of the fish, or scatter fresh herbs like parsley or rosemary around it.
  4. Bake the mackerel: Place the baking sheet with the seasoned mackerel in the preheated oven. Bake for approximately 12-15 minutes or until the fish is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork. The cooking time may vary depending on the size and thickness of the mackerel. Avoid overcooking, as it can result in dry fish.
  5. Rest and serve: Once the mackerel is cooked, remove it from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes to allow the flavors to settle. 

Baking mackerel not only creates a delicious meal but allows you to enjoy the succulent and flaky texture of baked mackerel as you savor its natural flavors.


Frying mackerel is a popular cooking method that results in a crispy exterior and a moist, flavorful interior. Here's  how to fry mackerel:

  1. Season the fish: Season the mackerel fillets with salt, pepper, and any desired spices or herbs. You can use a pre-made seafood seasoning blend or create your own combination of flavors. Common additions include paprika, garlic powder, thyme, or lemon zest. Rub the seasoning onto both sides of the fillets, ensuring even coverage.
  2. Dredge in flour: Prepare a shallow dish with all-purpose flour. Coat each seasoned mackerel fillet with flour, shaking off any excess. The flour helps create a crispy crust when frying.
  3. Heat the oil: In a frying pan or skillet, heat enough cooking oil to submerge the fillets halfway. A neutral oil with a high smoke point, such as vegetable or canola oil, works well. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches a temperature of around 350°F (175°C).
  4. Fry the mackerel: Carefully place the coated mackerel fillets into the hot oil, skin side down if applicable. Be cautious to avoid overcrowding the pan, as it can lower the oil temperature and result in soggy fish. Fry the fillets for about 3-4 minutes on each side, or until they turn golden brown and crispy. Flip them gently using tongs or a spatula.
  5. Drain and rest: Once the mackerel fillets are cooked, remove them from the oil and place them on a wire rack or a plate lined with paper towels. This helps drain excess oil and prevents the fish from becoming greasy. Let the fried mackerel rest for a few minutes before serving to allow the flavors to settle


Smoking mackerel is yet another wonderful way to infuse it with a rich, smoky flavor. Here's how to smoke mackerel:

  1. Brine the mackerel (optional): For extra flavor and moisture, you can brine the mackerel fillets before smoking. Prepare a brine solution by combining water, salt, sugar, and any desired herbs or spices. Submerge the mackerel fillets in the brine and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. After brining, rinse the fillets and pat them dry.
  2. Prepare the smoker: Set up your smoker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Use wood chips or chunks specifically made for smoking fish, such as alder, hickory, or fruitwood. Soak the wood chips or chunks in water for about 30 minutes before using them.
  3. Preheat the smoker: Preheat your smoker to a temperature of around 180°F to 200°F (82°C to 93°C). This low and slow cooking method will allow the mackerel to gradually absorb the smoky flavors.
  4. Place the mackerel in the smoker: Arrange the mackerel fillets on the smoker racks, leaving space between them for the smoke to circulate. If you prefer a stronger smoky flavor, you can leave the fillets uncovered. If you want a milder flavor, you can brush the fillets with a thin layer of oil or a marinade of your choice.
  5. Smoke the mackerel: Place the racks with the mackerel fillets in the preheated smoker. Add the soaked wood chips or chunks to the smoker box or directly on the heat source. Close the smoker and allow the mackerel to smoke for approximately 1-2 hours, depending on the thickness of the fillets and your desired level of smokiness.
  6. Check for doneness: After the desired smoking time, check the mackerel for doneness. The flesh should be opaque and easily flake with a fork. The internal temperature should reach at least 145°F (63°C).

Smoking mackerel not only imparts a delightful smoky flavor but also helps preserve the fish


Curing mackerel is a traditional method that preserves the fish while infusing it with delicious flavors. Here's how to cure mackerel:

  1. Prepare the curing mixture: In a bowl, combine equal parts salt and sugar. The amount will depend on the quantity of mackerel you are curing. You can start with around 1/4 cup of each and adjust accordingly. Add any desired herbs, spices, or seasonings to the mixture. Common options include black pepper, dill, fennel seeds, garlic powder, or citrus zest. Mix everything together well.
  2. Apply the cure: Sprinkle a layer of the curing mixture onto a shallow dish or a glass container. Lay the mackerel fillets on top of the mixture, skin-side down. Generously sprinkle more of the curing mixture over the top of the fillets, making sure to cover them completely. Press the fillets together, if curing multiple pieces, to allow the curing mixture to distribute evenly.
  3. Cure in the refrigerator: Cover the dish or container tightly with plastic wrap or a lid. Place it in the refrigerator and let the mackerel cure for at least 24 hours, up to 48 hours or more depending on your preference. The longer you cure, the firmer and more intensely flavored the mackerel will become.
  4. Rinse and dry: After the desired curing time, remove the mackerel fillets from the curing mixture. Rinse them thoroughly under cold running water to remove excess salt and sugar. Pat the fillets dry with paper towels to remove any moisture.

Remember to store the cured mackerel in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Properly cured mackerel can keep for several days. It's important to note that while curing helps preserve the fish, it doesn't cook it, so be sure to use fresh, high-quality mackerel for the best results.


Cooking mackerel right introduces delightful flavors and textures to any dish. Whichever cooking method you choose, with the tips and techniques shared in this article, you can confidently cook mackerel and create delectable dishes that will impress your family and friends. If you're looking to get high quality mackerel fish either smoked or frozen, why not try our online grocery store