So, before we start, let’s just quickly recap what we are talking about here. Pompano are a saltwater fish that are found along the coastlines of just about every continent around the world. They are a long, silver schooling species that feed predominately on the ocean floor for whatever they can find there.
They are most often described as deep bodied and distinguished by their narrow tail base and forked tail. They are generally silver in color with small scales and a toothless mouth – although older adults often go a greenish grey color across their back.
However due to the sheer size of their subspecies, their size range is also extremely large from up to nearly a meter (3ft) in length down to around 10 centimeters (4 inches). Pompano can also be found with large variations in fin color ranging from yellow to black to orange and many have four or five little “marks” along their side as well.
Typically, Pompano found on the coastline of North America however are known to live for around 6 years.
Can you eat Pompano?
Definitely! Pompano is an extremely popular table fish that whilst in my opinion, the flesh does taste a little more ‘fishy’ that many other saltwater species however still fits neatly within the ‘mild’ category. Its flesh is flaky and it can be cooked in a number of ways.
Are they any good?
As above, Pompano produce a flesh that is firm with a flaky texture and mildish taste. They are similar to most saltwater species in that the flesh is not very oily although in my experience do need a bit more cleaning than other popular options such as Striped Bass.
As you catch them for consumption however, it is worthwhile keeping in mind that:
- Older varieties tend to taste a lot stronger or ‘fishier’ so if you are planning to keep one for dinner, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the biggest one you catch.
- Larger varieties are also more susceptible to worms and parasites and well as higher levels of mercury in some locations.
In most cases, as long as you keep them at around medium size without going for the biggest one you can find, then you are generally ok.
Although not a complete must do, it is a good idea to bleed Pompano upon capture then place them on ice as soon as possible after it is landed. Many use an ice slurry in a cooler which is generally a ratio of 2 parts ice to 1 part water for this purpose. Pompano are also known to be a bit more ‘bloody’ than other saltwater species as well so it is critical to make sure that they are thoroughly cleaned as well.
From here, preparation will be determined by your planned consumption. If they are to be eaten whole then you will need to clean and scale them beforehand – Note: some sub species here do hot have scales. If you plan to pan fry, then you can either scale and fillet or fillet and skin. Keep the meat refrigerated or on ice at all times before and after preparation.
Can you freeze uncooked fillets?
Look, I have never found the type we catch here in Australia (Swallowtail Dart) to freeze very well however others can be kept in the freezer for up to 2 months. It must at the very least be gutted and cleaned and placed in an airtight bag (ziplock bags are good here) first.
If you are planning to eat the flesh raw, then check that it is ‘sushi grade’. This generally means that it is frozen immediately after it is caught. This kills potential parasites the fish may have.
Can they be eaten raw?
Yes – this is considered a great species for the sushi or sashimi wheel – see below.
How to cook Pompano
At the end of the day, due to its white flesh, Pompano can be prepared in the same manner as most other saltwater species in that they can be:
Fillets can be cooked over charcoal or gas grills with any and all spices and seasonings as you see fit. Below is a common recipe:
- Heat a grill hot but not smoking.
- Pat fillets dry then spread butter or oil over the non-skinned side (or both if fillet is skinned) along with salt and pepper.
- Grill fillets until just cooked (fillets start to flake) – Do not overcook as the meat will go dry.
- Consume with salad or grilled vegetables.
You can of course use any other herbs or spices on the flesh to taste.
Due to their smaller size, many grill them whole as well.
As above, but in a pan – We used to cook Dart on the beach with a frypan over an open fire. I like to add garlic to the butter when I pan fry white fish fillets with the salt and pepper as well. I have seen many pan fried fish recipes with Asian spices used too so that is also worth a try. Of course, they can also be crumbed as well which entails:
- Gather three bowls and in the first, place some flour, eggs (beaten) in the second and breadcrumbs in the third.
- Pat dry each fillet (skin on or off to preference) and then cover in flour.
- Sink the flour covered fillets into the egg mixture and then cover in breadcrumbs
- Shallow fry in the oil of your choice in a pan large enough to hold the full size of the fillet.
- Spritz with lemon juice and consume with fries (chips), salad or whatever else takes your fancy.
Note: For extra flavour, add salt and pepper to the flour or even some grated Parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs. I have even seen some good recipes using BBQ rubs on the fillets as well.
For this next option, the fish is cooked whole in the oven. A cooking example is as below:
- Make sure the fish is cleaned and scaled.
- Score the skin with a sharp knife (This will stop it shrinking too much from the heat)
- Cover the outside with a lubricant such as butter or oil
- Fill the cavity with whatever takes your fancy (common options are garlic, herbs, spices, lemon, tomatoes or mustard)
- Bake in the oven until just cooked – again, it will dry out if left too long
Note: Based on my research over a number of recipes, a 1.5lb Bass will take around 15 – 30 minutes in a 375 deg oven.
As above, Pompano is a popular choice when it comes to use in sushi or sashimi. If you are looking to go this way then:
- Lay your fillet out onto a cutting board – make sure it is completely thawed if it has been frozen.
- Using a very sharp filleting knife (or chefs knife), slice thin slices to personal preference.
- Present on your plate with dipping sauce of your choice – I personally love a good sweet and sour sauce myself but you can use soy, sweet chilli or even a nice chilli oil if you prefer.
And there you go – my response to the question of whether you can eat Pompano. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know of your experiences – or recipes – would love to see your recipes below too.
Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections, or would like me to check anything else out for you.
Until next time