Foray to the fish shop: learning about Snapper

The king of Sparidae always looks good on the table, but watch out for the colours: how can you recognize when it is fresh?

We are back talking all things fish with our Foray to the Fish Shop series, always with the aim of giving you interesting information for your kitchen when making delicious quality meals. We don’t want to forget, obviously, that each fish has its own little secrets to evaluate its freshness and this is why we share with you the best way to choose your products. The star of this article is one of the most desired fish for sports fishermen and for foodies: the snapper.

Dentex dentex:

The origin of the name and its common usage come from the fish’s toothy overbite, a predator’s mouth always hunting other fish or mollusks to snack on. Snapper belongs to the Sparidae family and it is a fairly common fish in the Mediterranean, but there are also other species along the African coasts and in tropical areas.

Normally it lives on rocky seabed or sand bars even over 50 metres deep, but it can be found hunting in shallower waters with a pebble-sand bottom.


Fishing methods:


A particularly desirable catch for sports fishing, it requires a high level of technical skill. In order to find it, you must be equipped with a good sounder and look for the type of seafloor that the snapper would include in its hunting territory: the best areas are sandy plains with high rocks. One of the classic techniques for catching it is trawling, preferably with live bait: it is advisable to use cephalopods, squid or cuttlefish. Another effective technique is the ledger rig with sardines, but in the last few years, excellent results have been achieved through vertical jigging, an effective but costly technique in regards to equipment.


How to recognize fresh snapper:

Each fish has its little secrets and with a careful eye we can understand if the specimen you are buying is fresh or not. It is fundamentally important to recognize the fish’s markings when it is alive, in order to understand how long ago it was caught. In the case of snapper its bright colours are very helpful: as soon as it leaves the water, still alive, its colours are intense and bright: its sides are blue, the head a reddish pink with gold highlights, electric blue with small dark freckles.


As soon as the fish dies, the blue on its sides fades to silver but can still be seen near the back. The colour of the head and the electric blue remain visible for as long as the fish is fresh. If the colours appear faded and greyish, do not buy it. Lastly, always look at the eye: it must still be bright with no cloudiness or blood.


Prices for snapper at fishmongers is around 25-30 euros per kilo sometimes even over 50.


Suggested recipe:


Snapper is a high quality fish with an excellent taste, so all recipes are very tasty. One of the easiest to make, which also best enhances the flavour, is salt crust. After having cleaned and descaled the fish, rub with a bit of oil, lemon and pepper, then cover the fish with about 400 grams of coarse salt and cook in the oven at 200 degrees. Calculate about 15 minutes’ cooking time for a 500g specimen. Once it is cooked, break the salt crust, which will make removing the skin very easy, and serve with a drizzle of oil and a squeeze of lemon.


Mauro Giuffrè


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