When most people think of mullet, they either picture the sweet hairstyle from the 1980’s, or the coastal schooling fish….
But, did you know that people all over the world eat mullet?
In fact, mullet are a prized meal if prepared and cooked properly.
In this article, I’m answering the question once and for all: Are Mullet Good To Eat?
Keep reading…because you may be surprised!
Table of Contents
- Is Mullet Really Good To Eat?
- What Does Mullet Taste Like?
- Are Florida Mullet Good To Eat?
- Are Sea Mullet Good To Eat
- What About Grey Mullet?
- Is Saltwater Mullet Good To Eat?
- Can you Eat Finger Mullet?
- What Is The Best Way To Eat Mullet?
- Final Thoughts
- Related Posts
Is Mullet Really Good To Eat?
Despite a poor reputation, mullet are a very popular fish to eat all over the world. In the southeastern United States, the fish are often caught with large cast nets and fried whole, or smoked.
Part of the reason for the poor reputation is that mullet are very oily fish, which can translate into a strong ‘fishy‘ taste.
That doesn’t mean they are bad to eat, however. In fact, some seafood lovers relish in that salty or fishy aroma.
And the cooking process has a lot to do with the flavor and perception of mullet too. Most anglers bleed the fish before cooking, which can clean the meat and purge out stronger flavors.
Then of course there are plenty of ways to cook mullet, the most popular being gutted and fried whole with the fillets butterflied out, or slow-smoked over hardwood.
And don’t forget about the mullet roe; adult mullet are filled with roe sacs (eggs) that can be a real delicacy. They can be fried up, smoked, and even turned into a special dish called Bottarga.
Is mullet going to taste the same as the mild fillet of tilapia, catfish or seabass? No! But it isnt supposed to…mullet has its very own unique flavor and taste.
Some people love it…other people cant stand it.
What Does Mullet Taste Like?
Mullet has a stronger flavor profile than most restaurant fish like grouper or snapper. The high oil content and darker meat translate into what many people describe as a mossy, salty, or nutty taste.
Where the mullet come from, and how they are prepared can really dictate the flavor outcome as well.
Because mullet are found along coastal waters in both freshwater and saltwater environments, they often absorb flavors from their surroundings.
For that reason, ocean-bound mullet are often the cleanest and are primarily caught by commercial fishermen.
These fish live along the surf and beaches, migrating in and out of rivers, inlets and estuaries during different times of the year (like the annual mullet run).
Mullet caught from clean coastal saltwater environments are going to taste much better than mullet caught in freshwater ponds, estuaries or muddy locations.
Why Do Some People Say Mullet Tastes Fishy?
The flavor of most fish is a product of the environment they live in, and what they consume (eat).
In this case, mullet feed along the bottom and throughout the water column on small microorgansisms and detritus (plant and organic matter).
They use there gizzard to process mud, sediment and larvae and extract nutrients. In other words, they arent exactly chasing down fresh shrimp and baitfish!
Its just the nature of the fish…they are not a predatory species…they are a filter feeder with a small mouth, constantly sifting and searching along the sand and that can make the fillets and meat have a fishy taste.
Are Florida Mullet Good To Eat?
Along the gulf coast of Florida, eating fried or smoked mullet is a tradition dating back hundreds of years. Striped mullet and white mullet are the two species most commonly served at restaurants.
In fact, Florida has a robust commercial fishery for mullet where anglers use large cast nets up to 14 feet in length to follow schools of mullet and net them by the hundreds.
These fish are then sorted and sold to bait shops, restaurants and fish markets. Small finger mullet are usually sold as bait, and medium-sized mullet are used to bait crab traps.
The largest adult mullet are sold to markets and restuaranuts for their roe, and used in large fish frys and festivals.
My father grew up on the gulf coast of Florida in the 1950’s and 60’s, and fried mullet with grits and baked beans was his favorite meal.
Are Sea Mullet Good To Eat
Sea mullet are actually not a member of the Mugilformes mullet family of fish. The term ‘Sea Mullet’ is used by anglers along the Carolinas and Virginia and refers to any species of kingfish (whiting).
The good news though, is that yes, Sea Mullet or Kingfish are good to eat!
You May Also Like: Mullet vs Whiting…What Are The Differences?
What About Grey Mullet?
Grey mullet can refer to a number of different mullet species, including flathead mullet which are good to eat when cooked and prepared properly.
All species of mullet are edible, and each region or culture around the world has their customary way of preparing it.
Is Saltwater Mullet Good To Eat?
Saltwater mullet are preferred to eat because they are usually found in cleaner and clearer water than freshwater mullet.
Its also important to note that mullet can live in brackish water, which has a higher level of salinity than freshwater, but lower level of salinity than coastal saltwater.
Mullet are constantly on the move and migrate in and out of freshwater, brackish and saltwater (coastal) locations.
If you are looking to try mullet for the first time, try catching your own on hook and line at one of the local saltwater piers, jetties or bridges in your area.
In my opinion, saltwater mullet caught along the coast always taste better than mullet caught in freshwater creeks far inland.
Can you Eat Finger Mullet?
Finger Mullet are usually not eaten, instead, they are used as live bait for predatory fish such as sharks, tarpon, redfish, snook, and jack crevalle.
In places like southeast asia and the mediterranean, finger mullet are cooked whole in a large pan and braized with oil.
What Is The Best Way To Eat Mullet?
Mullet contain a lot of bones, and therefore they are difficult to fillet like a traditional fish.
The best way to eay mullet is cooked whole (head and innards removed), and then pick the meat off the fish.
Here is how I prepare and eat mullet:
Always bleed your mullet first after catching them and before cleaning them. Remove the head, innards, and scales (optional). Next, you can butterfly fillet the fish open, or score the outside of the fish with a knife.
The goal is to ‘open’ the fish up and expose as much of the meat without having to remove all of the bones.
Rinse off fish in a bowl of freshwater. Scrub out the body cavity to remove any blood and connective tissue. Next, create a brine to soak the fish in (optional). This can be something as simple as water, salt, lemon and old-bay seasoning.
Choose your cooking method! The easiest way to cook mullet is battered and fried whole. Use your favorite fish batter and fry in peanut oil until crispy. Serve with hush puppes, grits and salad.
Smoked mullet is another traditional way to cook the fish. The fillets can be smoked and eaten whole or ground up and made into a mullet fish dip. Lots of recipes out there!
Mullet are meant to be eaten with your hands, picked off the bone, with a cold beer (or soda!), good friends, and a sunset! Its a community fish.
If you’ve never tried eating mullet, your missing out. These overlooked fish are very abundant with generous bag limits, which means plenty of opportunities for a fine meal!
Get out there and go catch a mess, clean em’ up and experiment with your favorite cooking method.
As I said before, you may be surprised!
See Also: Can You Catch Mullet On A Sabiki Rig?
Growing up in Florida, I’ve been surrounded by saltwater my entire life…and I love sharing my passion with others.
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