Drum fish, also known as black drum, are a popular game fish found in coastal waters from Massachusetts to Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico. Their mild, sweet flavor makes them a tasty fish to eat. But do they really taste good? Here is a look at drum fish taste and some tips for preparing them.
What do drum fish taste like?
Drum fish have a mild, sweet flavor that is often compared to red snapper or grouper. Their flesh is white, lean, and delicate. When very fresh, drum can have a clean briny or mild fishy taste from their ocean environment. But overall their flavor is adaptable to a variety of seasonings and cooking methods.
Smaller drum less than 20 inches tend to be the most tender and have the mildest taste. Larger drum over 30 inches can have a stronger fishy flavor and the flesh may be less tender. The skin on drum fish is edible but can be removed if desired.
Do drum fish taste muddy?
Some people claim that drum fish taste muddy or dirt-like, especially larger drum. This muddy taste likely comes from their bottom-feeding habits over sandy or muddy substrates. However, muddy flavors are not inherent to the drum fish itself. With proper handling and preparation, drum do not have to taste muddy or dirt-like.
To avoid any muddy flavors:
- Clean the drum fish thoroughly as soon as they are caught
- Bleed the fish if possible
- Remove the red lateral line and dark fatty portions
- Soak in saltwater, milk, or a brine to draw out any impurities
Proper bleeding, cleaning, and brining should prevent any muddy or dirt-like flavors in drum fish.
Drum fish preparation tips
To enjoy the mild sweet taste of drum fish, here are some preparation and cooking tips:
- Fillet and skin drum fish to remove fatty dark portions
- Marinate fillets in citrus, herbs, and olive oil to impart flavor
- Sear, bake, or grill drum fillets to a flaky finish
- Try blackened drum for Cajun-style flavor
- Use whole drum under 5 lbs for pan frying or deep frying
- stew or soup larger drum frames
- Season drum with spices like garlic, paprika, oregano, or lemon pepper
Best ways to cook drum fish
Here are some of the best cooking methods to optimize the mild, sweet taste of drum fish:
Baking brings out the delicate flavor of drum fillets. Coat fillets with breadcrumbs or flour and bake at 350°F until flaky. Bake whole drum stuffed with herbs and lemon slices.
Grilling lends a smoky flavor that pairs well with the sweetness of drum. Grill fillets, steaks, or whole drum over high heat just until cooked through.
For Cajun-style drum, blacken seasoned fillets in a cast iron skillet with butter. The char enhances the flavor of the mild fish.
Frying keeps drum fillets or steaks moist, tender and flavorful. Try pan frying in butter or shallow frying. Small whole drum are ideal for deep frying.
Slow simmering larger drum frames makes the meat fall-off-the-bone tender. Stew with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and spices.
Smoking brings out a rich depth of flavor from the fish. Keep the brine light to let the mild drum flavor shine through.
What do professional chefs say?
Professional chefs praise drum fish for their versatility in recipes. Chef Jonathan Dearden says, “Black drum is one of the best eating fish out there! Their sweet mild flavor adapts well to a variety of cooking styles from fried, to tacos, to soups and chowders.”
Seafood cookbook author Barton Seaver recommends, “Try drum in fish cakes, homemade fish sticks or tacos. Their texture holds up well to bold flavors.”
Executive chef Anthony Fusco states, “Drum can substitute for almost any white fish and suits Mediterranean flavors like basil, tomatoes, olives and lemons.”
Drum fish do have a tasty mild sweet flavor when very fresh and properly prepared. Their versatility as a table fish makes them a good choice for many fish recipes. Proper handling when caught and removing dark fatty portions prevents any muddy or fishy tastes.
Baking, grilling, frying or smoking brings out the best in drum fish. A range of seasoning like lemon, paprika, cayenne and garlic complement the mild flavor. Their adaptability to bold flavors makes them ideal for tacos, fish cakes, soups, and chowders.
So if you catch a fresh drum, don’t be afraid to take it to the kitchen. With a little skill and the right recipe, drum fish can make a delicious entree. Their sweet taste and flaky texture just may make them your new favorite fish to eat.
|Try Pairing With
|Coat with breadcrumbs or flour, bake at 350°F until flaky
|Lemon, dill, Parmesan cheese
|Brush with oil, grill over high heat 2-5 minutes per side
|Rosemary, garlic, lime juice
|Coat fillet with Cajun seasoning, blacken in skillet with butter
|Remoulade sauce, mango salsa
|Coat with flour, shallow fry or deep fry 3-5 minutes
|Tartar sauce, hushpuppies
|Simmer drum frame 45-90 minutes in stew vegetables and broth
|Okra, tomato, bell peppers, onion
Popular drum fish recipes
Baked Lemon Drum
- 2 drum fish fillets (6-8 oz each)
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Place drum fillets in baking dish and top with lemon slices.
- In small bowl, mix together olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper.
- Brush olive oil mixture over fillets.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes until drum flakes easily with a fork.
- Serve baked lemon drum with rice pilaf and roasted asparagus.
Blackened Drum Tacos
- 2 drum fish fillets (6-8 oz each)
- 1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 6 small corn tortillas
- 1 cup coleslaw mix
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
- Rinse drum fillets and pat dry. Rub fillets evenly with Cajun seasoning.
- Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add fillets and cook for 2-3 minutes per side until blackened and cooked through.
- Warm tortillas on skillet until softened. Fill with drum, coleslaw, avocado and lime juice.
Drum Fish Chowder
- 1 lb drum fish fillets, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 slices bacon
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 cups chicken or fish stock
- 3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup half and half
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook bacon in large pot over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon, drain on paper towels.
- Add onion, celery and carrot. Cook 5 minutes until softened.
- Add drum fish, stock, potatoes and bay leaf. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
- Discard bay leaf. Stir in half and half and thyme. Heat through but do not boil.
- Season chowder with salt and pepper. Garnish bowls with crumbled bacon.
Where to buy drum fish
Fresh drum fish can be found seasonally at many fish markets, supermarkets and specialty seafood stores. Here are some places to buy fresh drum fish:
- Local fish markets – Drum is popular catch for coastal fishermen from the Carolinas to Texas. Check for fresh drum at fish markets near coastal regions.
- Seafood counters – Many grocery store seafood counters, especially in the Southeast US, carry drum fish.
- Online seafood retailers – Companies like Seattle Fish Company, Fulton Fish Market and Sea to Table offer drum for nationwide delivery.
- Ethnic markets – Asian and Latin markets may carry fresh drum in cities with large populations from drum-eating cultures.
When buying drum fish, look for clear eyes, bright red gills, firm flesh and a mild sea breeze scent. Fresh drum is best eaten within two days of purchase.
Nutrition facts for drum fish
Drum fish provide lean protein with less than 2 grams of fat per serving. They are rich in vitamins and minerals including:
|Per 3 oz Serving
|Omega-3 fatty acids
|2mcg – 33% DV
|47mcg – 68% DV
|4.8mg – 30% DV
DV = Daily Value. Data from USDA FoodData Central.
The high protein content along with heart-healthy omega-3 fats make drum fish a nutrient dense choice. The minerals selenium and phosphorus support thyroid and bone health. Drum fish can fit into a healthy diet with its lean protein and wide range of nutrients.
Are drum fish sustainable to eat?
Drum fish are considered a sustainable seafood choice when sourced from the US Atlantic coast according to Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Populations in the Gulf of Mexico are more vulnerable and Seafood Watch recommends avoiding Gulf drum.
The population of Atlantic drum is considered healthy and current fishing levels are not putting pressure on the stock. Atlantic drum are primarily caught in the southeast by small-scale fisheries using hook and line gear. This low impact fishing method causes little harm to ocean habitats or other species.
Other sustainable fish choices include Pacific halibut, Alaska salmon, rainbow trout, and US catfish which are all rated “Best Choice” by Seafood Watch. Choosing sustainably managed seafood helps protect ocean resources for the future.
Drum fish can make a tasty, mild flavored addition to seafood recipes when fresh. Their sweet flavor pairs well with baking, grilling, frying and smoking. Tacos, chowders and fish cakes all benefit from the use of drum. When sourced sustainably, drum are a healthy and environmentally friendly fish dinner option.