Red drum, also known as red fish or channel bass, is a popular game fish found in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. With its reddish bronze body and large size, reaching up to 90 lbs, red drum is highly prized by recreational anglers and commercial fishermen alike. But how does it taste? Is red drum good eating? Let’s take a look at the qualities that make red drum a tasty, sought-after fish.
– Red drum is considered excellent eating by many anglers and chefs.
– It has firm, flaky white meat with a mild, sweet flavor.
– Larger, older red drum can have a stronger taste due to their diet.
– Smaller red drum around 5 lbs are considered the best for eating.
– Red drum is versatile and grills, bakes, broils, and fries well.
Red Drum Flavor Profile
The flesh of red drum is white, firm, and flaky when cooked. It has a mild, sweet flavor that is widely regarded as excellent eating. The taste is not “fishy” or strong like some other species. The meat holds up well to various cooking methods and provides a satisfying fillet or steak.
Many anglers and chefs liken the taste of red drum to that of spotted sea trout or redfish. It’s lighter and flakier than meatier fish like tuna or salmon. The sweetness comes from the drum’s diet of crabs and shrimp which gives it a pleasing, subtle flavor. When fresh, the flesh will be white with a very slight pinkish hue.
While red drum is considered tasty overall, there are some differences in taste based on the size of the fish. Smaller drum around 4-5 lbs are thought to provide the best eating experience. At this size, the flesh is tender and flaky with a mildly sweet flavor.
As red drum grow larger to 20+ lbs, their diet shifts more to fish, which can cause the meat to have a stronger, fishier flavor. The flesh may also become darker and slightly oilier. The taste is still acceptable but not as mild and sweet as their younger counterparts.
Many anglers practice catch and release with large trophy-sized red drum to preserve the breeding stock. Smaller adolescent fish provide the best fillets for the dinner plate.
Versatility in Cooking Methods
One of the best attributes of red drum is its versatility for cooking. The meat holds up well to almost any preparation method. This allows chefs and home cooks to experiment and tailor the dish to their tastes.
Grilling is a quick, easy cooking method that accentuates red drum’s mild flavor. The fillets can be grilled over direct heat or indirect heat if very thick. Grilling tends to highlight the sweetness of the meat. Just a simple sprinkle of salt, pepper, and lemon juice is all that’s needed to let the fish flavor shine. Grilled redfish tacos are a popular dish in Texas.
Baking allows the flakes of redfish to gently break down and liquify into a rich glaze around the fillet. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes depending on thickness. The fish can be baked plain, blackened with spices, or topped with citrus, herbs, breadcrumbs, or sauce.
Similar to grilling, broiling uses high direct heat to caramelize the outside of redfish fillets. Keep a close eye to avoid overcooking. Broiling brings out more of the savory, umami notes in the flesh. Pair with roasted vegetables for a quick, easy meal.
Redfish holds up beautifully to frying, keeping its structure while becoming ultra crispy on the outside. Make sure to use high heat oil like canola or peanut. The coating can be as simple as cornmeal and spices or more complex batters and breadings. Fried redfish tacos, sandwiches, fish sticks, and fish and chips are all popular ways to enjoy the fish.
For a lighter preparation, try poaching redfish fillets in liquid like broth, wine, or a court bouillon. Keep the temperature just below simmer to gently cook the fish. Pair poached redfish with lighter vegetable sides and sauces.
Steaming is another healthy cooking technique that preserves nutrients and moisture when preparing redfish. Place fillets in a steamer basket and cook for 5-10 minutes over boiling water, depending on thickness. Retain the natural mild sweetness by serving with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon.
Popular Redfish Dishes
Here are some classic and creative recipes that highlight red drum’s delicious flavor:
This Louisiana favorite coats redfish fillets with Cajun spices and blackens them in a cast iron skillet. The charred crust pairs perfectly with the tender flesh inside. Often served with dirty rice or jambalaya.
Grilled, blackened, or fried redfish fillets make amazing tacos when layered with crunchy cabbage, pico de gallo, avocado crema, and cilantro. Popular in Texas and along the Gulf Coast.
Redfish Court Bouillon
This Louisiana stew poaches redfish and vegetables in a broth flavored with tomato, lemon, herbs, and Creole spices. The broth soaks up the sweetness of the fish.
Crispy Redfish Sandwich
Fried redfish fillets with a crunchy cornmeal coating are the star of this sandwich. Top with tartar sauce, lettuce, and tomatoes for a delicious lunch or dinner.
Fillets topped with spinach, parsley, breadcrumbs, and a rich cream sauce, then baked. Elegant and flavorful.
Miso Glazed Redfish
This Asian-inspired recipe marinates redfish in a sweet and salty miso sauce then broils or grills. The miso pairs nicely with the mildly sweet fish.
Dice raw redfish and marinate in citrus juice, tomato, onion, cilantro, and chili peppers. The citrus “cooks” the fish for a refreshing appetizer.
In addition to its great taste, red drum is nutritious and provides high-quality protein with less fat than many fish:
- – 6 ounces of cooked redfish contains about 40 grams of protein with only 3 grams of fat.
- – It’s an excellent source of selenium, niacin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.
- – Redfish has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA which are linked to heart health.
- – The flesh is low in mercury and other contaminants compared to some species.
The beneficial nutrient composition and lack of strong “fishy” flavor make red drum an appealing choice for people looking to add more seafood to their diet.
Availability and Sustainability
The popularity of redfish has raised some concerns about overfishing stocks in the past. However, management efforts helped rebuild populations and the fish is now considered sustainable.
Red drum is available year-round with peak seasons in the summer and fall. It’s primarily caught wild in the Gulf of Mexico, with some smaller scale aquaculture operations. Fresh redfish can be found at seafood markets throughout the Gulf coast and Southeastern states.
Farm-raised redfish is also gaining ground as a sustainable option but availability is currently low. Most redfish on the market is still wild-caught using methods that limit bycatch and habitat damage. Look for fresh redfish from reputable sustainable sources when buying.
How to Buy Quality Redfish
When shopping for redfish, here are some tips to get the best quality:
- – Look for bright red or orange-red color on the skin, Avoid any brown or dull areas.
- – Seek out fillets or steaks with firm, resilient flesh and no gaping or separation.
- – Make sure there’s no strong “fishy” smell, it should be mild.
- – The flesh should be moist with no drying around edges.
- – For whole fish, the eyes should be clear and bulge slightly.
- – Opt for wild-caught or sustainably farmed sources.
- – Ask trusted fishmongers when and where the fish was caught.
- – Purchase redfish the same day it was caught if possible.
Buying high-quality, fresh redfish will help ensure great flavor and texture when cooked.
Storage and Handling
Proper storage and handling helps preserve freshness and quality:
- – Keep redfish chilled at 32-40°F until ready to use.
- – Wrap fillets tightly in plastic wrap or place in a sealed container.
- – Don’t wash until ready to use to prevent moisture loss.
- – Cook within 1-2 days of purchasing for best flavor and texture.
- – Discard if any unpleasant odors develop.
- – Once cooked, eat immediately or refrigerate for 3-4 days.
Storing redfish properly allows it to retain its moisture, flavor, and shelf life.
Here are some tips for preparing redfish fillets and steaks:
- – Check for any remaining scales or pin bones and remove with tweezers or pliers.
- – Rinse fillets just before cooking and pat dry to prevent sticking.
- – Brush fillets with oil to prevent them from drying out.
- – Redfish holds up well to marinades if desired.
- – Score thicker steaks lightly to prevent curling when cooked.
- – Cook to an internal temperature of 145°F. It will flake easily with a fork.
- – Be careful not to overcook or it can become dry.
With its ideal cooking qualities, preparing delicious redfish dishes is easy and enjoyable.
With its sweet mild flavor, tender flaky texture, and versatility, red drum fully deserves its reputation as an excellent eating fish. The smaller adolescent fish in the 4-5 lb range provide the best flavor and texture for the table. Red drum works well with an array of cooking methods from grilling to frying to steaming. Beyond its great taste, it delivers quality protein and healthy fats. Sustainable fishing and farming practices help ensure red drum populations can meet demand. When fresh, high quality redfish makes it to the kitchen, a tasty meal is sure to follow.