A sheepshead, also known as an American eel or black sea bass, has long been considered one of America’s most delicious seafood delicacies.
This fish can be found all over the country from Alaska down into Florida.
The meaty texture and mild flavor makes this fish perfect for grilling.
What Is The Difference Between A Sheepshead And A Regular Head Of Sheep?
The main difference between a sheepshead and a regular head of sheep is their size.
A sheepshead will typically weigh about three pounds while a regular sheep head may only weigh around two pounds.
Both types of sheep are usually found on fishing boats and both have similar tastes when it comes to preparation.
Sheepsheads are much more common than regular heads of sheep.
They are often caught during deep-sea fishing expeditions and they are usually sold at markets.
Regular sheepshead are mostly used to make stockfish (a dried salted fish), but they are still very tasty if prepared correctly.
Both sheepshead species look like elongated versions of a cod fish.
The skin on its back side looks almost exactly like a salmon’s skin, so it is easy to tell them apart by looking at the color of their backsides.
If you want to buy a sheepshead online, you should always check out the packaging before buying anything.
Make sure to look closely at how big the fish is because some packaging companies try to trick customers by making the fish appear larger than it really is.
Regular sheepshead come in slightly smaller sizes compared to sheepshead.
If you find yourself shopping for a regular sheepshead, expect to pay anywhere from $10-$15 per pound depending on where you live.
If you want something bigger, you should consider purchasing a sheepshead instead.
You can easily spend upwards of $30 per pound for these fish.
How Do You Prepare A Sheepshead For Cooking?
The first thing to know about preparing a sheepshead for cooking is its name.
A sheepshead isn’t actually a type of sheep at all.
In fact, it is more closely related to catfish than any other kind of fish.
However, because of its resemblance to a human face, many people call it by that nickname instead of referring to it as “catfish”.
Sheepheads have flat heads with small eyes and large mouths filled with sharp teeth.
They grow up to three feet (1 meter) long but rarely weigh more than 15 pounds (6 kg).
Most commonly, they range in size from 10-12 inches (25-30 cm), however, there are exceptions even within those boundaries.
Some specimens reach 30 inches (75 cm) long!
When caught, sheepshead will often already be dead.
When fishing, anglers use nets to catch them before they die.
Once they are caught, they must then be gutted and cleaned before being cooked.
Unlike most types of fish that require no additional cleaning steps, the guts of a sheepshead need to be removed prior to serving otherwise the fish could become very messy while eating.
What Are Some Common Ingredients In A Sheepshead Recipe?
Sheepsheads have a lot of similarities to codfish but their taste isn’t quite the same.
They tend to have less fat than codfish which means they don’t need to be cooked as long.
On top of that it cooks up nice and crispy on the grill so there is very little prep work needed before hitting the grill.
The main ingredient in a typical sheepshead dish is usually potatoes but other vegetables such as onions, peppers, cabbage, broccoli, corn, and tomatoes are used occasionally.
Some people may even add mushrooms to help give the dish a more savory flavor.
Grilled Sheepshead Fish Recipe Ingredients
- 1/2 pound potatoes
- 4 ounces onion
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
Step-by-step instructions to make grilled sheepshead fish:
What Is The Cooking Time And Temperature For A Sheepshead?
Sheepsheads have a firm flesh but they do not require any special treatment when being cooked.
You will find them on sale at many grocery stores throughout the year.
Cooked whole, the fish should take about 20 minutes per pound (500 grams).
After removing the fillets from the bones, you may cook these individually if desired.
You can serve the meat either hot, cold, or raw depending on your preference.
When purchasing sheepshead, make sure to buy fresh fish from a reputable market where there is no smell of ammonia or other odors associated with poor quality produce.
How to prepare a sheepshead fillet
- Season both sides of each piece with salt and pepper.
- Place the pieces skin-side up on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
- Bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit (220 Celsius)
The fish is done when its internal temperature reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit (63 Celsius).
If you prefer the fish more rare, bake until it reaches 135 degrees Fahrenheit (57 C).
Is It Necessary To Remove The Head And Tail Of A Sheepshead Before Cooking?
The short answer is yes.
You should always remove the head and tail of any type of fish before cooking because they contain bones which can puncture your skin if left intact during the process.
If you are unsure about how to safely prepare a fish like this, make sure to check out our guide on how to clean and cook whole fish at home.
How Do You Know When A Sheepshead Is Cooked Through?
Sheepheads have firm flesh which means they need to cook longer than other types of fish because their natural oils will break down if overcooked.
This means that you should start checking them after about 15 minutes on each side.
When I first started to grill my own food, I would often forget to check the fish until it was already done.
When I made a mistake like this, I would always end up having to throw away half the fish! That’s why it’s important to keep track of how much time you have left so you don’t burn your fish.
Checking for doneness by touch
To test for doneness, feel around the thickest part of the fish (the belly) where there isn’t any bone.
If the skin feels soft but still slightly resilient, then the fish is probably ready to eat.
You may want to use a fork to pierce the center of the fish to make sure no bones remain inside.
Taste-testing your fish
Once your fish is fully cooked, take a bite out of it.
If the flesh is tender, flaky, juicy, and tasty, then it’s probably finished.
However, if the taste doesn’t seem right, then it needs more time.
To determine whether your fish is undercooked, take another piece off the same spot on the fish.
If the taste changes, then the fish needs another five to ten minutes of additional cooking time.
Repeat this process until the fish tastes good enough to eat.
What Are Some Common Ways To Serve Sheepshead?
Sheepshead recipes vary slightly depending on where it comes from but they tend to have similar ingredients.
In general, a sheepshead is a big, thick fish often served grilled.
If you’re looking for a quick meal, there are plenty of different options available at your local grocery store.
These include whole sheepshead fillets, which are easy to cook quickly on the grill or under the broiler, or prepared by baking it whole.
- Grilled Sheepshead Fillet Recipe – A simple yet flavorful way to prepare a roasted fish fillet.
- Roasted Whole Fish (with Lemon) Recipe – An easy way to make sure every piece of fish is perfectly cooked.
Baked Sheepshead Recipe
This tasty fish dish is just right if you want something quick and easy to put together after work.
When preparing your baked sheepshead, start off by cleaning it thoroughly before seasoning it.
Next, get out a large bowl and mix together the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon juice, parsley flakes, cayenne pepper, thyme leaves, and paprika.
Then add two eggs and stir until everything is combined.
Next, coat both sides of each fillet with the seasoned breading mixture and place them inside a single layer onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake the fillets in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.
Once the time has passed, remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool completely before serving.
What Are Some Side Dishes That Go Well With Sheepshead?
Sheepshead has a firm yet delicate flesh that doesn’t require much cooking.
However, if you want to make it more tender, place the whole fish on a baking sheet covered in foil and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes per pound.
After cooking, remove the skin and then flake the fish apart using your fingers.
Then toss the flakes back together before serving.
Roasted Sheepshead Fish Recipe
- Place the cleaned fish inside a large roasting pan.
- Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper.
- Cover the bottom of the pan with olive oil.
- Bake the fish for 20-25 minutes until just cooked through.
- Remove the pan from the oven and set aside.
- In another bowl mix together garlic powder, paprika, cayenne, and onion powder.
- Pour mixture onto the top of the roasted fish.
- Toss the fish pieces around so they are coated evenly.
- Return the pan to the oven for 10 more minutes.
- Serve immediately!
What Are Some Common Sheeps
Sheepshad is a type of whitefish which comes in various sizes.
The smallest typically weighs between 10-20 pounds while larger ones can weigh more than 100 pounds.
The largest size of sheepshead that you will find in markets usually weighs around 250 pounds.
They have been classified by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as a “dietary vegetable protein” due to its high levels of omega 3 fatty acids and low amount of saturated fat.
One serving of sheepshead contains 7 grams of fiber, 1 gram of calcium, 0.5 grams of iron, and 0.6 grams of sodium.
How to cook a sheepshead filet
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Season your fillet with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and lemon juice.
- Place the seasoned fish on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
- Cover the fillets with another piece of aluminum foil and bake them for 20 minutes.
- Remove the top layer of aluminum foil and flip the fillets over.
- Add a little olive oil to the pan again and place it back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
- When they come out of the oven, remove the fillets from the pan.
- Let the fillets rest for 5 minutes before slicing them up.
While you can enjoy sheepshead cooked any way you like, there are many other ways to prepare this tasty fish.
Here are just a few of our favorite recipes.
1. Baked Sheepshead Fish Recipe
You will need:
- One 4 pound sheepshead filet
- Two tablespoons butter, melted
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Half cup flour
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 egg yolk beaten with 2 teaspoons water
- 1 tablespoon parsley flakes
In a medium bowl mix together the flour, eggs, milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper until smooth.
Place the mixture in a shallow dish.
Dip each filet first in the flour mixture then shake off excess.
Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
Cook the filets about 3 minutes per side, turning once, until golden brown and flaky, about 4 minutes total.
Remove from the skillet and keep warm.
Combine the parsley flakes and remaining salt and pepper.
Sprinkle evenly over both sides of the fish.
2. Fried Sheepshead Fillet With Lemon Beurre Blanc Sauce
If you love fried food, you should try this recipe. To make this dish you will need:
- Four 6 ounce sheepshead fillets
- Butter for frying
- Flour for dredging
- Lemon Beurre Blanc sauce made with equal parts of buttermilk, heavy cream and butter
- Garnish with fresh chives
To make the lemon beurre blanc sauce combine the buttermilk, heavy cream, butter, lemon zest, and minced shallots in a small pot set over medium heat.
Stir constantly until the ingredients are combined, then reduce the temperature slightly and allow the liquid to simmer.
As soon as the sauce starts to thicken add the lemon juice.
Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
3. Pan Roasted Sheetside Rib Eye Steaks with Fresh Goat Cheese Cream
This recipe calls for two 4 oz rib eye steaks.
You will need:
- Fresh goat cheese, at room temperature
- Garlic cloves peeled and crushed
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Parmesan cheese shavings
- Balsamic vinegar
- Rosemary leaves
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Four 4 oz ribeye steak slices
Heat a cast iron grill pan over medium heat.
Add 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
Season both sides of the steak with salt and pepper.
Grill the steaks for three minutes on each side.
Transfer them to a cutting board and let them stand for five minutes.
While still hot sprinkle each steak with balsamic vinegar.
Slice the ribs and serve them topped with crumbled goat cheese and rosemary leaves.
Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with Parmesan cheese shavings.
4. Grilled Flounder with Parsnips and Pecans
This recipe requires four 6 oz flounder fillets.
You will need:
- 2 cups pecans chopped
- 2 cups diced yellow onion
- 2 cups diced celery
- 2 cups diced carrot
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cups diced potatoes
- 1 cup sherry
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Combine the vegetables, herbs, and wine in a large stockpot.
Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the vegetables are tender.
Adjust seasoning and transfer to a blender.
Puree until very smooth.
Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Divide among individual bowls and top with the parsley mixture.
- Cast Iron Skillet
- 2 Sheepshead Fish
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper
- Place the cast iron skillet on the grill and heat it to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
- If necessary, filet the fish while the grill is heating up. After patting dry, season with salt & pepper.
- Reduce the grill’s temperature to 425°F, add the olive oil, and add the fish to the skillet after the cast iron is hot and the grill has reached 500°F. It can take a few minutes for the skillet’s temperature to drop.
- Close the grill and give each side two to three minutes to cook. The sides of the fish will begin to turn and pull away from the cast iron as you watch. You can determine when to flip it by doing so. Avoid flipping too soon.
- Once the fish has been flipped, cook it for a further 1-3 minutes, or until it pulls up and turns white and flaky. The fish should have a lovely crispy skin produced by the hot cast iron and should be golden brown on both sides.
- When ready to serve, take the fish from the skillet and brush it with the Garlic Butter.