How to cook a whole fish

Cooking a whole fish needn’t be intimidating. Take tips from our easy guide on how to cook a whole piece of salmon (see video below, too) and impress guests next time you host a dinner party.

And make sure to see our collection of easy whole fish recipes.

How to cook a whole fish

How to cook a whole salmon

First, prepare your ingredients. One of the big secrets about baking a whole fish is that it’s disarmingly simple for the impressive results you get, and often requires just a handful of ingredients.


  • 2.5kg sustainably sourced whole salmon, scaled and gutted
  • 2 bunches spring onions, trimmed
  • 1kg small new potatoes, halved
  • Good glug olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 2 unwaxed lemons, 1 sliced thinly
  • Bunch fresh flatleaf parsley
  • 4-5 fresh rosemary sprigs


  1. Heat the oven to 220°C/fan200°C/ gas 7. Dry the fish with kitchen paper, making sure all the scales have been removed. Make 3-4 evenly spaced slashes on each side of the fish.
  2. Find a roasting tin large enough to hold the whole salmon (you may need to place it diagonally – see tip). Put the spring onions and new potatoes in the tin, drizzle with olive oil and season well, then toss to coat.
  3. Finely grate the zest of the whole lemon into a bowl (reserve the rest of it). Finely chop half the herbs and add to the bowl with enough olive oil to make a paste. Spread all over the salmon and into the slashes. Stuff the cavity with the remaining herbs and lemon slices. Season the fish well, then put on top of the veg.
  4. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4 and roast for another 25-30 minutes.
  5. To check the fish is cooked, make a small cut along the backbone at the head end. If the flesh comes away easily from the bones, and the tip of the knife (after being held between bones and flesh for 10 seconds) is warm to touch, it’s cooked. Squeeze over the juice from the reserved lemon and serve the fish whole, with the veg. At the table, peel off the skin (see tips) and ease the flesh off the bones in big pieces. Once you’ve served the top side, lift up the tail and, using a knife, prise the flesh away. The skeleton should come away (discard). Serve the rest of the fish.

Tips to success…

  • If your salmon is a whopper and you don’t have a large enough roasting tin, cut off the head before cooking
  • If you like, pop the fish skin (at step 5 above) in the oven for 5 minutes to crisp up for crackling to serve on the side.

Watch our handy video:

More recipes for cooking a whole fish:

Whole sea bass with purple sprouting broccoli, chilli and garlic
Whole roast plaice with anchovy and sage butter 
Raymond Blanc’s whole-roasted salmon

More to discover

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