Why Eat It
Nutrition Chart

Why Eat It

Mackerel is a rich, oily fish, and as such is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and other serious illnesses. Mackerel, like tuna and oysters, is an outstanding source of selenium, which is part of an important antioxidant that is present in every cell of the body. And mackerel is an abundant source of vitamin B12. Mackerel has outer layers of red meat and lighter interior meat. The proportion of red and light meat varies with the species, as does the percentage of fat.

Most of the commercial catch is canned, and offers a tasty alternative to canned sardines, tuna, or salmon. Fresh mackerel is also available, although it is certainly less common than, say, flounder or halibut.


Spanish and jack mackerel have relatively light, mild-flavored meat, while Atlantic, Pacific (also called Blue), and king mackerel (sometimes called kingfish), have more of the richer-tasting dark flesh and a more pronounced flavor.


Mackerel is caught in the waters off California as well as the eastern coasts of the United States and South America.


Because of its high oil content, fresh mackerel is very perishable, so shop for it with particular care. This fish is marketed dressed or in fillets.


The most important thing about storing mackerel is to do it briefly--it's best to eat the fish the same day you buy it, or no more than 24 hours after purchase. Keep the fish well inside the refrigerator--away from the door, where the temperature fluctuates each time the door is opened.


Mackerel can be poached, baked, sauteed, or broiled. A citrus or vinegar marinade, or a tart or mustard-based sauce, helps temper its richness.

Poaching: Both whole and fillet mackerel can be poached. In a large skillet, heat water and lemon slices or a combination of wine and water to a gentle simmer. Add mackerel, cover and simmer until just done, about 15 minutes for whole mackerel, five to seven minutes for fillets. Serve with lemon wedges or a tart sauce.

Baking: Whole mackerel or fillets can be baked. Place mackerel in a non-aluminum pan and top with a mixture of sauteed garlic, tomatoes, chopped olives, and roasted peppers. Bake at 400°F until flesh can be just be pierced with a knife, but is not falling apart, about 15 minutes for whole fish and seven minutes for fillets. Mackerel intended for baking can also be marinated or rubbed with a dry rub; see "Broiling or Grilling" below.

Sauteeing: Mackerel fillets can be sauteed in a very short time. Because mackerel is an oily fish, if you choose to saute it, try doing so in a skillet without any added fat, or only a slight brushing of oil. Preheat the pan over medium heat, add the mackerel skin-side down and saute three minutes or until it begins to release its oil. Cover and cook just a few more minutes until done. Serve with a lemon wedge.

Broiling or Grilling: Mackerel fillets that are going to be broiled or grilled benefit greatly from a tangy marinade or an assertive rub. An Asian marinade of soy sauce, mirin (a sweet Japanese cooking wine) and a little sugar cuts the mackerel's richness and gives it a mellow sweetness. Prepare the marinade, add the mackerel, and let it sit in the refrigerator at least one hour or up to overnight. An assertive dry rub such as curry, cumin, coriander, and salt enhances mackerel's flavor. Prepare the rub and spread it on the mackerel; broil or grill. Broil or grill mackerel three minutes per side until just cooked through.

Nutrition Chart

Mackerel, Spanish, fresh, 3 oz cooked fillet

Total fat (g)
Saturated fat (g)
Monounsaturated fat (g)
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
Dietary fiber (g)
Carbohydrate (g)
Cholesterol (mg)
Sodium (mg)
Niacin (mg)
Vitamin B6 (mg)
Vitamin B12 (mcg)
Phosphorus (mg)
Selenium (mcg)

Date Published: 04/20/2005
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