Salt-Crusted Trout

A tasty fall recipe.

Sometimes, to get to the good stuff, you gotta break through a few barriers. Last Thanksgiving, my sister and I had to crack our way through an ice shelf to get at the water holding these gorgeous rainbow trout. It only seemed appropriate to bake them in a salt crust that we cracked open at the table, revealing perfectly seasoned, moist fish underneath. It’s a dramatic serving method that looks impressive, but it’s actually remarkably simple. The best part? That crust keeps all the flavor and moisture in the fish, right where it belongs.

Serves 3 to 4

2 whole rainbow trout or similar-sized whole fish (2 to 3 pounds each)
8 sprigs thyme or parsley
8 slices lemon
8 cloves garlic, smashed
6 cups kosher salt
4 egg whites
Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat oven to 500 degrees. Clean and gut fish and trim off fins with a pair of kitchen shears. Dry fish thoroughly with paper towels.
2. Stuff each fish with 4 sprigs of thyme or rosemary, 4 lemon slices, and 4 cloves of garlic. Set aside.
3. Combine salt and egg white and mix with your fingers until it has the texture of moist sand.
4. Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Spread 1/3 of the salt mixture out into two flat areas that just fit the two fish. Mound the remaining salt over the fish and pack it around until the fish is totally sealed. Use a wooden skewer to poke a single hole through the salt to the thickest part of the fish (by the neck).
5. Transfer to the oven and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted through the hole registers 130 degrees, about 20 minutes. Remove fish from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes.
6. Crack open the salt crust with a spoon, remove the fish, brush off any excess salt, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.

Kenji Lopez-Alt is the chief culinary advisor at, where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column, The Food Lab.