If you’re not an avid fish fan, hearing a ‘triggerfish’ can really trigger you. (See what I did there?)
Actually, a triggerfish is completely safe to eat and is pretty tasty with a lot of depth and flavor. It’s similar to crab meat, so if you love that, you’ll certainly crave triggerfish, too.
If you’re reading this, you probably don’t know where to even start. That’s why we made this quick guide–know more about what triggerfish taste like in meals and how to prepare them!
What Is A Triggerfish?
Triggerfish are brightly colored fish with lots of cool patterns and markings. They have large find and ornate tails. They are a part of the Balistidae family and have 40 different species of triggerfish that live in both tropic and subtropic oceans worldwide.
You’d find triggerfish chilling out at the Mexican Gulf offshore and nearshore waters, the warmer parts of Caribbean reefs, and most of the East Coast. The best place to catch them, though, is in the waters of Florida.
You’re probably wondering, why the name? Well, they got it from the spines they have. These spines help them lock into any cracks or crevices. The spine becomes unlocked when they press a trigger (which is another piece of their spine).
Now, that’s pretty impressive.
How Do I Clean The Triggerfish?
Triggerfish’s skin can be very hard, but it’s easy to clean once you get your knife through it.
You should insert your knife into the skin at the soft spot under the dorsal fin. All the good parts you’re going to prepare are only the body, so the head has to come off. Then you get your filet knife under the edge of the skin, as close as you can, and lift slowly to remove it.
Now that the triggerfish is skinned, chopping up the good bits is next. Run your knife down the ribcage on the top and then around the base of the bottom. Here, you would find a little knuckle where the head and body meet.
Work the knife up and over the knuckle to get your meat out. Afterward, you have to trim it up. Cut the famous spine that’s in the middle of the triggerfish to make your dish less boney. This means only meat to enjoy!
I know this process seems sort of intimidating for the first time doing it, so I recommend you get a sous chef to help you out. Two heads are always better than one!
The Triggerfish’s Flavor Profile
Now, to the most thrilling part, what does triggerfish taste like?
Triggerfish is definitely not short on flavor. They are smaller, but the taste is not! The grey triggerfish is the best starter if you’re eating this fish for the first time.
The meat of triggerfish is similar to the sweet crab meat when cooked. It has a deep flavor that will dominate any fish dish, so it’s best served on its own. The sweetness it provides can be compared to a grouper, but it’s more shellfish-like in its own unique way.
The filets that come from triggerfish are super thin and light, making them perfect for frying, grilling, or baking. Fishers have ignored this delicacy for a while, but chefs have found ways to prepare triggerfish as a yummy dish.
Queen triggerfish is also another great species to try out.
Don’t fill the pot with too many ingredients! You will hide the flavor of the triggerfish, making it lost in the dish. Less is more.
How Do I Cook Triggerfish?
Like I mentioned before, the thin filets of triggerfish can be fried, baked, or grilled. Let’s look at the various ways you can make it.
Baking The Triggerfish
- Preheat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit, and put olive oil on the skillet so the fish won’t stick.
- Add your triggerfish into the pan, and sprinkle some lemon juice over the top. You can also add salt and pepper to taste.
- Put the triggerfish in the oven and set to bake for 8 minutes.
- Afterward, turn the filets and bake again for 8 minutes. The filets are thin, so they can get overcooked if you take your eyes off them for too long.
Once they are opaque and flaky, they are done!
Frying The Triggerfish
Fried fish is my all-time favorite. I would even say it’s my comfort food!
- Crack two eggs and season them with salt and pepper. Mix it up.
- In a separate dish, add some flour. Dip the meat in the egg then into the flour. If you want double coating, repeat this step twice.
- Heat four cups of oil in a deep frying pan. This must be done on high heat. Once it’s hot, add your dredged fish.
- Fry for ten minutes and turn them over to make sure that they are evenly cooked.
After frying, put them on a plate covered with paper towels. Serve with lemon and some tartar sauce if you like.
Grilling The Triggerfish
Grilling adds a smoky flavor to the fish!
- Pat the filets dry with paper towels and let them rest at room temp for 10 minutes. At this time, coat your grill, then preheat to medium-high heat.
- Put oil on both sides of the fish, and add salt and pepper. Place it on the grate and grill with the lid closed for 4 minutes.
- Carefully turn the filet over and grill again, but uncovered. Do this for about 2 minutes.
Don’t rush, and don’t flip them too fast. They will not stick to the grill when they are fully done.
Make sure to add some triggerfish in your cooler next time you go fishing. Keep the smaller ones, and you’re guaranteed a good meal!
Frequently Asked Questions
How to catch triggerfish?
Make use of smaller hooks and baits such as shrimp or strips of squid. Cast your rod in the area of a triggerfish. Be ready when they bite, as they put up quite a fight! Be careful of its teeth when you remove it from the hook.
Is it safe to eat triggerfish?
Well, this fish, alongside other reef fish, can carry ciguatera. This does not mean that triggerfish aren’t safe. Your risk is completely eliminated if you avoid eating large fish. Out of the 40 species of triggerfish, the clown triggerfish is the one you should not eat at all.