The Odd-looking Fish: Red Gurnard

We all appreciate a nice looking fish. If it looks good, then it probably tastes good, right? True, but that’s not always the case. Say hello to the Red Gurnard.

The Bizarre Gurnard

If you would ever watch the sea host its first Ugliest Seafood Pageant, then you’d surely see the gurnard take its place as the first runner up (the monkfish would get the crown, obviously). This prehistoric-looking fish -- with its bulging eyes and odd pointy snout-- gets even weirder thanks to its modified fin rays, which actually resemble more of a spider’s legs rather than part of a fish. The fish uses these sensitive ‘fins’ to walk on the ocean floor and feel for its prey, such as crustaceans, clams, and smaller fishes.

Another interesting fact about red gurnard is that it is known to make a grunting sound when caught; in fact, the name came from the old French word ‘gornart’ which means to grunt.

An Ugly Face with a Better Taste

The red gurnard is plentiful all year round and is widespread in British waters. It is also found on the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. However, because of its unappetizing appearance and boniness, it is either thrown back to the sea or used as lobster bait. Technically, the red gurnard is not really a thing among seafood gourmets – until recently.

Thanks to the high praises it received from celebrity chefs like Rick Stein and Samantha Clark, the red gurnard’s popularity has been on the rise, which is a welcome break to some over-fished seafood. Not only that, the red gurnard is a more affordable alternative. Its white, flaky meat is actually quite tasty -mildly sweet thanks to its diet of crabs, shrimps. and clams.

A Guide to Buying Gurnard

The boniness of the gurnard might seem to be a deal breaker to you, but trust me. It’s not as bad as it seems. The bones and the head are great for making fish stock and soup.

Not feeling like making those tonight? Not a problem. Just ask your favourite fishmonger to take care of the bones and fillet the fish for you, so you can go ahead and prepare the lovely white meat.

As with any other fish, your red gurnard should be firm and odorless. When buying whole ones, check for clear bright eyes and vibrant red or orange coloration. Try to press the flesh with your fingers, too. The flesh should spring back easily leaving no dents on the fish. For more tips on checking fish freshness, click here.

Preparing the Red Gurnard

The red gurnard is a fish that is very good at absorbing other flavors and make those flavors livelier. It goes well with earthy flavors such as mushroom and perfectly complements ingredients with sharper flavors such onions and lemons.

In general, it can be pan-fried, grilled, barbecued, or stewed. It is also an excellent fish for bouillabaisse and curry.

The red gurnard is another tasty testament that in the world of seafood, tasty need not to be pretty. Why not indulge yourself with one today?