Grilling Salmon Heads

Grilling Salmon heads

Earlier, I lamented that Google had failed to find a decent recipe for Salmon heads. And, after yesterday’s adventures, I had a pile o’ salmon heads that would be sad to waste. Salmon heads are full of all kinds of incredibly tasty meat — little bits of incredibly fatty yummy muscle that isn’t used much for swimming. And, as Rama indicated, the cheeks — the heavenly little salmon cheeks. As the oyster of a chicken is to the rest of chicken meat, the salmon cheek is to the rest of the salmon!

So, given 3 fresh salmon heads of the highest quality and an easter dinner party full of relatively adventurous eaters, I decided to wing it.

The results were so delicious that I only have before pictures. The meat was flavorful and incredibly tender. We used forks to pull out the tasty bits and smeared it on bread like butter (it was that tender) and topped it with various cheeses.

The details:

  • Divide Salmon Into Roasts (keep the head!!)Get some salmon heads. Fresh is key. If you are cleaning your own salmon, simply don’t worry about trying to cut the frontmost roast as close to the head as possible (like this picture).
  • Split the salmon heads. Hold the head upright, stick your thumb in the head’s eye and and grip it solidly. Take your heavy knife and split the head from the top all the way to the bottom. It is surprisingly easy. Except the bottom jaw, for some reason.
  • Toss the halved heads in a heavy freezer bag and add soy sauce, fresh squeezed apple juice, lime juice, fresh ground pepper, dried dill, and dried powdered ginger. Or something like it. The soy sauce I used had a lot of salt in it; add a pinch or two or three of salt if you have a lighter soy sauce. Let it marinate for a couple of hours.
  • Fire up the grill. Build a hot fire on one side of the grill.
  • Toss the heads on the grill, split side down, over the hot side of the fire. Get a good sear on, maybe about a minute or so.
  • Move the heads to the cool side of the grill, skin side down. Close down the vents on the grill to lower the temperature. Cook ’em for upwards of five minutes. As long as you pay attention and don’t let the exposed meat get dry, you can’t go too wrong here.
  • Serve skin side — eye side — down. People seem to deal with it better that way. Can be accompanied by lemon or lime wedges.

There you have it. Easy, incredibly tasty, and makes use of a part of the fish that is often — sadly — thrown away.

And, more importantly, this will shortly be in Google’s index, to be found when searching for “Grilled Salmon Heads”, “Cooking Salmon Heads”, and/or “Broiled Salmon Heads” (of which, doing the above while broiling wouldn’t be hard — I would drizzle a little bit of honey on top and broil ’em split side up to add some sweetness and get a little bit of a smoky flavor from the caramelized sugars).

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9 Responses to “Grilling Salmon Heads”

  1. Found on the Web » Fish Heads, Fish Heads says:

    […] Grilling Salmon Heads: I wouldn’t have even thought to use the heads (even if we bought something other than fillets) and the picture is worth the link on its own. […]

  2. NIck Hander says:

    Salmon heads are often used to make fish stock, especially in Japan. Just butcher them down to smaller pieces, add onion, spices, water, and let simmer for a few hours. Delicious fish stock.

  3. bbum says:

    Interesting — I suspect it is a western culinary issue as all of the fish stock recipes I found explicitly mentioned not using Salmon heads as they are supposedly too oily.

    It doesn’t surprise me that other parts of the world lack such a hangup. I need to find a good, basic, eastern cuisine recipe resource, online or off.

  4. rama says:

    fish heads, fish heads. roly poly fish heads. fish heads, fish heads, eat them up. yum!

  5. Jason (jiboo on mumpsimus forum) says:

    Nice research!
    I am a chef and tequila afficionado like yourself( Professional chef )and your recipe would be at home in any 5 star restaurant kitchen.I might recommend pulling the meat ahead of time with plastic gloves to make a more elegant presentation and then serving with dill(or whatever fresh herbs you can find) and lemon creme fraiche,brown bread or buttered toast,and maybe crispy skin pieces as a garnish.

  6. bbum says:

    Thank you! Yes, I do need to work on presentation. My “plating” is usually limited to “however it falls when tossed with a pair of 24 inch tongs onto whatever plate is in range”.

    I’m seriously considering making a salmon rangoon style dumping using the meat from smoked heads + some kind of mild creamy cheese and, possibly, lightly roasted scallions to make the stuffing.

    BTW: I served the heads with El Tesoro Reposado.

  7. Arlene says:

    Great idea!!!

    I just picked up some salmon heads at Farm Boy today and was just going to make regular fish stock for seafood chowder. Being from the islands, I love seafood…. but I never thought about grilling salmon heads!

    Thanks for sharing your idea.

  8. Mike says:

    I saw the fresh heads at the store for 1.99 LB , now I love Blue Fish cheeks but I wound up buying Salmon (previously frozen) and I am doubley disappointed after buying the frozen THEN reading how good the salmon heads are. Thanks for bumming me out….Just kidding Thanks !

  9. Barb says:

    Thanks so much for this- I just bought some salmon heads (.99/#!) and was so excited to read about what to do with them. THIS is so up our alley. I have them split and marinating in black pepper, sea salt, garlic powder, lemon juice and fresh maple syrup. Can’t wait for supper!

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