Monkfish: What is it? And how to cook it?

From frying, grilling to cooking it in the oven

Monkfish is the ideal fish for those who do not like fish. The fish has no bones and the white fish meat has a very delicate taste. Children also like it very much.

In this article we’ll tell what kind of fish it actually is and how you can make delicious dishes from it without too much effort.

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Table of contents

Chapter 1

What is monkfish?

Monkfish is a special fish. He is very well camouflaged so that the other fish don’t see him. It buries itself at the bottom of the sea while waiting for its prey. The fish has a flat, dull brown-green body with a broad head.

On its head, which is larger than its entire body, it has a long thin spine. A kind of flagpole with a feather in the top with which it swings back and forth. This is how he lures other animals to him, which he then sucks in with his enormous mouth.

The fish’s food mainly consists of crabs, lobsters, squid and a variety of other fish. Because of its flexible jaws and expandable stomach, a monkfish can eat a lot.

In the past, superstitious fishermen were convinced that this “monster” was a bad omen and threw the fish back into the water.

The monkfish, like the wolffish, is one of the ugliest, but also one of the tastiest types of fish. The fish is also called tail fish or ham fish, because only the rear part of it is suitable for consumption. This is the part of the fish that does not contain bones.

According to some, its name is due to the hood-like appearance that resembles that of monks. Another explanation is that monks used to go to docks and harbors to ask fishermen for fish they wanted to throw away. That’s why the fish was called monkfish.

The fish averages 1 meter in length, but can grow up to 2 meters. It has a weight of 30 to 40 kg and lives up to 24 years. It’s a saltwater fish that lives in deep water. You can find it at a depth of only 20 meters, but it can descend to a depth of 1000 meters.

Where does the monkfish come from?

The monkfish is found in the North Atlantic Ocean from Norway and Iceland to the Mediterranean Sea and the African coast. It’s also found in the North Sea. Most fish are caught and freshly landed in the shallow coastal waters of France, Spain, Ireland and England.

About 50,000 tons of monkfish are caught each year in the Northeast Atlantic. In the North Sea that is 10,000 tons. Around Ireland, with more than 30,000 tons per year, the most fish is caught, mainly by the French, the Irish and the Spaniards.

Monkfish is available all year round and is at its best during the months of July to March. You can buy the fish whole or filleted and it is best to have it cleaned by the fishmonger.

What does monkfish taste like?

The fish has a firm meat, with a mild sweet flavor. The texture and flavor of monkfish can be compared to that of lobster. Monkfish is also known as “poor man’s lobster”. Today, this fish is becoming more and more popular and, ironically, is also more expensive.


Is monkfish healthy?

Monkfish is a lean and low-calorie fish and is packed with proteins, minerals and vitamins. You need proteins for muscle growth, minerals such as phosphorus support your metabolism and ensure strong bones and vitamins B6 and B12 are good for your nervous system and brain function.

Monkfish also contains selenium, which, among other things, ensures the optimal functioning of antioxidants and the omega-3 fatty acids protect against cardiovascular disease.

Which wine goes well with monkfish?

You can pair the fish with a smooth red wine with little tannin. A Pinot Noir goes well with this fish.

Chapter 2

How to cook monkfish?

To cook monkfish, you always first remove the silver skin that surrounds the fish meat. The sliver skin shrinks during cooking, causing the meat to contract. Usually the fishmonger has already removed the membrane.

With salt and pepper you already give a delicious flavor to the fish. Don’t use too much because the fish is quite salty in itself. This fish also combines very well with other seasonings such as rosemary, dill, thyme, oregano and fresh herbs such as lemon and garlic.

Due to its firmness, this type of fish is not only perfect for curries, but also very suitable to grill on the barbecue. You can also stew the fish, fry it, stir-fry it and poach it.

Always pat the fish dry carefully with some kitchen paper before cooking, so that it does not fall apart and gets a nice crispy layer. Please note that cooking times depend on the thickness of the fish and the recipe.

Frying it in a pan

Don’t fry monkfish too long, as this will dry out the outside without cooking it inside. If you want to fry monkfish, you do this at a medium temperature.

  1. Place a frying pan or non-stick pan over medium heat and add a tablespoon of oil.
  2. Use olive oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil (peanut oil) or clarified butter.
  3. Once the oil is hot, place the fish in the pan and fry both sides for 2 to 4 minutes.
  4. Flip the fish halfway through with a spatula.
  5. If you fry the fish fillet with the skin on, place the fish skin-side down in the pan.
  6. Once the skin is crispy, turn the fish over. Remove the fish from the pan and let it rest for 2 minutes.
  7. You can possibly cover the fish with a sheet of aluminum foil to let it cook even further inside.

In the oven

If you want to cook monkfish in the oven, do this at a medium temperature.

  1. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  2. Rub an oven dish with a knob of butter or oil and place the fish in the dish.
  3. Let a thin fish fillet cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Thicker pieces 20 to 25 minutes.
  4. Cover the top of the fish with a crispy crust of dried breadcrumbs and butter to prevent it from drying out.
  5. If necessary, add some liquid, such as white wine or fish stock, to the oven dish to keep the fish juicier.
  6. With the remaining liquid you can make a delicious fish sauce.

Grilling on the barbecue

If you grill monkfish on the barbecue, you do this at a medium-high temperature.

  1. Make sure the barbecue has reached a temperature of 200°C.
  2. Season the fish with some salt and pepper.
  3. Drizzle the fish with a little olive oil and top with fresh herbs.
  4. Secure the herbs with kitchen twine.
  5. Grill the fish for 20 to 25 minutes.
  6. Flip halfway through.

Stir-frying it in a wok

Stir-fry the fish with other ingredients over high heat in a wok or deep frying pan.

  1. Preheat the pan and then add a little oil.
  2. Turn the heat up to high and spread the oil over the pan.
  3. As soon as the oil smokes very lightly, add herbs such as onion and garlic.
  4. When the garlic starts to smell, add the fish.
  5. Add vegetables to taste and toss to combine.
  6. Add a wok sauce as soon as the fish and vegetables are almost cooked.

Chapter 3

Recipe: Baked monkfish with dill sauce

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Baked monkfish with dill sauce

Delicious fried monkfish with dill sauce.
Servings: 4 persons
Author: Cultiviz


  • 4 pieces monkfish 175 to 225 grams per person
  • dill sauce recipe
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 shallot finely chopped
  • 1/2 fennel finely chopped
  • 1 carrot in small cubes
  • 200 ml fish stock
  • 150 ml dry white wine
  • 250 ml cooking cream
  • 5 sprigs dill leaves finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 egg yolk
  • salt
  • pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  • Pat the monkfish fillets dry with kitchen paper. Then sprinkle them with salt and pepper.
  • Heat a dash of oil in a cast iron pan (that fits in the oven) over medium heat. If you do not have a cast iron pan, fry the monkfish fillets in a regular pan. Then put the fillets in an oven dish when you put them in the oven.
  • Place the monkfish fillets in the pan and fry for 2 minutes on both sides until nicely browned.
  • Place the pan (or oven dish) in the oven and cook the monkfish for about 8 minutes to a core temperature of 70°C
  • Put a pan of water on the stove with a cube of fish stock and bring to the boil. Then turn the heat down.
  • Heat butter in a saucepan and fry the shallot, fennel and carrot for 5 minutes.
  • Pour in the fish stock and heat until reduced by half.
  • Pour in the white wine and cook until reduced by half.
  • Pour in 200 ml of cream and boil again until reduced by half.
  • Pour the sauce into a sieve and collect it in a container. Return the sauce to the pan and add the chopped dill, mustard and lemon juice. Stir well.
  • Put the remaining cream together with the egg yolk in a bowl and beat until they are whole. Pour it with sauce.
  • Heat the sauce but do not let it boil. It must thicken a little. Add salt and pepper to your preference.
  • Remove the monkfish from the oven and serve with the dill sauce.

Chapter 4

All recipes

Looking for more inspiration? Then see below more recipes with halibut. Or check our fish recipes for even more inspiration.

Baked monkfish with dill sauce

They call it “the monster of the sea”, but at the same time also the [...]