Whitefish Boil Recipe

Suitable to: Whitefish.

Originally a lakeside meal, a whitefish boil was originally cooked in a large pot over a wood fire. In Door County, Michigan, which lays claim to being Home to the Fish Boil, the final step of traditional cooking involves adding kerosene to the fire, superheating the pot, causing an overflow to skim fish-oils off the broth, and adding a hint of smokiness to the dish.

Less theatrical, a stove- or home-grill-based fish boil is still delicious—and a whole lot easier to produce! 

Serves 8-10


Large soup-pot (18 quart) with lid
Large wire basket, colander, strainer (for fish)
Long barbecue tongs, fork


8 lb. whitefish steaks
3-4 lb. red-skinned potatoes
3-4 lb. small white or yellow onions (peeled and left whole)
10 quarts water
½ cup salt
Optional: smoked paprika

Bring salted water to a boil, add potatoes and onions, return to a boil. After 10 minutes, test potatoes and onions with fork (should fell partly-done). Wrap fish in cloth, knot cloth securely, place in basket and lower into boiling water.  Continue boiling for 10 more minutes.

If broth seems very oily on top, skim fats with a piece or two of toasted bread held in tongs.

Remove fish and vegetables, serve on plates.  If you would like a hint of the old days, dust fish steaks with smoked paprika. Traditional accompaniments are cole slaw, tartar sauce, lemon wedges—and cherry pie for dessert!


While a traditional boil does not involve serving the cooking broth, consider straining it through cheesecloth and freezing for quick soups and chowders.

As you serve dinner, you may wish to add bay leaf, celery, and peppercorns to your broth and simmer while you eat.  Taste for saltiness before freezing—add water or white wine if it seems too salty for your taste.