Whole roasted fish is a simple yet impressive dish that brings out the delicate flavors of fresh seafood. Chef Chip Roman of Blackfish in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, assures that “it’s not very hard to do, and the results are great.” He recommends using a slender fish like branzino or trout for even and quick cooking. A key tip to know when your fish is perfectly cooked is when the dorsal fin pulls right out. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making a delicious whole roasted branzino with caper butter.

2 whole branzino, cleaned and scaled
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 lemon, thinly sliced
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons butter, softened

2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
Lemon wedges, for serving
1. Preheat the Oven
Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly oil it to prevent the fish from sticking.

2. Prepare the Fish
Clean and Dry the Fish: Rinse the branzino under cold water and pat it dry with paper towels. Ensure the fish is completely dry to achieve a crispy skin.
Season the Fish: Rub the outside and inside of each fish with olive oil, then season generously with salt and pepper.
3. Stuff the Fish
Add Aromatics: Stuff the cavity of each fish with lemon slices, fresh thyme sprigs, and crushed garlic cloves. These aromatics will infuse the fish with delicious flavors as it roasts.

4. Roast the Fish
Arrange on Baking Sheet: Place the stuffed branzino on the prepared baking sheet. Ensure they are not touching to allow even cooking.
Roast: Roast the fish in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. The fish is done when the dorsal fin pulls out easily and the flesh is opaque and flakes with a fork.
5. Make the Caper Butter
Combine Ingredients: In a small bowl, mix the softened butter with the chopped capers and fresh parsley until well combined.
Season: Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.
6. Serve
Plate the Fish: Carefully transfer the roasted branzino to a serving platter.
Add Caper Butter: Spoon the caper butter over the hot fish, allowing it to melt and spread.

Garnish: Serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over the fish.
Tips for Perfect Roasted Fish
Choose Fresh Fish: Ensure your fish is fresh for the best flavor. The eyes should be clear, and the flesh should be firm to the touch.
Avoid Overcrowding: Place the fish on the baking sheet with enough space between them to ensure even cooking.
Check for Doneness: The dorsal fin should pull out easily, and the flesh should flake with a fork when the fish is done.
By following these steps, you can create a beautifully roasted whole branzino with a flavorful caper butter that will impress your guests and make for a delightful meal. Enjoy the simplicity and elegance of this dish, perfect for any occasion!