How to cook snapper: A step-by-step guide

If you love seafood, you may be familiar with snapper. This delicious fish is a popular choice for many recipes, and it’s easy to see why. Snapper has a delicate flavor and a flaky texture that make it perfect for all sorts of dishes. Whether you’re grilling, baking, or frying, you can’t go wrong with snapper. In this article, we’ll take you through a step-by-step guide on how to cook snapper, starting with selecting the perfect fish to the final cooking process.

Choosing the Right Snapper

Before you start cooking, you want to make sure you’re selecting the right snapper. Look for a snapper that is fresh and in good condition – its eyes should be clear, and the skin should be shiny and tight. You may also want to ask the fishmonger to gut and scale the fish for you (this is usually done free of charge). In most cases, you can find snapper in sizes ranging from 1 to 5 pounds depending on your recipe requirement.


Once you have your snapper, you’ll need to prepare it for cooking. Start by rinsing the fish with cold water to remove any surface debris. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel, then place it on a cutting board, with the underside facing up. Cut off the head and tail, then use a sharp knife to cut three or four slits on both sides of the fish. This will help the fish cook evenly and absorb any seasoning, sauce or flavors. You can season the fish with salt, pepper, garlic powder or any other preferred seasoning. At this point, you’re ready to start cooking your snapper.

Grilling the Snapper

Grilling is a common and delicious way to cook snapper. Preheat your grill on high heat for about 10-15 minutes. Brush both sides of the snapper with oil to prevent it from sticking to the grill. Place the snapper on the grill, flesh side down, and cook for about 4-5 minutes. Flip the fish over, skin side down, and cook for another 4-5 minutes. You can use a fish spatula or tongs to flip the snapper carefully. Once the fish is done, the flesh should be opaque and flaky.

Baking the Snapper

If grilling isn’t an option, you can also bake snapper for a beautiful and flavorful dish. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Place your seasoned snapper on a baking dish lightly greased with oil or butter. Bake the snapper for about 20-25 minutes, checking every 5 minutes. The fish should be opaque and the flesh should be fork-tender when cooked.

Frying the Snapper

Frying is another cooking option that can be used on snapper fillets. Begin by heating about 1 inch of oil in a shallow skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, carefully place the snapper fillets into the skillet. Cook the snapper for about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. You can also use a coating of seasoned flour or breadcrumbs on the fish before frying. Once the fish is cooked, transfer it to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.

Steaming the Snapper

Steaming is an excellent cooking method if you want to preserve the delicate flavor of your snapper. Begin by bringing water to a boil in a steamer. While the water is boiling, place your seasoned snapper on a heatproof plate and place it on the steamer. Cover and steam for about 10-12 minutes, or until the fish is opaque and flaky. You can add vegetables to the steaming plate to cook at the same time.

FAQs About Cooking Snapper

Can I cook snapper with the skin on?

Yes, the skin can be left on during cooking. This will preserve the moisture of the fish, give it a crispy texture and prevent it from breaking apart.

How can I tell if the snapper is cooked?

The flesh of the snapper should be opaque and flaky when cooked. You can use a fork to check if the flesh flakes off easily.

What should I serve with snapper?

Snapper goes well with a wide variety of sides, including rice, salads, steamed vegetables or roasted potatoes. You can also pair it with sauces like lemon butter, garlic butter or herb butter.

Can I cook snapper in a microwave?

While it is possible to cook snapper in a microwave, it’s not recommended as this method doesn’t give the fish the desired texture and flavor.

Is snapper high in mercury?

Like other fish, snapper has some levels of mercury in them. However, snapper is considered safe to eat in moderation, according to the FDA regulations.


Cooking snapper is a simple process that any seafood lover can do. Whether baking, frying, grilling or steaming, there is always a cooking method that suits your preferences. Remember to choose a fresh fish and season it well before cooking. Follow the step-by-step guide above, and you will be rewarded with a delicious, tender and nutritious snapper meal. Bon appétit!