La Cucina di Kat: From Ugly to Beautiful! Cleaning and Cooking Smelts

If you’ve ever lived around the Great Lakes, you’ve probably eaten Freshwater Smelts or at least seen or heard of them. These are the most delectable little fish and when they’re fried up, they’re all crispy and good and you can eat them like candy!

They're usually caught in the Spring. We used to get bushel baskets full and just sit there with a pair of scissors, cutting off their little heads and gutting them. Now I sometimes (very rarely) find them in the grocery store – usually frozen. If you see them, make sure they aren’t Ocean Smelts or South American…as they have a totally different taste and are somewhat oily.

Cleaning Smelts

Cleaning them isn't the most appetizing but it's not so bad! Get out your kitchen sheers, or a good pair of scissors. Cut the head off. Cut from the head hole to the anus, on the belly of the fish. take your thumb and push out all the insides, making sure all you see is bones in the middle, rinse well. There is no need to remove the bones as they are soft and you will not even know they're there!

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You can buy them pre-cleaned. It will save you a lot of work.

Cooking Smelts

I basically just shake these in a bag of highly seasoned flour and drop them into hot oil until they turn a light golden color – a few minutes. They’re easily overcooked as they are so small, so just try a couple in hot oil to get the hang of it. Fry in small batches also!

Serve with a batch of good fries and sprinkle with lemon juice or vinegar.

They’re so good! 

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La Cucina di Kat

Aka: “Kat’s Kitchen”. A warm and friendly place to really talk about good food, tell stories and share recipes from days gone by. Good down to earth cooking with an ethnic flair!

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Cubit owner: Katg