How to cook sea bream

How to cook sea bream

Sea bream is a fish that’s increasingly found on restaurant menus and in home kitchens thanks to its versatility and crowd-pleasing flavour. A predatory and solitary coastal fish, they roam the shallow waters searching for small fish and other small prey, such as crustaceans. Sea bream are sequential hermaphrodites, meaning that they change from male to female at three years of age, and they can live for an impressive eleven years in total. 

The most popular sea bream is the Gilthead bream, so called because it can be identified by a small gold bar on its forehead.

What to look for when buying sea bream

A medium-sized fish with silver skin and white flesh, the sea bream is usually sold whole, or filleted. Always look for clear, non-cloudy eyes when buying fish, and avoid any that have a strong smell; fish should smell faintly of the sea, but not overly ‘fishy’. Avoid any with obvious signs of damage to the tails, fins or flesh.

How to cook sea bream in the oven

A simple way to cook a sea bream in the oven is to wrap it in baking paper and foil with some aromatic ingredients such as lemon slices (or other citrus) and herbs. 

Follow our simple method for oven-cooking sea bream below. 



Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7


Lay out a generous length of foil on a work surface, and cover with a piece of baking paper that’s almost the same size


Lay the bream on top and stuff the cavity with some of the rosemary, lemon slices and garlic


Add the white wine, a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt. Add any remaining herbs or lemon slices on top


Place the fish on a baking tray and cook for 8-10 minutes


Carefully open the package and squeeze over juice from the remaining lemon half  before serving

How to grill sea bream

Round fish like bream are a great choice for cooking whole, either on the barbecue or under a hot grill indoors. Follow our basic method below for perfect results. 



Preheat a grill to medium-hot


Lay the bream on a foiled lined baking sheet and make deep slashes into the thickest part of the flesh on both sides


Rub the bream with olive oil, and season with salt. Stuff the lemon slices inside the cavity


Grill the bream for 8-10 minutes, until the skin is starting to crisp up, turning halfway through the cooking time

How to barbecue sea bream

A whole, round fish like sea bream is perfect for the barbecue. Make a few slashes in the thickest parts of the flesh, rub with oil and season before placing onto a hot grill. Make sure you don’t try to flip your fish before it naturally releases itself from the grill bars, otherwise the skin will stick. You could also use a fish cage to stop this from happening and make turning the fish much easier.

Full steam ahead

Steaming is a great way to cook the delicate flesh of fish, preserving moisture. It’s also quick, healthy and versatile - simply add your aromatics to the steamer along with your fish, or cook simply and add flavour at the end with a sauce.

How to cure sea bream

A white fleshed fish such as sea bream works very well sliced thinly and served with a citrus-based marinade or dressing. Freshness is very important when serving fish raw, and this is the time to ask your fishmonger for advice - they will be able to ensure the sea bream you are serving is fit for this purpose. 

Fry day

Frying fillets of fish is easier than you think; make sure to start the fish in a cold pan with a splash of oil, to ensure the skin heats up slowly. This will prevent it from curling up and ensure it stays evenly crisp and golden. 

What does sea bream go with?

Sea bream is a particularly juicy white fish with a pleasantly neutral flavour and a slight sweetness. For these reasons, it can be cooked either with delicate flavours that allow its natural flavour to shine through, or with more robust ingredients, which demonstrate the bream’s suitability as a blank canvas for punchier sauces. 

Try cooking sea bream very simply with a squeeze of lemon and salt, or add some South East Asian aromatics, such as lime leaves, lemongrass and galangal. Whole fish can be marinated (for example in a curry paste), but take care not to leave too long as any salt or citrus ingredients will begin to cure/cook the flesh - 20 minutes should be plenty.