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Salt-encrusted Cisco

Eat Wisconsin Fish / Salt-encrusted Cisco

Featured on The Fish Dish podcast.

From Karalyn Littlefield, food scientist, UW-River Falls

  • 1 whole fish – 2 to 2-1/2 pounds (cisco recommended but other fish can be used)]
  • Aromatics to pack the stomach cavity – lemon slices, dill and other herbs, onions, spices, etc.
  • 2 pounds salt
  • 3 egg whites
  • Olive oil (optional)
  • Small hammer or large wooden spoon


Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Place the dressed fish (entrails removed, skin, head, and fins on) onto parchment paper on a baking sheet. It’s important to not use too large of a fish or it won’t fit on the baking sheet. Pack the empty stomach cavity with aromatics.

Mix the salt and egg whites in a large bowl until they have the consistency of wet sand. If you want the skin to stay on the fish for a nice presentation at the end, brush the top side of the fish with olive oil. If you want the skin to come off with the salt, don’t use the oil.

Encase the fish with the salt mixture. If you are running low on salt, you can leave the head and tail exposed.

Cook for 30-35 minutes until the fish reaches an internal temperature of 130-135 degrees F. The salt will take on a brownish hue.

Take the fish out of the oven and let stand for five minutes. Remove the salt crust by firmly tapping the outside rim of the crust (top and bottom of the fish) with a hammer or large wooden spoon. The crust should break off in large chunks.

Remove the aromatics and discard. Discard the salt. Put fish on a platter and remove the backbone and ribs. Serve.