The fish boil plate at Waterfront Mary’s in Sturgeon Bay.

Classic Fish Boil for 12

Every fish boil calls for large quantities of salt-about one cup for every gallon of water-but the salt's primary purpose is not to act as a seasoning. The sodium actually raises the specific gravity of the water, causing the fish and potatoes to float near the water's surface. The fish oils and potato starches rise as well, foaming up to be skimmed off or boiled over. Not a fan of fish oil? Neither were our fishermen forefathers, and you can thank them for discovering a way to keep the scummy stuff out of an otherwise delicious meal. Here's our fish boil how-to so you can see (and taste) the science for yourself:


  • 15 2-inch-thick whitefish steaks, scaled but not skinned or boned
  • 2 dozen small red skin potatoes
  • 1 small peeled onion
  • 1 dozen peeled carrots
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves
  • Pinch of ginger
  • Ground black pepper to taste


Fill a large pot with 2 gallons of water and 2 cups of kosher salt. Bring the water to a rolling boil, add the onion and carrots and cook until tender. Add the ginger, pepper, potatoes and garlic. Cook until the potatoes are tender. Add the whitefish and cook till done, about 8 minutes. Skim off the oil with a spoon or, if cooking outside over an open fire, build the flames to cause the scum to boil over. Plate with melted butter and lemon wedges; suggested sides are coleslaw, grilled corn on the cob and cherry pie. Serves one dozen people. Wine pairing: Un-oaked Chardonnay