The etiquette rules on how to serve and eat mackerel. Tips to be the ideal host or the perfect guest and avoid any embarrassment.

What mackerel etiquette is

Mackerel etiquette is the set of rules to properly serve and eat mackerel. Such rules help avoid behaviors that can disrespect your hosts or guests, or make you look unpolite.

If you are hosting, follow the etiquette to serve mackerel to your guests appropriately.

As a guest, respect the etiquette rules to properly eat mackerel at the dining table and avoid offending your hosts or embarrassing yourself.

how to serve and eat mackerel

What you should know about mackerel

Mackerel is a type of fish that belongs to the Scombridae family.

Mackerel has a distinctive appearance with a streamlined body, silver and blue-green coloration on the upper body, and a white underbelly. The texture of mackerel is firm, and it has a rich, oily flavor.

Etiquette rules to serve and eat mackerel

1) How to store mackerel

Mackerel should be stored in the fridge at a temperature of 32-38°F (0-3°C). To store mackerel in the pantry, keep it in an airtight container and eat it within 24 hours. In the fridge, mackerel can last up to 2-3 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months.

Store sliced or cooked mackerel in an airtight container. Keep it in the fridge and consume it within 1-2 days.

2) How to clean mackerel

To clean mackerel, remove the scales by scraping the skin with a knife or a fish scaler tool. Then, gut the fish and rinse it thoroughly with cold water. There are some risks associated with handling raw fish, such as contamination with bacteria or parasites. It is best to wear gloves and use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw fish to avoid cross-contamination.

Signs of spoilage in mackerel include a strong odor, slimy texture, and discoloration.

3) How to prepare & cook mackerel

Mackerel can be eaten raw or cooked. To prepare mackerel for cooking, remove the head, tail, and bones. Common utensils to prepare and cook mackerel include a sharp knife, cutting board, grill, and frying pan. You can cook it by grilling, baking, frying, or smoking.

It is common in salads, sandwiches, and as a main course in various cuisines worldwide.

Mackerel is suitable for most diets, including keto and paleo. However, some people may be allergic to fish or have food intolerances. There are no religious restrictions on eating mackerel.

4) How to serve & present mackerel

Mackerel is suitable for most occasions, including formal and informal meals. You can serve it as a main course, side dish, or appetizer.

It is best to serve mackerel at room temperature or slightly chilled. Present it on a plate or bowl with lemon wedges and fresh herbs. Utensils to serve mackerel include a fork, knife, and fish bone tweezers.

You can serve mackerel with various seasonings and accompaniments, including garlic, lemon, parsley, and olive oil.

5) Food and wine to pair mackerel with

Mackerel pairs well with vegetables such as roasted peppers, onions, and tomatoes. Fruits that pair well with mackerel include citrus fruits and berries. It is best to avoid pairing it with vegetables and fruits with strong flavors.

You can pair mackerel with some types of cheese and dairy, such as feta and yogurt. It is best to avoid cheese and dairy products with strong flavors.

Mackerel pairs well with other types of fish, such as salmon and tuna. It is best to avoid pairing it with meat.

When it comes to wine pairings, mackerel goes well with white wines that have bright acidity, such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio. For red wine, lighter-bodied options like Pinot Noir or Beaujolais can work well. Avoid heavy or tannic red wines as they can overwhelm the flavor of mackerel. Mackerel also pairs well with crisp and dry rosé, sparkling wine, and light-bodied beer. As for spirits, gin or vodka can make a good match.

6) How to eat mackerel

The most polite etiquette to eat mackerel is to use a fish fork and knife. It is not polite to eat mackerel with your fingers. You should remove the bones with the fork or by gently pulling them with your fingers. You can discard the head and tail of the fish.

Mackerel etiquette: the worst mistakes

The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors. 

A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. Read more about the Rude Index and its methodology here.  

Avoid the most common mackerel etiquette mistakes:

  • 7/10. Serving mackerel without properly removing bones or scales.
  • 6/10. Serving mackerel undercooked or overcooked.
  • 6/10. Serving it with a strong sauce that overpowers the flavor of the fish.

Additional information for properly serving mackerel

How many calories per serving?

Counting calories is important to stay healthy and correctly plan a menu.

A serving of cooked mackerel (about 3.5 ounces or 100 grams) contains approximately 250 calories.

How to buy the best mackerel

A crucial factor in mackerel etiquette is serving your guests the best product possible.

Season and availability 

Mackerel is available all year round. The best season to buy it is from late spring to early fall when it is the freshest and most abundant.

Choose the best

Mackerel can be available in commerce fresh, canned, smoked, and dried. Fresh mackerel is often sold whole or as fillets, while canned and smoked mackerel is more commonly available in stores.

The most common types of mackerel found in commerce are Atlantic mackerel, Spanish mackerel, and Pacific mackerel. Atlantic mackerel is the most popular and widely available type of mackerel and is often sold fresh, canned, or smoked. Spanish mackerel is known for its rich, oily flesh and is a popular choice for grilling or broiling. Pacific mackerel is also widely available and is often sold fresh or frozen.

In terms of prized varieties, some people may consider King mackerel, which is known for its large size and rich flavor, to be a more desirable option. However, King mackerel can contain high levels of mercury, so it is important to consume it in moderation.

When buying mackerel, look for fish that has bright, clear eyes, firm and shiny skin, and a slightly sweet smell. The flesh should be firm to the touch and have a bright, almost iridescent appearance. If buying whole mackerel, make sure that the scales are intact and that the gills are bright red.

Alternatives to mackerel

Some common alternatives to mackerel include sardines, herring, anchovies, and trout. These fish are often similar in texture and flavor to mackerel and can be used in similar ways in recipes.