Miso-Marinated Broiled Fish

Got a nasty piece of fish you don’t know how to handle? Got a good piece of fish that you would like to have stand alone with class?  This style of marinade and cooking levels the playing field and can, oddly handle both situations.  Its also quick and idiot simple; how cool is that?

I typically use cod for this dish, but the marinade handles fish ranging from mild tilapia to some seriously nasty mackerel.  This marinade will work for the fish-shy among you and produce a reliable, lightly seasoned main dish with delicate citrus and floral overtones.  The miso browns readily under the broiler and produces a piece of fish with a light tan, chewy outer surface.  As the cooking time is short, the fish remains moist beneath the browned exterior.  Perfect for eating over a some nice, succulent rice.

Oddly, there are quite a few variations on this very simple recipe.  The method here is from Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen by Elizabeth Andoh.  I like it because it is quick and uses cloth as a barrier to the marinade so the miso doesn’t get down into nooks and crannies of your fish and make it too salty.  In order to prepare the recipe, you will need some coarse muslin, cheesecloth or gauze to wrap the fish in.  About 15 years ago, we picked up a partial bolt of fine gauze that we use for a lot of applications like this and for draining foods.  Basically, you want something that is cotton and coarse enough to allow the marinade to reach the fish, but fine enough to allow you to separate the marinade paste from the fish before broiling.

Cod, sweating its way to goodness

Cod, sweating its way to goodness

To prepare, take your fish fillets, pat them dry with a towel, and lightly salt both sides.  Set the fillets aside on a rack for about 5 to 10 minute; they will begin to “sweat” out some moisture.  Pat the fish dry again and wrap the fillets in your cloth.  Coat all sides with the miso mixture and let stand for at least 20 minutes.  I don’t recommend leaving your fish to marinade longer than an hour or two, as I find it can get a bit salty.

To broil, place the fish on a rack within several inches of your broiler.  Flip pieces after about 5 to 8 minutes and get the other side.  Miso can burn easily, so you will want to keep a fairly close eye on the fillets during the last couple minutes of cooking.  If you have problems with the fish sticking to the rack, lightly coat with a neutral oil such as safflower.

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We spent Sunday planting trees on our property and needed something hearty that was quick to prepare.  We served this cod with a batch of mixed rice, mushrooms and leeks that had survived winter.  Because there is very little in the way of hands-on cooking time for this dish, it fit really nicely into a break in our drudgery.  Cooking the mixed rice in the donabe was a nice treat too; the earthy flavor of the mushroom and rich flavor of the leeks really highlighted the grains in the mixed rice.  Perfect match with some early spring yard work.

Donabe of mixed rice, mushrooms, and leeks

Donabe of mixed rice, mushrooms, and leeks



Miso-Marinated Broiled Fish
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Japanese
  • 4 oz. Fish per person
  • 1 to 2 tsp. coarse salt
  • ⅓ cup light miso, such as Shiro miso
  • 2 Tbs. mirin
  • 1 Tbs. sake
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  1. Rinse the fish pieces under cold water and pat dry with a towel. Sprinkle salt on both sides of the fish and place on a rack. Let stand about 5 to 10 minutes until fish "sweats" a bit of moisture.
  2. Mix miso, mirin, sake, and lemon juice into a paste.
  3. Wrap fish in a single layer of coarse muslin, cheesecloth, or gauze. Spread miso mixture onto cloth (both sides) so that it saturates the fabric. Let rest for at least 20 minutes, but no more than 1 to 2 hours.
  4. Preheat broiler to 500 F and place fish on a rack about 3 to 4 inches from element. Broil for 5 to 8 minutes per side until browned.
The amount of miso marinade in this recipe will coat 4 portions of 3 to 4 ounces of fish. Note that when broiling, miso may burn quickly, so be cautious in the final few minutes of broiling each side. If you have difficulty with the fish sticking to the rack, lightly coat each side with a light soil such as safflower.


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