Grilled Eel is the Best Tasting Fish in the World!

Anguilla allo spiedo

Anguilla allo spiedo

The absolutely best tasting fish in the word is eel.  And a grilled eel is as close to piscatorial perfection as you can get.  The down side is that Americans don’t eat eel meaning it’s impossible to find.  Sometimes fish stores carry it around Christmas time and when they do I buy as much as the pocketbook and freezer will allow.  The other thing I love about eel is that it is so rich in taste you really don’t have to do anything to it but grill it.  Its tough skin protects its flesh while grilling and becomes blackened, crispy, and delicious.  A favorite way of grilling it comes from the lagoon of Comacchio in the province of Ferrara in Italy, long noted for its eels. Bartolomeo Scappi, chef to Pope Pius V, published his cookbook Opera in Venice in 1570 and provides information on the fish market of Venice where he reports that since Comacchio “is surrounded by saltwater flats, and [the eels] caught there are very numerous and better than in any other part of Lombardy.”  These are preserved in salt and brought to all parts of Italy. (Chap. 136r).  The eel’s skin is quite tough which makes it perfect to take the rough treatment of grilling.  You will need a bit of force to push the skewers through the skin, so make sure your hands and fingers are not punctured as well!  The picture is of the skewer-roasted eel interspersed with bay leaves called anguilla allo spiedo. Drizzle with just a little olive oil, salt, and pepper and grill directly over the fire for 15 to 16 minutes, turning frequently. Anguilla allo Spiedo (Emilia) (2)


  1. Gian Banchero says

    In my youth when the Italian community was strong here in the San Francisco East Bay eel was quite common at the markets, but alas as with liver, kidney and tripe one now has to frequent the Asian or Hispanic markets. Thankfully such markets abound now and because of them eel has been presented at our table for the last fifteen years, I especially recommend the Asian markets where common and “esoteric” fish are found on a daily bases…

    • That’s true. I remember well when the first generation of Italian immigrants, my grandfather’s generation, were alive and Italian communities thrived, especially on the East Coast where I am from, and one could find all manner of traditional foods. I should have mentioned that one must now go to Asian and Hispanic markets to find these foods. Luckily we have them and hopefully one doesn’t have to drive to far to seek them out.

  2. Savannagal says

    The first time I had eel was 30 years ago in Germany. My great uncle caught and smoked eel at home. I’ve loved it ever since. Sadly, just about the only place I can get it now is at sushi restaurants. I would love to cook it at home if I could get my hands on some. Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories.

  3. Charlie Sommers says

    Having lived in Japan for eight years back in the 1960s I cultivated a taste for all things Japanese and that included eel. Kabayaki style grilled eel is still one of my favorite foods but unfortunately over the years it has grown more and more expensive. I still indulge occasionally because the fattiness of the eel combined with the sweet/salty sauce that glazes it is heaven when placed atop a bowl of rice and accompanied with an icy beer.

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