Salt Fish: A Taste of the Seas, Preserved

Reading Time: 4 minutes

What Is Salt Fish?

salt fish being dried out

Ahoy there, foodies! Ready for a culinary voyage? Let’s set sail through time, tracing the humble journey of salt fish. This age-old method of preserving fish has not just stood the test of time but has anchored itself in the global culinary landscape. From the sailor’s deck to your dining table, salt fish truly bridges the gap between history and gastronomy.

The Science and Art of Salt Fish

If the phrase “salt of the earth” ever met “plenty more fish in the sea”, salt fish would be their love child. Essentially, salt fish is a result of drying and salting, ensuring bacterial growth throws in the towel and waves the white flag. But why salt? Well, salt has been a guardian of foods, shielding them from spoilage for centuries.

Besides, the salt fish trade didn’t just add flavour; it added fortune. During yesteryears, it played a massive role in the economy, proving that sometimes, fortune does favour the ‘brined’.

The History Of Salt Fish

salt fish cod

In an era devoid of refrigeration, our ancestors grappled with preserving perishable foods. Fish, being a staple in many coastal communities, presented a unique challenge due to its short shelf life. The solution? Salt, a natural preservative that had been utilised for ages. By layering fish with salt and allowing it to dry, it became long-lasting and took on a distinct, rich flavour, marking the inception of salt fish.

As maritime explorers began to sail further from their homelands, they needed provisions that would last the long journeys. Salt fish, with its extended shelf life and nutrient-rich profile, was the ideal choice. It became a staple for sailors and was instrumental in the age of exploration, as it allowed seafarers to voyage further than ever before without the fear of food spoilage.

Salt Fish in British Cuisine: More than just an Ingredient

Salt fish doesn’t just add flavour; it adds a historical narrative to British dishes. Think of it as a taste of the adventures of sailors, traders, and explorers, navigating the vast oceans, preserving their catches and tales alike.

From classic British dishes like fisherman’s pie to regional preparations across the British Isles, salt fish has seasoned our culinary history with an extra pinch of maritime nostalgia.

Rehydrating and Cooking: Unlocking the Flavours

Before you sail into the cooking realm, remember to desalinate the salt fish. It’s the culinary version of a mermaid’s song – it beckons and transforms. This process not only softens the texture but ensures your dish doesn’t mimic the saltiness of the Dead Sea.

As for the cooking, there’s a world of possibilities. Whether you’re fancying a traditional British pie or a rich stew, salt fish blends seamlessly. Paired with spuds, veggies, or grains, it promises a plate that’s both hearty and historically rich.

fish that is being dried out

Nutritional Aspects: Is Salt Fish Healthy?

One might wonder, with all that salt, is this fish still a catch? While it’s high in sodium, salt fish boasts preserved nutrients like Omega-3s and protein. Just remember, moderation is key; balance it out with fresh veggies or grains to ensure your meal is as balanced as a ship in calm waters.

Salt Fish FAQs

What's the difference between salt fish and dried fish?

While both are preserved, salt fish is cured with salt, whereas dried fish is, well, just dried.

How long can salt fish be stored?

When properly stored in a cool, dry place, it can last for several months, if not years!

Can I prepare salt fish at home?

Aye, captain! All you need is fresh fish, salt (you could use Kosher salt!), and a bit of patience.

Beyond the UK: Salt Fish in World Cuisines

The British Isles aren’t the only ones reeled in by salt fish’s charm. The Caribbean swears by ‘ackee and saltfish’, the Mediterranean is smitten with ‘bacalao’, and Asia has its own plethora of dried fish delicacies. It’s truly a global catch!

Conclusion: Salt Fish - A Salty Slice of History

As we dock our culinary voyage, remember that every bite of salt fish is a taste of seafaring tales, trade routes, and time-honoured traditions. So, next time you dine, you’re not just eating; you’re partaking in history.

Andy Canter


Ever since I started cooking I’ve been fascinated by how different people’s techniques are and how they best utilise the ingredients around them. Even the person living next door will have their own unique way of frying an egg or cooking a salmon fillet.

This fascination led me on a journey across the globe to discover the countless practices and traditions the world of cooking has to offer. I thought you’d enjoy and find value in sharing that journey with me so I created Cooked Best!