There are those who advise against cooking fish in a cast-iron skillet. It’ll stink up your pan, they say. To these cynics, we say: Ever heard of soap?

We hold that cast iron is an excellent medium for cooking any kind of fish, indoors or—during prime grilling season—outside. While you can certainly throw whole fish directly on the grill, cast iron offers two distinct advantages: 1) A properly seasoned skillet is more non-stick than even the most well-oiled grill grates, and 2) Cast iron’s evenly heated surface will give you a perfectly browned and crispy skin from head to tail.

Field Notes

You can substitute the trout for any similar-sized whole fish. If the fish are too long to fit inside your pan, remove the heads and/or tails before you stuff and cook.

Don’t want to fire up the grill? Move this recipe indoors and cook it on the stovetop.


Cast Iron Whole Trout with Capers and Lemon

Yield: 2 servings


Two whole rainbow trout (10 to 12 ounces each), butterflied
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon
A handful of assorted herbs on the stem (e.g. parsley, thyme, rosemary, chives, oregano, marjoram)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons drained capers
¼ cup coarsely chopped parsley



Prepare a medium-hot grill. Pat the trout dry with paper towels and season the inside with salt and pepper. Cut half of the lemon into thin slices, and stuff each trout with 2 or 3 of them (save the rest of the lemon for squeezing). Top the lemon with a small bunch of herbs and season outside of the fish with salt.


Place a large cast iron skillet — the Field No.10 or No.12 will work best — over the fire and let it heat up for a few minutes. (If cooking indoors, preheat the pan over medium-high heat). Add the oil to the skillet. When it shimmers, add the trout and cook until golden brown on the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes. Using a fish spatula or two pairs of tongs, carefully flip the trout over. Continue cooking until opaque throughout, about 3 to 5 minutes longer.


Remove the skillet from the heat and add the butter and capers. Once the butter melts and begins to smell nutty, about 2 minutes, transfer the fish to serving plates. Squeeze the lemon into the skillet, add the parsley, and stir briefly. Spoon the butter-caper sauce over the fish and serve.


Serve promptly and use a paper towel to immediately remove butter-caper sauce residue from the skillet. (Be careful! The pan will still be hot.) When pan has cooled enough to handle, rinse well, wash with a firm cleaning brush, dry thoroughly, and apply a dab of Field Seasoning Oil.

Cast Iron Cookware that Makes Clean-up Easy

The key to reliable, use-it-every-day cast iron is seasoning: a smooth, well-seasoned skillet will clean up with just a quick wash, and produce natural non-stick performance every time. Apply a dab of Field Seasoning Oil after cleaning to protect your skillet and build durable non-stick seasoning.