Kingfish as Food: Everything You Need to Know About Taste and Safety

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  May 28, 2022

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The king mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla) is a migratory species of mackerel of the western Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. It is an important species to both the commercial and recreational fishing industries.

Kingfish is a delicious seafood option that’s often overlooked. It’s a member of the mackerel family and known for its thick, meaty fillets that are perfect for grilling.

It’s a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins B12 and D, and it’s also low in mercury, making it a healthy option.

Plus, it’s versatile enough to be used in a variety of dishes. In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about kingfish as food and I’ll share some delicious recipes to try.

What is kingfish

Kingfish: A Delicious and Nutritious Seafood Option

Kingfish, also known as king mackerel, produce large and thick fillets that are perfect for smoking or grilling. These oily fish are best when seasoned well and smoked over orange, lemon, hickory, or oak wood. The result is a delicious and tender fish that is not dry. Kings also taste great when grilled, especially when marinated in a flavorful sauce.

Atlantic and Gulf Varieties

Kingfish can be found in both the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, making them a popular seafood option in many coastal areas. They are typically caught weighing between 10 and 30 pounds, but can grow up to 90 pounds. When selecting kingfish, look for silvery skin and clear eyes to ensure freshness.

Nutritious and Saturated

Not only is kingfish delicious, but it is also packed with nutrients. It is a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins B12 and D. However, it is important to note that kingfish can be high in mercury, so it should be consumed in moderation.

Smoked to Perfection

One of the best ways to enjoy kingfish is by smoking it. The low-temperature smoking process allows the fish to absorb the flavors of the wood, resulting in a rich and smoky taste. Hickory and oak are popular wood choices for smoking kingfish, but feel free to experiment with other types of wood to find your favorite flavor.

Kingfish: A Versatile and Delicious Seafood

Absolutely! Kingfish is a popular and highly regarded type of seafood that is enjoyed by many people. It is found in the ocean running along the western parts of the world and is a great source of natural protein. Kingfish is extremely versatile and can be prepared in a variety of ways, making it a perfect addition to any dish.

Preparing Kingfish

When preparing kingfish, it is important to keep in mind its unique nature. Kingfish produce large and thick fillets and tend to be oily, so it is important to be careful when cutting and preparing them. Here are some tips for preparing kingfish:

  • Use a sharp knife to fillet the fish, being careful not to break the firm flesh.
  • Keep the fish cool while preparing it to maintain its freshness.
  • Season the fish with a mix of spices and a dash of lemon or orange to bring out its sweet and unique flavor.
  • Marinate the fish for a few hours before cooking to enhance its taste.
  • Kingfish is excellent when smoked over hickory or oak wood, or grilled to perfection.

Methods of Cooking Kingfish

There are plenty of ways to cook kingfish, and each method brings out a different tone and flavor. Here are some popular methods of cooking kingfish:

  • Grilling: Kingfish is great coming off a grill, especially when seasoned well.
  • Smoking: Kingfish is perfect for long and careful low-temperature smoking, producing an incredible flavor.
  • Baking: Kingfish can be baked in the oven with a mix of spices and vegetables for a healthy and delicious dish.
  • Frying: Kingfish can be fried in a pan or deep fryer, but be careful not to overcook it as it can become dry.

Benefits and Potential Negatives of Eating Kingfish

Kingfish is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, making it a healthy addition to any diet. However, it is important to note that kingfish can contain high levels of mercury, so it is recommended to limit consumption to certain body parts and to avoid eating it too frequently. Chefs and seafood lovers alike are proud to test their skills with this versatile and delicious fish.

Kingfish is a unique seafood choice that is highly regarded for its rich, sweet flavor and firm, flaky texture. Unlike other sport fish, the meat of kingfish is not very fishy, making it a great alternative for those who are not seafood lovers. The meat is also considered excellent for making a number of dishes, from simple grilled fillets to more complex seafood stews. Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing and cooking kingfish:

  • The taste of kingfish is similar to that of tuna or swordfish, but with a sweeter and less strong flavor.
  • The texture of the meat is firm and flaky, making it perfect for grilling, baking, or frying.
  • Kingfish can be found in different sizes, ranging from small to medium. The larger the fish, the more potential it has for a stronger taste.
  • When buying kingfish, always check for freshness. The meat should be shiny and tight, with no signs of discoloration or a fishy smell.
  • To prevent the meat from breaking apart during cooking, it is crucial to handle it carefully. This means removing the bones and skin, filleting the fish correctly, and keeping it cool until you are ready to cook it.

Kingfish: A Spectacular Fish with a Burst of Flavor

Kingfish, also known as scomberomorus, is a species of mackerel that can be found in certain parts of the western world. These fish are pretty large, averaging around 3-4 feet in length and weighing up to 50 pounds. Their body is pinkish in color and has a distinct, oily texture that delivers an incredible burst of umami flavor.

Cooking and Preparing

When preparing kingfish, it’s important to thoroughly rinse the meat regardless of how you plan to cook it. This will help to remove any lingering fishy taste. Kingfish is typically cooked in a similar way to other seafood dishes, and can be enjoyed in a variety of different ways. Here are some tips for cooking and preparing kingfish:

  • Kingfish is great when infused with marinades that enhance its already flavorful taste.
  • It’s also delicious when enjoyed raw, such as in sushi or sashimi dishes.
  • Kingfish is known for its soft, juicy texture that releases a burst of savory flavor with every bite.
  • The flesh is flaky and lean, making it a healthier option for those who seek to eat healthier.
  • Kingfish is also a popular sport fish, as it puts up a good fight when a fisherman manages to hook it. The pursuit of catching a kingfish has contributed to its reputation as a spectacular fish.

Taste and Flavor

Kingfish has a sweet and rich taste that is stronger than its mackerel counterparts. Its meat packs a lot of flavor, making it a popular choice for those who enjoy seafood. Here are some additional insights into the taste and flavor of kingfish:

  • Kingfish is considered to be one of the most flavorful fish species available.
  • Its flavor is enhanced when cooked with certain ingredients, such as ramune, which is a Japanese soda that adds a burst of sweetness to the dish.
  • Kingfish has a distinct, oily texture that delivers an incredible burst of umami flavor.
  • Its flavor is further enhanced when cooked with marinades that infuse the meat with additional flavors.

Raw Kingfish: A Versatile and Palatable Option

  • Benefits: Raw kingfish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to provide a number of health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Risks: Raw kingfish can also contain parasites and foodborne illnesses, which can be a risk for pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems. However, current research suggests that the risk is relatively low, and certain gear restrictions can help prevent the risk of parasites.

Can You Eat Kingfish Raw?

Yes, you can eat kingfish raw. In fact, in many restaurants, only the cheeks are cooked, and the rest of the fish is served raw. However, it is important to know how to prepare the fish properly to minimize the risk of parasites and foodborne illnesses.

The Best Types of Kingfish to Eat

There are a variety of kingfish types, but the most common ones are the yellowtail kingfish and the Spanish mackerel. Both are known for their firm and flavorful meat, making them excellent options for both raw and cooked dishes.

Check Local Restrictions and Gear

Before eating or catching kingfish, it is important to check local restrictions and gear requirements. Some areas may have restrictions on the size or number of kingfish that can be caught, and certain gear may be required to prevent overfishing and protect the species.

The End Note

In conclusion, raw kingfish is a versatile and palatable option that can be prepared in a number of ways. Whether you prefer it raw or cooked, kingfish is a delicious and nutritious seafood that is worth trying.

Mercury Levels in Kingfish: A Cautionary Tale

The Environmental Defense Fund cautions that kingfish, also known as king mackerel, contains high levels of mercury. This warning is due to the fact that kingfish is a predator fish that feeds on smaller fish, which in turn can contain mercury. The agency states that adult men should eat less than one serving of kingfish a month to avoid mercury poisoning.

Mercury Levels in Cooked and Raw Kingfish

Mercury levels in kingfish can vary depending on whether it is cooked or raw. Cooking kingfish can reduce the amount of mercury it contains, but it is still recommended to limit consumption due to its high levels. Eating raw kingfish, such as in sushi or sashimi, can be especially dangerous as it is not cooked and can contain higher levels of mercury.

Popularity and Replacement Options

Despite the mercury warning, kingfish remains a popular food fish in many parts of the world. However, there are alternative fish options that are lower in mercury, such as salmon, trout, and tilapia. These fish can be used as a replacement for kingfish in meals to reduce the risk of mercury poisoning.

Protection and Release

To protect yourself from mercury poisoning, it is important to be aware of the mercury levels in the fish you eat. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children avoid eating kingfish altogether due to its high mercury levels. If you do choose to eat kingfish, it is important to limit your consumption and release any fish that are over the recommended size limit, as larger fish tend to contain higher levels of mercury.


So, there you have it- everything you need to know about kingfish as food. 

They’re delicious, nutritious, and perfect for grilling, especially when marinated in a flavorful sauce. You can also bake them or fry them, and they’re great in seafood stews. 

So, go ahead and give them a try!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.