Easy Broiled Miso-Marinated Black Cod Recipe

Sweet and savory glazed black cod prepared with only a few minutes of work and cooked under the broiler or in a toaster oven.

Broiled miso marinated black cod on a serving plate with salad.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Why It Works

  • A balanced, savory-sweet combination of sake, mirin, miso, and soy sauce doubles as a marinade and glaze, caramelizing nicely on the surface of the fillets during the short broiling time.
  • Sourcing black cod—which is famously rich and hard to overcook—ensures moist, tender results.
  • Removing pin bones is usually a laborious process. Waiting until after the black cod has been broiled loosens the bones, making the task very easy.

Miso-marinated black cod is almost synonymous with Nobu Matsuhisa's eponymous empire of restaurants, though he by no means invented the dish. It stems from a traditional Japanese preparation called kasuzuke, in which fish and vegetables are marinated in the leftover lees from sake production before being broiled or grilled (kasu = sake lees, and zuke = to apply). You can often find black cod pre-marinated in lees at Japanese markets around the city, ready to broil and serve.

But Nobu's version, made with miso and sake, is a little bit easier in terms of finding ingredients at your standard supermarket. It's also every bit as delicious (perhaps even more so). This is the fish dish to pull out when you're ready to blow away your spouse or dinner guests, but don't want to put more than five minutes of effort into making dinner. Five minutes. Really.

The most difficult part of the dish is finding black cod. Also known as sablefish, most of what you'll find in New York is sold smoked in Jewish delis. The same qualities that make it great for smoking—a very rich, buttery texture and high-fat content with flesh that turns tender when cooked rather than flaky or tough—make it the ideal fish for broiling. It's nearly impossible to overcook it. Seriously. Try. I dare you.

While other fish can be used in this preparation (I often do it with salmon when I can't find black cod), there's not really a perfect substitute.

Here's the good news: frozen cryovaced individual fillets of black cod work perfectly for this dish (it's what I use), and you can order them online from Alaska if you can't find them locally.

Marinated pieces of black cod fillet are placed on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Nobu's recipe calls for marinating the fish for a full three days in a mixture of miso, sake, and mirin, but I've actually found that a one-day marinade produces a superior end product—it's just as flavorful (marinades don't penetrate particularly far into meat), and comes out more tender. If I'm pressed for time, I'll even go with a short 15 to 30-minute marinade.

Once marinated, cooking it is as simple as broiling in the oven or toaster oven until the top surface is deeply caramelized and the fish is cooked through. Here's another great thing about black cod: Its muscle structure is made of wide sheets of muscle that are separated by thin membranes. Those membranes break down at around 140°F (60°C)—a perfect medium rare. To tell if your black cod is done, all you have to do is poke a thin skewer (a cake tester or the probe from a thermometer will work) into the flesh. If you feel it puncturing through membranes, you know your fish still has a bit to go. If it slides smoothly in and out, you're done.

The whole process takes about 10 minutes.

As if that's not easy enough, here's the other great thing: Most fin fish require you to pull out their pin bones before cooking. This takes a bit of practice. Black cod, on the other hand, has pin bones that release easily when the fish is cooked. Leave them in during the broiling phase, then use a tweezer to pull them out right after it comes out of the oven.

A half-eaten black cod fillet on a serving plate next to a pile of dressed greens. A bite of the fish is impaled on the tines of a fork.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

What you end up with is a rich, buttery piece of fish with a sweet-and-savory coating that is so good that it's gonna make you want to run through the house with forkfuls to feed to people, just so you can exclaim, "Look what I did!" Nobody has to know that it took almost no effort at all.

December 2013

This recipe originally appeared as part of the column The Food Lab Turbo.

Recipe Facts

Active: 5 mins
Total: 30 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup red or white miso paste

  • 1/4 cup sake

  • 2 tablespoons mirin

  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 4 black cod fillets, 5 to 6 ounces each

Directions

  1. Whisk together miso, sake, mirin, soy sauce, oil, and sugar. Rub mixture over every surface of fish fillets. Transfer to a plastic zipper-lock bag or sealable container. Proceed immediately to next step, or for best results, marinate for about 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

    Overhead shot of a bowl of the sake-miso marinade. A black cod fillet is half-submerged in the bowl and coated with the marinade.

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

  2. Adjust broiler rack to 4 inches from heat source and preheat broiler or toaster oven broiler to high. Cover a small broiler pan with aluminum foil. Place black cod fillets skin side down on pan. Broil until top surface is well charred and a thin skewer inserted into black cod shows no resistance at all when piercing through layers of flesh, about 10 minutes. If any areas of fish threaten to burn, shield with small pieces of aluminum foil.

    Checking the doneness of the broiled fillets with a cake tester.

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

  3. When fish is cooked, carefully remove pin bones with a pair of tweezers (there should be no resistance), and serve immediately.

    Pulling out the pin bones from a finished black cod fillet with fish tweezers.

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
237 Calories
5g Fat
10g Carbs
34g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 237
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 7%
Saturated Fat 1g 3%
Cholesterol 78mg 26%
Sodium 491mg 21%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 4%
Dietary Fiber 0g 2%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 34g
Vitamin C 1mg 7%
Calcium 26mg 2%
Iron 1mg 5%
Potassium 371mg 8%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)