Recipe: Yes, You Can Eat Albies!

Can you Eat Albies?

False albacore, or albies as they are called in the Northeast, are prized gamefish but generally regarded as lousy table fare. The most widely shared “recipe” for albies is the old “cook them on a plank, then throw them away and eat the plank” joke. However, I have heard from at least one reader who has kept and eaten albies and claims they are in fact good eating if treated properly. It’s not surprising, considering that false albacore are in the Scombridae family of mackerels and tunas.

Also, taste in fish is quite subjective (for each person who says bluefish taste gross, there are two more who claim to prefer them to striped bass) and often differs by culture. One of the closest relatives of the false albacore (Euthynnus alletteratus) is the mackerel tuna (Euthynnus affinis), which is found in the Pacific ocean and is the preferred species for the Japanese dish Katsuo Tataki, in which the flesh is seared over an open flame with the skin on.

One of the reasons I wanted to experiment with cooking a false albacore is because they don’t always survive the catch-and-release process. They strike lures with such force that they occasionally catch a treble hook in the gills, which are located far forward in the lower jaw. Such was the case with the albie below, which hit a Daddy Mac jig and was clearly not going to survive to be released.

albie-daddymac

It’s important to handle fish properly if you want the final result to taste good. With an oily fish, such as bluefish, tuna or mackerel, it’s necessary to kill it, bleed it immediately, and get it on ice. After 2 minutes of bleeding in a bucket of saltwater, I iced it down in seawater mixed with plenty of ice to keep the oils in the flesh from spoiling.

albie-recipe-cooking-idea

After 20 minutes in the ice bath, the fish were kept on ice in a cooler until they were filleted a few hours later. Albies are easy to clean into four loins, like a mini-tuna.
albie-fillets-for-cooking

The albie flesh looked very similar in color to most tuna – a bit redder and firmer than Atlantic bonito flesh.  However, the darker meat that runs along the spine had a very unappetizing dark-red/brown color. albie-meat

Skinning the fillets and trimming away every trace of dark meat, I was left with four small loins of pink flesh from each albie. It looked every bit as delicious as sushi-grade tuna.

albie-recipe-cooking

I have seen albies cut for bait (popular for sharks and grouper in Florida) and the meat had a brown, rusty color to it and an overpowering fishy odor. I have to believe that this was a result of improper care and that immediate icing is important to preserving the quality of the flesh.

 

albie-mmeat-closeup

I placed the loins from one of the fish in a zipper bag with a simple marinade that I use on yellowfin tuna: 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, a tablespoon of Sriracha, a tablespoon of freshly grated ginger, and a couple of crushed garlic cloves.  albie-meat-marinade

I let the fish marinate in the refrigerator for an hour, and then gave it a quick sear, about 2 minutes on each side, in a blazing hot cast-iron pan with a small amount of vegetable oil. The results looked good – nice color on the outside, and still very pink and rare in the center. It was a little softer than most tuna meat, and the cooked edges flaked and fell apart when cutting through them.

false-albacore-recipe

The final result had a taste similar to tuna, probably closest to longfin albacore. I actually preferred it to the touted Atlantic bonito, which I think is a little watery and mushy. There was no off taste, no “fishy” flavor or suggestion of cat food.  It wasn’t just edible – it was a delicious meal with some cold sesame noodles and quick-pickled veggies.

albie-dinner

 

28 thoughts on “Recipe: Yes, You Can Eat Albies!

  1. Dee Dee

    Sounds fantastic. I’m heading to Cape Cod now and while I may not catch or keep any allbies, at least I know what to do if I ever want to keep one!

  2. Brian

    Just because you can doesn’t mean it’s good.

    Stripped albies make excellent tilefish bait.

  3. Douglas Huber

    Albies & Big Blues R Delicious as long as they are taken care of properly.

  4. Jared

    Caught, bled, fillet, seasoned and grilled within ten minutes of landing it…not bad at all.

  5. Johnny dionne

    Grew up eating bonito and Albie’s.
    I’ve always enjoyed them.
    I guess being half Japanese I was open to eating all kinds if fish that
    MOST say is inedible.

    I just like my fish cooked
    To much parasites and bacteria in the waters today and no….
    Hit mustard, soy sauce, wasabi…none of that kills those.
    150degrees cook the meat too…

  6. Bill

    It always bothered me when people would say that they are inedible. I’ve never caught one, but I always figured that when I do, I would try it, just to see. Everyone says it’s oily. White wine and dill would take care of that. Everyone says it’s fishy. If you bleed, fillet and ice it ASAP, that fixes that issue. I’ve also heard a light smoking followed by flaking into a smoked fish dip is supposed to be good. Now, to get my butt out the door to actually go catch one (or more)…

  7. Terry

    Sounds like more than I want to do to be able to eat them. Think I’ll just catch and release!

  8. Cheryl

    We marinated them in Italian dressing garlic & pepper
    No fishy flavor at all

  9. Scott

    People say the same thing about Brant (a subspecies of goose). The breasts are delicious.

  10. Eugene Evans

    False albacore if eaten partially uncooked as you have above, must be frozen at -4F for 7 days for the destruction of parasites that are naturally present in the species. Same as you would have to do for parasitic species of fish eaten for sushi such as Wild salmon or fluke.

    Searing the outer edges as you have shown will leave viable parasites which can result in Anisakiasis and other parasitic borne illnesses unless properly frozen first.

    I do agree that they are excellent table fare. Properly bled and immediately iced to prevent histamine toxin formation (need internal temps of 40F or less) will result in beautiful loins that can be cooked in tomato sauce with vegetables.

    These are an underutilized fish species that should never be wasted.

    1. Andrew

      The law says it must be frozen before being served in a restaurant for that reason but most palegic species have been shown to contain no parasites do to the nature of their non stop movements and fast rates of speed in doing such however cod striped bass blue fish and flounder can and sometimes do due to the fact they tend to lie around wrecks and reefs hiding in rocks and having long periods of stationary or slow swimming habits with that said the law is the law for selling raw fish but eat your own at your own risks I have had no problems eating raw never frozen tuna and will continue to do so

  11. topwaterMOJO

    when I was in my 20s, we used to catch them from the pier in NC… a much older guy told me to keep one, bleed it. Soon as I get in, filet it out, soak the to filets in salted water for an hour. throw them on the grill, cook to medium rare. it was absolutely awesome. I return there several times in the fall and winter specifically to catch them. Try it. Also try soaking in Sprite or 7up or ginger ale.

  12. “Bobbylang”

    It’s always interesting to read this notebook, as it provides info a super regular know but the “wannabe” won’t find! It’s a real help giving names of persons, Captains, activity and recipes, fish handling insights, etc.
    Thanks from someone who wishes he could get out more often!!

  13. David Double Fish Hooks Dyer

    There’s a Brit who has a YouTube channel called the ScotReaProject. Scot is a butcher and former fish monger who demos all manner of butchery and cookery – domestic, game, seafood. There is one video on preparing and cooking Atlantic Mackeral in real time, which could be applied to any oily fish, and other fish videos well worth watching. I caught and prepped the macks his way – absolutely fantastic. I changed up his pickled beet side dish with pickeled apple. Like he says, it sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it is fabulous. Check it out and try it, life is too short not to.

  14. Bob

    Was fishing from the rocks at the cape cod canal last September and caught an Albie which died. Didn’t have any ice or a cooler and the bite was on so it stayed on the rocks for about an hour in the sun. When I got home I filleted it and just baked it after brushing on some olive oil then salt and pepper. Not bad, reminds me of striped bass.

  15. Matthew Henry

    I was always told that fat Albert was inedible! We must have given the mates 20 of them for “bait ” the last time we went out on a party boat in Boynton Beach FL. I wish I could have read this article before that trip but at least now I will know what to do on my next time out!! Thank you for the help!
    Matt

  16. Capt. Paul Fasolo

    Been in the fishing bussiness over 45 years here in Boynton Beach Florida. It’s true most people consider the Little Tunny, False Albacore, also nicknamed Bonito basically a bait fish. Yes I’ve tried them and they are indeed edible. As to what extent The smaller fish 2-4 pounds are select and have a mild flavor. I’ve noticed with the help of the Internet more people are willing to try them for table fare. I also considered Sushi as bait and was reluctant to eat it for many years. We catch them strong in July and August sometimes 20-30 a trip. Most are used for strip baits and shark baits. Learning how to properly strip them for bait is another story worthy of one who wants to learn.

  17. Fred Maier

    Put some albies in the smoker and they came out very good! I also made them on the grill with orange juice and soy and ginger marinade and it was almost like tuna. Eat more abie, from capt of the Willy Savage fishing team!

  18. Capt Fred Maier

    Great for fish tacos , BBQ albies with red onions and garden tomatoes with mayo and hot sauce!

  19. topwaterMOJO

    I’ve tried something similar. pretty much followed the steps right after catching. I was on the beach, so it bled out in a pool of saltwater… I then threw it in the cooler. after cutting into filets, I marinated in olive oil, old bay, and jerk seasoning. I grilled it. My entire family liked it. It was dynamite. it was better than any tuna I’ve tried to grill in the past. I keep them now without hesitation

  20. bill smith

    That’s exactly how we handle Albacore. Its important not to break the cold chain; if you are filleting a bunch of them, keep putting the fillets on ice. Your photo essay was awesome in all respects.

  21. mark sclafani

    caught them from boats, jetties, and beach. always a thrill. in a large fry pan place lots of onions, garlic, olives, capers and chunked albie fillets into a bath of olive oil. cover & cook over medium heat. watch not to overcook.

  22. tom edsall

    Catch, kill, and ice immediately, filet, marinate in fridge within an hour of catching in freshly squeezed mixed (no grapefruit) citrus juice for 20 mins, cook on grill til juices no longer red and flesh is med rare. Tastes like filet mignon.

  23. Eugene

    Only parasite containing species must be frozen to kill parasites. Not all pelagics contain parasites. Large tunas are not parasite containing species.

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