Grilled SnapperIf there was ever a utilitarian fish it would be snapper. This delicately flavored fish is relatively inexpensive and pairs well with virtually any cuisine you find. It is low in fat and its mild flavor is more appealing than stronger-tasting fish.

Snapper is found worldwide in tropical and semitropical water and for that reason, buying and ordering snapper can be a little more complicated. The name snapper refers to any fish in the family Lutjanidae of which there are approximately 113 species—all with their own variations. The most well-known of these is the red snapper, lutjanus campechanus. Because it is the most well-known, the name red snapper has been used to sell any fish that can be considered a snapper. If you ask the FDA though, the only snapper that can be sold as red snapper is lutjanus campechanus.

So with all the name games, how do you know what is what? We’ve listed two of the most popular varieties of snapper readily available to us in the Bay Area to try to make your decision a little easier.

Red Snapper
Comes from the Gulf of Mexico and the Western Atlantic. They can grow to be as large as 40 pounds but most weigh around 2-3 pounds whole. It is easy to differentiate from other snappers because it’s profile is more rounded and less streamlined. Its flesh has a consistent pink coloration throughout the fish. Like all fish in the snapper family, red snapper is best prepared whole or filleted, grilled, pan-fried or steamed.

Pacific Red Snapper
This snapper is found in the Eastern Pacific off the coast of Mexico and Baja California. It looks, tastes and cooks very similar to red snapper but with a slightly more elongated body. The best preparation for this fish is the same as true red snapper: whole or filleted, grilled, pan-fried, or steamed.

A lot of the fish sold on the West Coast is incorrectly labeled as red snapper or Pacific red snapper when it is, in fact, rockfish. While still very tasty, rockfish is a totally different type of fish. When buying your snapper, make sure to ask your butcher or fishmonger if it is a true snapper.

At Piedmont Grocery, we only sell the Pacific Red Snapper.

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