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“Is the fish in a fish boil boiled?”

A guest actually asked me that question once, and for once in my life my brain actually regained control of my mouth. The answer (which was chosen from a variety of smart alec responses) was a very polite “Why yes, it is!”

After a while, it dawned on me that the concept of a fish boil is very unclear to most people outside of Door County, so I thought I would explain it here.

So, you go to this restaurant and there’s this place out back with a huge kettle of water sitting on a wood fire. It takes about 30 minutes on the fire before the water boils, then the boilmaster puts a basket of potatoes in the water and steps back. This is also a good time to get a beer, as it will be about 30 minutes before you eat. About 10 minutes or so later, he puts a basket of onions in the pot, above the potatoes. Then, at about the 48 minute mark he puts a basket of fresh, locally caught whitefish over the onions. Now everything is boiling away, but whitefish is kinda oily, so this oil is gathering on top of the water and it’s not very tasty. So, just before the end of the boil the boilmaster throws some kerosene on the fire and the flames leap into the air! Everybody takes pictures, the oils boil over into the pit, and the three baskets are taken out of the pot. While you go into the restaurant, the staff is preparing the just cooked whitefish, onions, and potatoes for your dinner.

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It’s a good dinner. Each place does it a little differently, but at Pelletier’s in Fish Creek (where I go for a fish boil) they serve the fish, potatoes, onions, bread, cole slaw, and cherry pie. Also, they have drawn butter to dunk the fish in, and there is enough of it that you could probably make a napkin tasty! Every place that serves fish boils has other menu items for those that don’t like fish.

All in all it’s great fun, I highly recommend it.

1 Comment

  1. This is good information on fish boils. Trust you people in Wisconsin to come up with something like that!
    I always wondered why when the pot boils over it doesn’t just put the fire out – your explanation of ‘fish oils’ has put that burning question out for me!
    One of my favorite boils was at the Viking Grill in Sister Bay. The fish there was pretty good too and not just the boils. I’ve heard Pelletier’s is good though I’ve never been.

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