Fish, Friends, and Fire: The Great Lakes Fishboil

This past weekend, we participated in a Labor Day tradition, a Great Lakes Fish Boil. This gathering is the ideal time to enjoy the bounty of our beautiful lakes and last weekend of summer. Since this may be a new experience for some readers, I thought I would explain our unique tradition.

We began by gathering supplies (enough for 12-16 people):

  • 16 potatoes (scrubbed and ends cut off)
  • 8 onions (peeled)
  • 8 lbs. of fish, skin on (whitefish and lake trout are favorites)
  • 1/2 lb. non-iodized salt, divided
  • 8 lemon wedges
  • Fresh herbs
  • 3/4 c. melted butter
  • Tartar sauce

This dish is prepared over the fire, so we also use the following:

  • Large pot with wire handles
  • Smaller pot that fits inside with holes drilled throughout the lower half (We also added a wire handle for easier removal)
  • A stand to set the large pot over the fire (We use an old turkey fryer stand).
  • A metal bar to put through the wire handles on the large pot (for easier removal after final boil over)
  • One small cup of gasoline or kerosene for final boil over
  • Heavy duty hot pads
  • Shovel, hose, etc. for basic fire safety

NOTE: Because this dish is prepared over an open fire, all appropriate safety measures should be taken, including the use of heavy duty hot pads, the appropriate location for a large fire with a shovel and/or water, spectators should not sit or stand too close to fire as final burn off creates a large amount of heat, and children should NOT be involved with any of the cooking process.

First, we started a large bonfire and waited an hour or two for the appropriate cooking coals. Next, a large covered pot filled with two gallons of water is added to the fire. Once the water was boiling, we added 1/4 lb. salt.

fish boil 1

Then the potatoes are added, cooking uncovered for 16 minutes. Later, we added onions, which cooked 4 minutes. After the onions were cooked, we added the last 1/4 lb. of salt.

fish boil 2

Placing the fish in the smaller pot, we added the basket right on top of the potatoes and onions, cooking uncovered for 10 minutes.

fish boil 3

Now, our favorite part, the final boil over! We carefully tossed a cup of kerosene on the fire, creating enough heat for the pot to boil over and reduce the fire’s intensity.

Then we removed the pot from the fire and placed our bounty on platters, the perfect end to summer! We usually serve with cole slaw and rolls. Thanks for reading!


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