Tinker Mackerel on the Grill

Jul 27, 2017

The mackerel are running, and my husband heads down to fish right before high tide most every day.  We love to eat Atlantic mackerel, particularly the younger and smaller ones known as “tinkers”.  Judging from the number of fishing rods I’ve seen at the docks, other Maine folks do too.

The first catch of the season is always exciting; both for the angler and the cook.  The thrill of being on the water as the iridescent blue-green bodies rush around the boat, the seals and birds feeding right along side you.  Trolling along the shore looking for the sweet spot, and then the hit when the fish takes the hook.  And then another takes the hook!  Soon the boat is full of mackerel.

In the kitchen, the prospect of fresh fish literally right out of the water is reminiscent of a M.F.K Fisher inspired meal. Thin slices of lemon tucked into the silvery belly that is liberally seasoned with Old Bay spice rub, the skin is coated with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

A nice hot fire in the grill sears the skin and captures the oils, keeping the flesh moist.  Turned just once, and grilled to perfection, the tinker mackerel’s savory morsels melt in your mouth.

To complement our riches, I served up with new red potatoes made into in a warm, nicoise-style salad over just-picked lettuce from the garden.  Baby carrots, cooked until fork- tender, tossed with butter and fresh dill, and the first cucumber of the season, bright green and crunchy completed the feast.

Nutritionally speaking, Atlantic mackerel is literally a super-food.  Packed with Omega-3 fatty acids (which keep our morsels so tender), mackerel can be enjoyed in many preparations, including smoked, pan-fried and broiled.  To start this season, my husband and I agreed that Grilled Tinker Mackerel is really just about the finest kind.


Cheryl Wixson
This classic preparation works with salmon and trout


  • 2 Tinker mackerel (each about one-third pound) per person
  • Lemon slices
  • Seafood seasoning
  • olive oil
  • Salt and Fresh pepper


  • Clean the fish and rinse thoroughly. Liberally sprinkle the cavities with the seafood seasonings of your choice and stuff the inside with thinly sliced lemon pieces.
  • Rub olive oil over the fish and sprinkle with salt and fresh pepper.
  • Grill over a medium-hot fire about 3 – 5 minutes before turning once. Serve on a plate with a bowl for bones and plenty of napkins.

Cheryl's Notes

Nutritional analysis per three ounces cooked fish: 223 calories, 20 grams protein, 15 grams fat, 0 grams carbohydrates, 90 mg. sodium, 0 grams fiber. 2.3 grams Omega-3 fatty acids, a super food!

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