How to Cook Trigger Fish

School of Black Triggerfish, Maui

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Trigger fish, which are often referred to as leatherjackets, are widely known for their defense mechanisms which include thick, tough skin and a unique spine that can be “triggered” and locked in an upright position. Since their leathery skin can be difficult to remove, trigger fish are typically sold as fillets with the skin off. The fish has a flavor similar to that of the shellfish that make up its diet. Its meaty, flaky texture makes it amenable to a variety of cooking techniques, including grilling and pan frying.


Coat the cold cooking grate of your grill with cooking spray to prevent the fish from sticking. Preheat your grill by setting it to medium-high, around 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brush both sides of the trigger fish fillets with olive oil and your desired seasonings. Try a simple preparation using salt and pepper, or add garlic and fresh herbs for a bolder flavor. Arrange seasoned fillets on the grill, cover and cook them until grill marks become visible, approximately 4 minutes.

Carefully turn the fish over using a metal spatula and continue to grill, uncovered, until the fish flakes with a fork, about 2 minutes.

Serve with fresh lemon wedges, if desired.


Make an egg batter by whisking together 2 eggs with a small amount of milk. Pour flour onto a plate, enough to coat the trigger fish fillets. Season the fillets, if desired, and lightly coat each one with flour on both sides. Submerge fillets in the egg batter. Leave fillets submerged in egg batter until you're ready to cook them.

Add 1/4 inch of oil to a skillet and heat on medium-high. When the oil is hot, remove the fillets from the batter, allowing any excess to drip off, and carefully add them to the skillet one fillet at a time. Discard leftover batter.

Fry the fillets gently until they're golden brown, approximately 2 minutes per side. Remove the fillets from the pan and set them on paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Serve with melted butter and fresh lemon, if desired.