1) A fish boil is a Great Lakes culinary tradition in areas of Wisconsin (USA) and along the coastal Upper Great Lakes, with large Scandinavian populations. Fish boils enjoy a particularly strong presence in Door County, Port Wing and Port Washington, Wisconsin. The meal most often consists of Lake Michigan or Lake Superior whitefish (though lake trout or locally caught salmon can be used), with other ingredients.
2) The fish is typically caught by local fishermen, cut into small chunks and cooked in boiling water with red potatoes. Some boilers add onions as well. Salt is the only seasoning used, and used only to raise the specific gravity of the water.
3) The cooking of the fish is an elaborate presentation. Restaurants typically ask that patrons arrive a half hour early to witness the boiling. The fish and potatoes are placed in a cast-iron kettle. When the water comes to a boil the potatoes, kept in a wire basket, are lowered in.
4) The fish are then placed in another wire basket and lowered in. When the fish oils rise to the top of the pot, the boiler will add a small amount of kerosene to the flames. The increase in flames causes a boilover, the fish oils spill over the side of the pot, and the fish is done.
5) The fish boil was started at the Viking Grill in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin by then grill owners Annette and Lawrence Wickman when they decided to duplicate the trout boils held by local churches and civic groups but instead use the local whitefish.
• Fish boils may be a Great Lakes tradition but we find they make a great excuse for a family gathering at any time of the year. Our readers tell us they love fish boils for family reunions and outdoor birthday parties with friends.
• The idea is to be present at the party while the food is boiling. Part of the fun is to watch the pot boil and steam. Another part of the fun is to smell the food cooking too.
• Fish Boils are popular with campers and over-night fishermen because packing a few potatoes to go along with fresh caught fish is a no brainer.
Traditional Fish Boil Platter of Door County, Wisconsin, U.S.