What is grouper?

Grouper is the name of a bony sea fish well known for the quality of its meat and frequently used for food purposes.

Of the 1st fundamental group of foods – foods rich in proteins with high biological value , specific mineral salts and vitamins – grouper is a fishing product that cannot be considered white fish – such as sea bream, sea bream , tanuta etc. – nor blue fish – such as anchovies , sardines , shad , garfish , herring , mackerel , lanzardo , tombarello , bonito etc. It is also a very expensive fish, often caught with systems that do not allow saving specimens that are too young – therefore not eco-sustainable – and outside the category of poor fish .

Grouper meat is also rich in omega 3 fatty acids and iodine , but does not constitute a sustainable nutritional source of these nutrients for the population – a role instead attributable to poor fish. It is quite digestible and has few contraindications even in clinical nutrition.

In the kitchen, grouper is essentially prepared stewed and baked, although there is no shortage of fans of raw food – which requires, on the other hand, a rather thin cut of the meat (given the compactness of its fibres ).

In truth, there are various types of grouper; these fish, biologically differentiated from each other, are morphologically quite similar and, for convenience, are marketed with the same name. The various groupers, in fact, all fall into the biological family Serranidae – commonly called “serranidae” – and subfamily Epinephelinae.

On the other hand, groupers populate the seas all over the world, dividing themselves into numerous genera and species with significantly different characteristics. Those widespread in Italian seas are of the Epinephelus genus (brown grouper, golden grouper, white grouper).

Did you know that…

The closest relatives of the grouper, considered the “queen of the seabed” due to the size it can reach, are rather small fish. Of the same biological family, the latter belong to the Serranus genus . The most indicative species is scriba , commonly known as “sciarrano”, but cabrilla or perchia and hepatus or sac are also extremely widespread. In all three cases it is poor fish, mainly used as an ingredient in soup or frying , but often thrown back into the sea by fishermen with nets or lines because it is not very marketable.

The grouper is a predatory fish with a complicated reproductive cycle, which makes it a potentially “at risk” species. It has predominantly sedentary attitudes and, although this can change depending on the species, it spends much of its existence inside rock dens or close to them.


Giant oceanic groupers, which can grow to several hundred kilos, are famous for being the only natural predators of sharks.

Nutritional properties

Nutritional properties of grouper

Grouper is a fishery product that falls into the first fundamental group of foods. It is not part of the category of poor fish, blue fish and white fish; generally, groupers are grouped together in a separate group. However, it contains good levels of semi-essential omega 3 fatty acids , eicosapentaenoic ( EPA ) and docosahexaenoic (DHA); the concentrations of vitamin D and iodine are also notable .

Grouper is a low- energy food , a nutritional property due above all to the modest lipid concentration, despite the excellent protein intake. Calories are therefore mainly provided by peptides , followed by negligible concentrations of lipids and irrelevant concentrations of carbohydrates. The proteins are of high biological value – they contain all the essential amino acids compared to the human model – the fatty acids are predominantly unsaturated – as we anticipated, with an excellent percentage of the biologically active semi-essential omega 3 polyunsaturated EPA and DHA – and the carbohydrates are simple.

Fibers are absent and cholesterol should be present but not excessive. Grouper is not a species that contains large quantities of marine wax. Lactose and gluten are completely absent. The concentration of purines is abundant. Histamine , absent in the fresh product, increases exponentially in poorly preserved fish. As a high-protein food , it is also a significant source of the amino acid phenylalanine . Grouper is rich in water-soluble vitamins of group B, especially riboflavin (vit B2), niacin (vit PP), pyridoxine (vit B6) and cobalamin (vit B12); it should also have excellent levels of the fat-soluble vitamin calciferol (vit D). The levels of phosphorus and, probably, iodine are appreciable.

Grouper is a predatory fish, therefore the accumulation of mercury and methylmercury in its meat is closely linked to the size it reaches. It is therefore considered necessary to avoid eating large specimens often, especially in large portions. Furthermore, in certain oceanic areas, the grouper is one of the creatures that can accumulate algal toxins in its flesh; it is therefore advisable to pay attention, especially during your stay abroad, to the origin of the raw materials.

Editorial board

Nutritious Amount’
Waterfall 78.5g
Proteins 17.0g
Lipids 2.0g
Saturated Fatty Acids – g
Monounsaturated fatty acids – g
Polyunsaturated fatty acids – g
Cholesterol – mg
TOT carbohydrates 0.5g
Starch / Glycogen 0.0g
Soluble sugars 0.5g
Dietary Fibre 0.0g
Soluble 0.0g
Insoluble 0.0g
Power 88.0 kcal
Sodium – mg
Potassium – mg
Iron 0.3 mg
Soccer 11.0 mg
Phosphorus 128.0 mg
Magnesium – mg
Zinc – mg
Copper – mg
Selenium – mcg
Thiamine or vitamin B1 0.04 mg
Riboflavin or vitamin B2 0.12 mg
Niacin or vitamin PP 0.40 mg
Vitamin B6 – mg
Folates – mcg
Vitamin B12 – mcg
Vitamin C or Ascorbic Acid 0.0 mg
Vitamin A or RAE – mcg
Vitamin D – IU
Vitamin K – mcg
Vitamin E or Alpha Tocopherol – mg


Grouper in the diet

Grouper is a food suitable for most diets. Very high in protein although digestible, any excessive portions are still inadequate for the diet of subjects with digestive complications such as dyspepsia , gastritis , gastroesophageal reflux disease , gastric or duodenal ulcer . Grouper is a food suitable for almost all diets, including slimming ones , which must be low-calorie and normolipidic. Being very lean , this fish can be cooked using extra virgin olive oil also in nutritional therapy against obesity. The abundance of proteins with high biological value makes grouper ideal in the diet of malnourished , destitute subjects or those with an increased need for essential amino acids . This type of food is advisable in cases of very high intensity sporting activity, especially in strength disciplines or with a very significant muscular hypertrophic component , and for all particularly prolonged aerobic disciplines. Grouper is also suitable in cases of breastfeeding , pathological intestinal malabsorption and in old age – in which eating disorders and decreased inte

stinal absorption tend to create a protein deficit . EPA and DHA, semi-essential but biologically active omega 3s, are very important for:

  • The constitution of cell membranes
  • The health of the nervous system and eyes – in the fetus and children
  • The prevention and treatment of some metabolic pathologies – hypertriglyceridemia , arterial hypertension , etc.
  • Maintenance of cognitive functions in old age
  • The reduction of some symptoms of neurosis – depression, etc.

Due to the absence of gluten and lactose, grouper is relevant in the diet for celiac disease and for milk sugar intolerance . The abundance of purines makes it undesirable, in considerable portions, in the nutritional regime for hyperuricemia , especially severe ones – with gouty attacks – and in that for kidney stones or lithiasis due to uric acid . As regards histamine intolerance, however, if perfectly preserved, it has no contraindications. The massive presence of phenylalanine precludes its massive use in the diet against phenylketonuria .

Group B vitamins have a mainly coenzymatic function; this is why grouper can be considered a good source of nutrients that support the cellular functions of all tissues. D, on the other hand, is crucial for bone metabolism and the immune system . Note : remember that food sources of vitamin D are very rare. Phosphorus, rarely lacking in the diet, is one of the main constituents of bone (hydroxyapatite) and nervous tissue ( phospholipids ). Finally, iodine is necessary for the correct functioning of the thyroid gland – responsible for regulating cellular metabolism following the secretion of the hormones T3 and T4.

Grouper meat is allowed in the pregnancy diet , as long as it comes from safe sources and from medium-sized creatures, not from large specimens – rich in mercury and methylmercury. In this case it would still be good practice to limit consumption to a one-off basis. The average portion of grouper – as a dish – is 100-150 g (90-130 kcal ).


Cooking grouper

Grouper is a fish that is quite simple to prepare. Having excellent organoleptic and gustatory characteristics , it does not require particular processing or special ingredients; however it pairs brilliantly with many other foods, herbs and spices.

The grouper is a slightly thorny fish; However, you should not be fooled by frozen products . These, appropriately filleted – which leads to terrible waste, we will understand better why later – are obtained mainly from large fish from the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. If you purchase a 3 kilogram local grouper, you will still need to bone it carefully.

The muscle tissue of the grouper is firm, consistent and elastic; the consistency is very distantly reminiscent of that of monkfish or monkfish. Grouper is an excellent ingredient for both long and short cooking ; It also performs very well raw, but due to its compactness it requires a particularly thin cut – both for carpaccio and tartare.

This fish should be cooked whole; it is hardly reasonable to fillet a creature with a head which, in large specimens, accounts for more than 1/3 of the overall weight . Nonetheless, the grouper’s head is a real delicacy; the powerful, large but very tender and tasty muscles that characterize the mouth of Serranids are contained in the capacious chambers of the skull .

The recipe that best enhances grouper is probably the one stewed in the oven. Let’s be clear, it certainly doesn’t disappoint cooked in the same way in a casserole or in a dry oven but, for connoisseurs, the aroma and flavor that a large grouper cooked slowly together with a good tomato , white wine , capers and some aromatic herbs can release it is priceless.

Returning to frozen grouper fillets, they can be gratinated in the oven, sautéed, boiled or steamed , or even fried. Note : on the palate , oceanic grouper does not even remotely resemble our local ones – especially fresh ones.


Notes on the biology of the grouper

Since it is an entire biological subfamily, it is not possible to accurately but synthetically describe the biological characteristics of all groupers; we will therefore limit ourselves to making a few references to what is considered the most widespread species in the Mediterranean Sea, namely the brown grouper, of the genus Epinephelus and species marginatus .

It is the most present and well-known grouper in Italy but, as well as in the Mare Nostrum, it seems to be not rare in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean, in some places of the Western Atlantic Ocean and in the Western Indian Ocean. It is a predator of cephalopod molluscs – octopus , cuttlefish , squid , squid – crustaceans – lobster, lobster etc. – and fish – boga , damselfish, small bream etc.; in adulthood , it only fears fishing by humans. Typically curious, she is nevertheless solitary and shy. It lives between 10 and 50 m of depth, but large specimens also live beyond these bathymetric depths. It prefers rocky seabeds, where it stays between caves, cracks and gullies. At a young age it is not uncommon to meet her close to the juncture. It is a protogynous hermaphrodite – it changes sex with age; born female and becomes male around 12 years old; it reproduces in summer. It can reach dimensions of 1.5 m and 60 kg in weight when it reaches 50 years of age. As the name suggests, it has a brown colour , characterized by light, beige spots, which give it excellent camouflage.

The other groupers widespread in the Mediterranean Sea are:

  • Epinephelus aeneus : also called white grouper, has less sedentary and sedentary attitudes than brown grouper. It is more common in Sicily, Calabria, Sardinia and some places in the Tuscan archipelago. It does not disdain posidonia meadows and sandy strips bordering the rocky seabed or the aforementioned prairies. However, it takes refuge in narrow ravines when necessary.
  • Epinephelus costae : also known as “duct” or golden grouper. Many believe that the golden grouper and the ductus are different fish, because the pigmentations of their livery are different. In reality, the ductus changes appearance significantly over the course of its life. When young it has particularly evident horizontal golden lines and no light spots behind the gills; as an older woman, however, it is almost completely the opposite: the lines almost disappear and the circular spot becomes large and evident. Note : these evolutions do not follow a particularly uniform trend between specimens, hence the common misunderstanding that they may be different animals. It lives more willingly to the south than the brown grouper, both in the Mediterranean and in the Atlantic Ocean. It prefers seagrass beds mixed with sand and/or rock; It has greater aptitude than the previous ones for escaping into open waters but, when put under pressure, it too exploits the transition lairs where, however, it does not permanently reside.
  • Epinephelus caninus : also known as black grouper, it is actually quite rare in Italian and Mediterranean waters in general. It becomes much larger than the brown grouper but also lives in decidedly more challenging bathymetry.

Notes on grouper fishing

Groupers are fished at a professional level both with trawl or gill nets and with bottom longline lines. At an amateur level , however, it is a highly coveted prey both to be caught with rods – bottom fishing – and to be targeted with a speargun in freediving underwater fishing . On the other hand, the grouper population is constantly decreasing, which is why the French government has banned fishing for it. In Italy there is a minimum size, which on the other hand is impossible for traders to respect who use their systems to capture even small specimens. Fortunately, living inside caves and ravines, the brown grouper or brown grouper is more difficult – compared to the ducts and the white grouper – to catch with the trawling system – definitely the most destructive for the ecosystem.

Grouper ecology and fishing sustainability

The brown grouper, the most widespread in the Mediterranean Sea, is a “proterogynous hermaphroditic” fish, meaning it is always born female and only becomes male once it reaches 12 years of age. This attitude is influenced by variables such as: food availability, population density and human harvest, average age of the groups, etc. In response to the demographic collapse caused by large-scale fishing, the minimum age for sex change appears to be decreasing, to the advantage of male specimens who should be fertilized earlier. On the other hand, this mechanism does not seem sufficient to compensate for the indiscriminate sampling with lines and nets, which especially penalizes small groupers incapable of completing even just one reproductive cycle. For this reason it is indisputable that the most sustainable fishing for grouper, and the only one that can be continued in the long term, is underwater apnea fishing, which not only allows the difficulty of catching to be enormously increased – in many cases granting the fish the possibility to “get by” – but also to select specimens of the correct size.