Fresh sardines grilling over embers, with salty oils dripping on the coals and sending
clouds of aromatic smoke billowing upward, create one of the most evocative smells
along the Atlantic coast, especially in Safi and El Jadida. This is robustly flavored finger
food at its best.
Do not wash, scale, or clean the sardines! Be careful when handling the fish so that the
scales don’t flake off. Not only is the skin loaded with oils and flavor, but it is an important
protective layer when the fish are grilled. Because sardines are difficult to turn without
the skin sticking to the grill, they are usually placed in a grill basket. Sardines can also
be prepared under a broiler. Lining the baking sheet with parchment paper is the most
effective way to keep the skin intact when the fish are turned.
Serve the grilled sardines with an array of salads, plenty of fresh bread, and, perhaps,
small bowls of fresh tomato dipping sauce (see page 158). Calculate six to ten sardines
per person. Note that Atlantic sardines tend to be slightly larger than their Mediterranean
24 to 40 fresh sardines
Coarse sea salt
If using a barbecue, prepare a fire and heat until
the coals are glowing. Place the sardines in a grill
basket, alternating the direction of the heads
and tails. Liberally sprinkle both sides with salt.
Place the rack just above the coals and set
the grill basket on the rack. Grill the sardines, fanning
the embers to keep them hot, until the skin
is buckled and charred and the eyes have gone
white, turning various times, about 6 minutes
total, depending on the size of the sardines.
Carefully remove the fish from the grill basket.
Grill the remaining sardines in batches.
If using a broiler, preheat the broiler. Line
a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place
the sardines on the sheet, spacing them about
1 in/2.5 cm apart. Liberally sprinkle with salt.
Place a rack as close as possible to the heat
source. Slide the baking sheet under the broiler.
Broil the fish, turning once by gently rolling them
over with the help of a spatula, until the skin is
buckled and charred and the eyes have gone
white, about 6 minutes total, depending on the
size of the sardines. Carefully transfer to a platter.
Reline the sheet with new parchment paper
and broil the remaining sardines in batches,
changing the parchment paper each time.