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What are Anchovies & How do you Eat Anchovies

What are Anchovies & How do you Eat Anchovies

Last Updated on 3rd August 2022 by Pauline Loughlin

A lot of people have had bad experiences with anchovies and that’s given this fish a bad reputation. I think, a lot of those bad experiences may be chalked up to anchovies not being prepared properly.

A lot of anchovies are simply not packaged properly, or you get ones that aren’t a very good quality that are sold on store shelves when they really have no business being sold. Anchovies are considered a lesser fish, but I think that’s unfair. Let’s explore what anchovies are and the best way to eat them!

What Are Anchovies?

These are small fish that are usually salty and fishy but not overpowering. What do anchovies taste like? They have an umami quality that’s subtle, which makes them a good addition to many foods.
Did you know that anchovies refer to an extensive variety of fish?

If you go to different parts of the world, you’ll find different types of fish classified as anchovies. These tend to be small, salted fish that are stored in the dry grocery section of the supermarket, and they can come from a wide range of fish types, but yet they’ll be classified as anchovies. That can make it difficult to pin down what exactly what an anchovy is, but most people understand what these are for their area of the world.

Why are anchovies so salty? Often, that’s down to how they are packaged and prepared. Some manufacturers use a lot of salt on their anchovies, just to help them last longer. You can check the shelf life on the average package of anchovies, and you will probably see that they are said to be able to last for years.

They do naturally have a salty taste, though. It’s easy to pin down the reason why, if you’re curious. It’s because these are saltwater fish, as opposed to freshwater fish like salmon or catfish. The saltiness of the water affects the flavor of the anchovies, making them mouthwatering and excellent flavor enhancers.

That salt helps to bring out flavors from other foods, which is why they pair well with so many dishes.

Salt is used to preserve anchovies, many times, and you’ll often find salt one of the key packaging ingredients, as it helps extend the shelf life of this food. If you’re concerned about the salt content of what you’re eating, check for anchovies that have very little salt content or not much salt added. If you find that they don’t have much flavor when you buy those low salt versions, you can always add more salt yourself.

How to Eat Anchovies

There are a few classic ways to eat anchovies. Some people like them so much because of their salty flavor that they just eat them straight from the can, without cooking them or preparing them in any way. A lot of people add them to pizza.

They make for an interesting topping, comparable to most types of salted meat, like bacon, ham, or sausage. Many people prefer their anchovies in sandwiches as well, and once again, they can take the place of a salted meat.

How to Store Anchovies

If you’ve not opened your container of anchovies yet, and you bought them from the dry foods section of the grocery, they should have a shelf life of about a year. Once the anchovy can is open, however, they should last for about two months.

Once you’ve used some of the anchovies and open the container, make sure it’s tightly sealed, and you can store it in the refrigerator for an additional two months. Of course, if the anchovies get left out on the counter, exposed to the air, they can attract bacteria and pests and may go bad sooner.

How to Cook Anchovies

If you’re not someone who wants to eat anchovies raw, let me share with you what to do with anchovies in order to cook them up before eating them.

One of the simplest and most common ways to prepare anchovies is to pan fry them. We can use just a little oil in a skillet, heating the skillet on high heat until the oil starts to shimmer. Turn the heat down to medium and add your anchovies, making sure there’s enough room between each of them so they’re not touching one another. They also need to lay flat and not be stacked and should not overlap at all. You may want to cook them in batches.

The anchovies can cook for about 3 minutes on one side, until they start to turn golden brown on the side that’s touching the skillet. Then, flip them over and cook them on the other side for another two or three minutes. They should be done cooking when they are golden brown all over and they have become tender all the way through.

Feel free to season your anchovies before or after they go into the skillet. Once the anchovies come out of the pan, they should be placed onto a paper towel to get rid of the excess oil.

What Goes on Anchovies with Pizza?

One of the most common ways people eat anchovies is on pizza. If you’ve never had any cheese on your pizza before, you may be wondering what to pair with it. It’s not usually paired with any additional meats.

To help complement its distinctive flavor, you can use foods like olives, onions, and capers with the anchovies when making a pizza. For seasoning, you can add basil, parsley, or even a little lemon juice. Some people add marinara sauce or sour cream to help complement the flavors of the anchovies.

Pineapples work really well with anchovies on pizza as well, with their sweet flavor helping to get salty anchovies a nice boost. If you want to pair anchovies with the meat on your pizza, chicken is probably the best way to go.

If you’ve been hesitant to try out this fish before, hopefully this gives you a few ideas and a little more confidence to work with it.

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I'm Pauline, a retired patisserie chef, mother of four and now a full time food blogger! When i'm not cooking i love long walks, reading thriller novels and spending time with my grandkids. Head to my about me page to learn more about the woman behind the food!  You can find my Facebook here