Black Drum is commonly sold in coastal seafood restaurants in the US as Redfish. The taste of these two fish is so similar, in fact, that even those who have caught their fair share of both species can struggle to differentiate between them. So what does Black Drum taste like?
Black Drum tastes very similar to Redfish. Black Drum has a mildly sweet flavor with firm meat that flakes into large chunks when cooked. We think it is delicious!
Black Drum and Redfish, also known as Red Drum, are from the same family, hence the flavor similarity. The larger, older Black Drum are not as good for the table as the smaller ones because the flesh gets tougher as the fish ages.
Want to learn more about Black Drum and what it tastes like? You’ve come to the right place!
Black Drum Habitat
Black Drum live mainly in the brackish waters on the coasts of the western Atlantic. From as far north as Nova Scotia and south to Argentina, the highest concentrations are found on the Texas coast, where they spawn in Feb and March.
Author Note: The larger Black Drum favor the higher salinity further out in the estuaries, seeking oyster beds and other plentiful food resources. The juveniles, up to about 12″, prefer the fresher water.
The younger Black Drum also like to hide around piers, docks and other structures. If you want to learn more about catching Black Drum, check out our Black Drum fishing rigs article and our article on kayak fishing for Redfish.
Preparation of Black Drum
The preparation of Black Drum can be a bit time-consuming with the larger fish. The larger they get, the more difficult removing the scales can be.
The bigger ones are troublesome to the point that some guides just say they are inedible because it’s too much effort, often preferring to seek out Redfish as table fare instead.
Black Drum should be gutted immediately and cooked as soon as possible because it doesn’t freeze very well. This can have a big impact on what Black Drum tastes like.
Common Ways to Serve Black Drum
Because Black Drum doesn’t keep well, it is best enjoyed as soon as possible.
Pan-fried in butter, Black Drum fillets, simply seasoned with just salt, pepper, and lemon juice with a french salad makes a great light lunch. Paired with fruity white wine and served while still on deck, it is a nice way to finish off a successful morning’s fishing.
On the Half Skin
Another simple way to cook Black Drum is to do without skinning the fish at all and serve it in the half shell. On an open flame, skin-side-down with garlic butter spooned over the top as it cooks.
St Lucian Creole
A lifelong friend who’s parents are from St Lucia introduced me to Creole-style seafood when he invited a group of us to celebrate Jounen Kweyol. He and his family made some amazing dishes, each one offering more exciting and flavor combinations than the last.
Author Note: The star of the show was the Red Snapper Creole Stew, which has such a similar flavor to Red Drum and the smaller Black Drum that I almost exclusively pair these fish with island-style spices.
Crumbed baked Breadfruit balls, Rice and Peas, Jerk Chicken, and of course Plantain and Saltfish. The Curry Goat that his mother spiced to perfection made me question whether Lamb really is my favorite meat! But the dish that stole the show was a recipe of his father’s.
A 3rd generation St Lucian fisherman, ‘Uncle Charles’ (pronounced Honku Charl), displayed his proud heritage with a Red Snapper Creole stew that was colorful and intense, with an aroma to match. Made with Tomatoes, Red Onion, Garlic, Celery, and Thyme, and spiced with Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and dried Paprika, all set on fire with Scotch Bonnet Chilli Peppers.
The Flavor Evolves Further
Honku Charl prepared the Red Snapper with a rub made by grinding Peppercorns, Coarse sea salt, and 5 or 6 of the seeds from the scotch bonnet peppers together in a Pestle and Mortar. He then quickly pan-fried the fish in butter to seal in the flavor and set it aside.
Adding a bit more butter to ensure they won’t stick, he put the onions and garlic in the pan. Once translucent, he added the Scotch Bonnets and spices and left them to infuse for a minute. He then added the tomatoes, thyme, and then the stock—all that simmered away for about 5 mins before adding the sweet yellow peppers.
The stew was left to cook for another 5 mins before putting the fish back into the pot. With the fish back in, the stew was left for another 10-15 mins to cook the fish through before serving. The explosive flavor that this dish displayed left us in no doubt, Honku Charl knows his fish!
The job my friend was allocated for the occasion was to make the Jerk Chicken. This wasn’t my first experience with Jerk seasoning, but my friend makes it to Honku Charl’s recipe with a distinct St Lucian twist that has inspired this fishcake recipe.
St Lucian Style Jerk Black Drum Fishcakes
Fishcakes are perfect for using up leftover potatoes and the trimmings of the fish, and they can be quickly and easily prepared after filleting a catch. If you can BBQ on the boat, you can prepare the potato and spices beforehand, put the fishcakes together in seconds, and be eating in minutes.
You can just buy your own Jerk Seasoning, but I like to make my own. I usually make a batch of the dry spices and add the fresh Scotch Bonnet Peppers when I need to use the seasoning. This way, I can adjust the heat of the spice to better suit the ingredients or the personal taste of my guests.
I like my Jerk spices hot on chicken, but subtle flavored fish can be easily overpowered with too much Chilli. Some of my friends don’t have my fiery taste. By making my own, I can easily tone down the heat for visitors. Apologies to Honku Charl for not following the recipe strictly, but I prefer smoked Paprika to unsmoked.
These quantities below provide a ‘warmer middle of the road.’ If you like it sweeter, add more sugar. If you want it more BBQ style, add another ½ tsp Smoked Paprika and Sugar. If it is too hot, remove the Cayenne Pepper before reducing the amount of Scotch Bonnet.
Black Drum Jerk Recipe
- 2 tsp Garlic Powder
- 2 tsp Kosher Salt or Coarse Sea Salt
- 2 tsp Dried Celery
- 1 tsp Onion Powder
- 1 tsp Finely chopped fresh Scotch Bonnet Chili Peppers, remove the seeds unless you like it HOT.
- 2 tsp Dried Thyme
- 2 tsp Brown Sugar
- 2½ tsp Smoked Paprika
- 1½ tsp Ground Allspice
- 1 tsp Black Pepper
- 1½ tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 1 tsp Ground Nutmeg
- ½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
This is enough space for about 12 fishcakes, so use roughly a ¼ for the 4 fishcakes in this recipe.
Black Drum Fishcakes
For the fishcakes, you will need:
- 1lbs Black Drum trimmings
- 12oz boiled / pre-mashed potatoes
- 5-6 tsp Jerk Spice
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped yellow pepper
- 1 Tbsp finely grated Lemon Zest
For the crispy coating:
- 1 egg
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
- Flour for dusting
Cooking Black Drum Fishcakes
First, quickly cook the Black Drum trimmings over an open flame, or quickly fried in butter.
Combine the mashed potato with the Jerk spice, Yellow Pepper and Lemon Zest, then carefully mix in the fish trimmings.
Separate the mixture into 4 equal sections.
Dust a thick layer of flour over a plate. Using the flour-dusted plate and flour-dusted hands, shape the mixture into four 1″ thick disks.
Beat the egg in a bowl, and lay a layer of breadcrumbs on a plate.
Place each of the fishcakes into the beaten egg, ensuring the entire surface is coated, and then lay them in the breadcrumbs. Once coated, they are ready to cook.
Cook for 5 minutes each side over an open flame, under the grill, or shallow fried.
Author Note: Black Drum are at their peak of flavor just before spawning, which usually takes place in estuarine waters on the Texas coast in Feb and March, so get fishing, guys!
Note on Spaghetti Worms in Black Drum
Whenever eating a wild-caught fish, you should be aware of parasites. Spaghetti worms encompass a few parasitic worms that live in the flesh of fish. These worms may be very off-putting to the eye, especially when found living in the meat you want to eat.
However, spaghetti worms die when you cook the fish; they have no discernable flavor and can only survive in marine animals.
Interestingly it seems that Drum species have a limit to the number of spaghetti worms they can harbor. Research on over 1300 fish showed that they would play host to a maximum of 10-15 spaghetti worms regardless of the size. Even the oldest fish caught by researchers would still have the same maximum of 10-15 worms.
This was surprising because one would expect that if a fish is susceptible to parasites, that it would pick up more and more of those parasites throughout its life. The research disproved this theory but raised questions about how the fish seem to become immune to further parasitic invasion.
Scientists have done extensive research and have never succeeded in passing one of these parasites onto a mammalian host. Over 75% of trout fishermen questioned on the subject admitted they do not even take the time to remove the worms from the fish they eat.
Despite that, worms can easily be removed with tweezers, needle nose pliers, or even just a knife and your thumb; most anglers seem fine just ignoring them.
Catching Black Drum that are over 15lbs or over 2½ feet long should be released. These older fish are much more likely to have worms in the flesh than the younger ones. Releasing the big ones also helps to maintain the population for sport fishing, but also breeding stock.
The largest Black Drum ever caught weighed in at 113lbs, to give you an idea of just how big these guys can get!