Fish Boil – a Door County Tradition

This last weekend my friend Daina and I visited Door County, WI. We enjoyed shopping, beachcombing, and kayaking, but one of our favorite things was the Fish Boil. This is a centuries old tradition of this area, and was a cooperative effort between local farmers and fisherman to feed the lumberjacks. It is still a popular dish and no one has found a way to improve on the technique, so it continues to this day. You can experience this feast at many local restaurants several days of the week. We went to Pelletier’s , check it out; here’s their website :


Here is the “Master Boiler”, who has built a wood fire under a large kettle, added  whole red potatoes, sweet whole onions, and salt.  The salt serves to increase the boiling temperature.  When the veggies are done, the Whitefish is added, having been freshly caught by local fishermen in Lake Michigan.  The oil from the fish begins to rise to the top, necessitating the need for a “boil over”.  This is done in order to burn off that oil, so that it does not adhere to the food as it is served.


The Master Boiler throws a container of diesel fuel into the wood fire underneath the kettle.  Immediately a huge fireball ensues, engulfing the entire kettle.   The kettle is then removed by two men with a metal pole, brought to the kitchen, and the food is immediately served.


The meal consists of the fish, potatoes, onion,  homemade coleslaw,  and a variety of bread.  Many people choose to douse their fish and veggies in butter and/or lemon (I did!).  I ordered the lite eater’s version.  You can get a larger plateful if you wish.  Dessert  consists of homemade cherry pie made with fresh local cherries from a nearby orchard.  I must admit I had my doubts about boiled fish, but I must say it was very moist and delicious!  I would recommend a fish boil if you ever travel to Door  County, it was an interesting and yummy experience!