Anchovy is a small, oily fish that is commonly found in the Mediterranean, Black Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. This fish is often used in various cuisine types worldwide due to its strong, salty, and umami flavors. It is particularly popular in Italian, Spanish, and Southeast Asian culinary traditions. Anchovies can be found fresh, preserved in salt, or canned in oil, and each preservation method imparts a distinct taste to the fish.
Anchovies are a versatile ingredient used in a wide range of dishes, from appetizers to sauces. They are often used in pasta sauces, salad dressings, marinades, and as a topping for pizzas. Anchovies are also a key ingredient in the popular Mediterranean spread, tapenade, and are essential in making the classic Caesar salad dressing. The fish's unique flavor profile adds depth and richness to many recipes, making them a staple in home cooks' pantries.
Though many are skeptical of cooking with anchovies due to their strong smell and taste, when used correctly, they can lend a unique savory depth to an array of dishes. Where many home cooks go wrong is by using too much of the ingredient, overpowering the dish's primary flavors. Start with adding a small amount and gradually increase it as per your taste. Another common mistake people make is not rinsing the salted or canned anchovies before using them, which can make the dish extremely salty. Always rinse and pat them dry before using.
When it comes to getting the most out of anchovies, consider using them as a flavor base in your dishes. For example, you can melt a few anchovies in oil or butter before preparing a dish, which lends the dish a complex flavor without an overpowering fish taste. You can also use an anchovy paste as a flavor booster in stews, braises, and hearty sauces.
A lesser-known trick when using anchovies is to use the oil from canned anchovies. This oil is full of flavor and can be an excellent addition to salad dressings or pasta sauce.
What dishes are anchovies commonly used in?
How do I balance the strong taste of anchovies in my dish?
Should I use fresh, dried, or canned anchovies?
How to mellow down the flavor of anchovies?
Can I substitute anchovy paste for fillets and vice versa?
What can I substitute for anchovies in a recipe?
Can I use the oil from canned anchovies?
Are anchovies good for health?
What are some popular recipes using anchovies?
Can I eat anchovies right out of the can?
Expiration & Storage Tips
When does anchovy expire?
Fresh anchovies ideally should be used the same day they are purchased, but can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days if well wrapped. Once opened, a can or jar of anchovies can last one to two months in the refrigerator if covered in oil and kept airtight. Always refer to the 'best before' date on the packaging though, as this will give a more accurate indication of when the product should be used by. Frozen, anchovies can last for around six months if kept in an airtight container or bag.
How do you tell if anchovy is bad?
If fresh anchovies have an overly fishy or sour smell, they have likely gone bad. The flesh should be firm, not mushy, and the eyes should be bright, not dull or sunken. For canned or jarred anchovies, any off-putting smell, strange coloration, or appearance of mold would indicate that they are no longer safe to eat. Also check the can or jar for any signs of damage or bulging, which could be an indicator of bacterial growth.
Tips for storing anchovy to extend shelf life
• Store fresh anchovies in the coldest part of your refrigerator, well wrapped, ideally in paper.
• After opening, ensure that anchovies in a can or jar are covered with oil, as the oil acts as a preservative. Keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
• To freeze fresh anchovies, clean and gut the fish, then place in a zip-lock bag or airtight container before freezing. Defrost in the refrigerator before use.
• Avoid re-freezing anchovies once they've been thawed since it can compromise their texture and flavor.