The eel's serpentine (snake-like) body is not the only thing that makes it different from other fish. It is also migratory, meaning that it leaves fresh water to spawn in sea water, and travels a tremendous distance, halfway across the world, to do so. The flesh is firm and rich tasting, high in protein, vitamins A and E, and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.


Although jellied eels are probably the best known way of serving eel in Britain, they have always tended to be prepared commercially. So too eel pie, and eel and mash.

However a look across world cuisines shows there are plenty of simple ways of cooking eel at home. In Japan it's usually grilled and basted with a mirin and soy sauce marinade; the Italians use a similar technique with balsamic vinegar.

Unlike other fish, eel takes well to stewing with ingredients such as with onion, wine and tomatoes. Many recipes for mackerel work well with eel, and like mackerel, eel is particularly delicious smoked. Serve smoked eel simply with brown bread and lemon, or try it in a risotto.


A fully-grown eel with tough silver skin is around 90cm long. Baby eels, known as elvers, are transparent and around 5-7cm long. They are edible but a rare and expensive treat. Conger eel is a different species altogether: it is larger, bony, and good to eat, although the flesh is not as rich.