Fire. Food. Fish. Looking for the quintessential Door County dining experience? Then head over to a Door County fish boil, a dinner event the whole family will enjoy. Experience the excitement of showmen (or women!) performing the age-old ritual of cooking dinner upon an open fire.
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The boil master circles the fire and watches it closely. Door County fish boils are a nightly event, rain or shine!
The Door County fish boil features Lake Michigan whitefish caught by local fishermen and served fresh the same day. Fish boils are a major attraction in Door County, popular among visitors and locals alike. The Door County fish boil is a dramatic presentation and is always on display outdoors, rain or shine.
Because of the nature of the Door County fish boils, most places suggest — and some require — a reservation. You are also encouraged to arrive early, not only to assure your seat at the table but to enjoy the process of the fish boil as well. Restaurants typically ask that patrons arrive 30-40 minutes early to witness the spectacle. Children will love sitting around the fire and squeal with excitement when the flames jump high.
A boilover occurs when kerosine is added to the fire at a Door County fish boil. Photo credit: Judd Zandstra, flickr.
The Door County Fish Boil Antics
Guests and onlookers alike tend to gather around the firepit from a safe distance, approximately 30-40 minutes before serving time.
Behind the scenes, the fresh fish is cleaned and cut into chunks. Red potatoes and whole yellow onions are washed and ready.
Once the crowd has gathered, a Master Boiler will address the audience, sharing some of the history and details about the Door County fish boil. The fire is lit, and the Master Boiler and his/her assistants will bring the fish baskets to the cauldron, carefully placing the fresh catch into the kettle of boiling water. Typically, potatoes and onions are placed in their own separate baskets as well. While waiting for the fish and potatoes to cook, the crowd relaxes for a while.
When the cooking process is complete, the Master Boiler warns the onlookers as a small amount of kerosene is thrown onto the fire. The sudden and great burst of flame brings the water in the kettle to an overboil and the water in the pot spills over the sides carrying with it the foam and fish oils that have formed on the top. And now the fish is ready for diners. The crowd disperses and heads to their tables, anticipating the buttery, perfectly cooked whitefish — a melt-in-your-mouth delight.
Door County fish boils are often served with melted butter, potatoes, onions, vegetables, coleslaw, and bread. Customarily, the meal is concluded with a slice of Door County Cherry Pie.
For more about the history of the Door County fish boil and to see the pyrotechnics in action, don’t miss the video at the end of this article!
There is nothing like melt-in-your-mouth, light, buttery, fresh fish caught that very same day! Door County fish boils are typically served with melted butter, coleslaw, and potatoes.