The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Five-hour Baked Shad–Really?

April 30th, 2011 · 1 Comment · Posted in Recipes

Making a bouquet of wildflowers

We spent a weekend at a friend’s place in the Virginia countryside recently where the menu for a birthday dinner featured shad baked for five hours.

Doesn’t everyone cook shad for their birthday? Well, it wasn’t our idea. But I was intrigued, first because I’ve never eaten shad before, and second because I’d never heard of a fish being cooked for five hours. But we were assured this method would “dissolve” the bones in the notoriously bony shad.

This time of year the shad a “running” in many parts of the country and you’ll often find shad roe at the seafood counter. This looks like a long piece of liver and fries up to a delicious state wrapped in bacon. The fish itself, come to find out, is rather like a giant sardine, meaning dense and oily. There’s a great tradition in Virginia politics of social events centered around “planked” shad. Our friend cooked it in foil with baby artichokes. We thought he was kidding about the bones dissolving. But no, this is popular mythology in the shad community. If you search online, you can find all kinds of shad roasting recipes that make the same claim.

Well I’m hear to tell you that the bones do not dissolve. The backbone does soften and become edible–much like the famous canned sardine. But the many rib bones–not so much. I pulled a ton from my piece of shad. I have to say the shad wasn’t bad at all. I’m not sure I would make a detour to repeat the experience, but if you like sardines, you’ll probably go for shad baked for five hours. (Some recipes go even further: six hours, seven hours. The shad begins to sound utterly indestructible.)

The next morning dawned clear and wonderful. Daughter and I took a walk along the gravel road leading back to the highway with nothing but birds and a literally babbling brook to break the stillness. As you can see, the various fruit trees were in a riot of bloom.

Leave a Comment

Please note: Your comment may have to wait for approval to be published to ensure that we don't accidentally publish "spam". We thank you for understanding.


  • David Earl Tyre

    Hello: Have baked shad for many years. They run in the Altamaha river every spring. Have one thawing right now and will cook it tomorrow. First time I have cooked one that has been frozen though, so we’ll see. I make an envelope of heavy duty foil, season the shad with salt, pepper and a little garlic. Put liquid smoke on the fish, lay a few strips of smoked bacon and a couple patties of butter on it and cook for 5-6 hours at 250 degrees. As for the roe; We cook shad roe and eggs(chicken) together and have them for breakfast, along with some good stiff grits, toast and tupelo honey. Of course, some good coffee too!