Fish and seafood recipes

Cod al pil pil. Basque traditional recipe

Cod al pil pil. Basque traditional recipe


  • Half
  • 30 minutes
  • For 4 people
  • 4.2 € / person
  • 388kcal per 100g.

How to make cod pil pil .

You all know that I am Galician and I boast about it, that I take every opportunity to praise the products of my land, its gastronomy, its surroundings …

But I also know how to appreciate the good of other regions and another place in Spain where cooking is an art is the Basque Country .

Its gastronomy is extensive and varied, and we all know its marmitakos , purrusaldas , hake a la vasca , its incredible pintxos and, of course, the cod al pil pil .

Salted cod is one of the oldest “canned” foods known, and it had great social importance, allowing protein reserves to be available to a large number of the European population for centuries. In fact, it was crucial food for Spanish sailors on their voyages across the Atlantic.

What is clear is that it is delicious, but we should not eat a large amount because it is a high calorie dish. I leave you with a top dish of any kitchen you can count on, a pleasure for Biscayan cuisine.

How to desalinate cod

  1. To desalinate the cod loins we must first cut them if they are very large.
  2. I advise you to read how to desalt cod before starting the recipe . Here you have all the tips so that the recipe comes out of 10 points. Still here is a little summary.
  3. Normally the thick loins are those used in preparations with sauce and longer cooking (for example in tomato sauce or Biscay). The thinner parts will be used for making the pil-pil as in this case.
  4. To desalt the cod, the piece of fish must be covered in plenty of water.
  5. The thick parts will desalt for 48 hours, with water change approximately every 6 hours. The finer parts will desalinate for 36 hours, with a water change every 8 hours.
  6. While the fish is desalting it must remain at a temperature between 6 and 8 º C in the refrigerator. Since at room temperature it can ferment.

Preparation of cod with pil pil

Cod with pil pil  is made with only three ingredients, cod, oil and garlic, and chili can be added if desired. Thanks to the excellent taste of cod and the presence of garlic in the sauce, it is not necessary to add salt.

  1. We need a wide casserole, so that we can place all the pieces of cod without mounting on each other. We put the casserole on the fire with all the oil and add the garlic in sheets.
  2. We cook the garlic over low heat, so they don’t burn until they start to brown. We have to be especially careful not to overdo the garlic, otherwise it will be too toasted at the end of the process.
  3. If necessary we can remove them and add them at the end of the cod cooking. Garlic helps to emulsify the sauce that accompanies the dish along with the olive oil and jellies typical of this fish.
  4. When the garlic begins to brown, remove the saucepan from the heat and let the oil harden. We can not put the cod in the hot oil since it would start to fry and we would not get the pil pil sauce.
  5. As soon as the oil is warm we put the saucepan back on the medium-low heat. We place the cod loins making sure to put them with the skin down.
  6. We have to confit the cod, that is, cook it at a low temperature (between 53-60 degrees Celsius). And while we move the casserole to create the sauce, it should never be fried.
  7. The secret of this sauce is the constant movement of the casserole that will make the previously desalted fish release the jelly. It thickens with the oil and garlic forming a fine emulsion.

Preparation of the pil pil or gupilada

  1. This effect of moving with the wrist is called  gupilada  and it is the rite that defines “al pil-pil”. In fact, we can say that what we are doing is “beating” the oil with the garlic and gelatin that the cod skin provides.
  2. There are many tricks among lovers of this dish to make it perfect. We have those who say that cod should go skin up for about five minutes. Then he turns around and does the pil pil.
  3. Others on the contrary mention that the cod must be with the skin. Always in contact to remove all the gelatin and thus emulsify the sauce easily. The truth is that I have prepared it in both ways and I have not noticed a big difference. If the cod is good, it will be delicious.
  4. Depending a little on the amount of oil that we are using, it will take us more or less time to get the sauce. And we will have more or less sauce.
  5. When we have the sauce almost done and if the loins are thick, it may be necessary for us to turn them over so that they cook on the other side.

Be sure to enjoy all the recipes for fish and seafood that we have on the blog. You can see all the photos of the step by step of this cod al pil pil in this album.

Plating advice from cod to pil pil

  1. We place the cod loins on their skin and cover with a little of the pil pil sauce. In my house since I was little it is usually served also with some cooked Galician potatoes.
  2. We serve it very hot and with a little bread because the sauce in this recipe is great. Ready and lick your fingers!

Curiosities and history of cod pil pil

  • Towards the year 1836, cod was an article of common consumption among the Bilbao population since, being a first-order commercial plaza, it was an important redistribution center for this salted fish. They say that the Biscayan merchant, Simón Gurtubay, changed the gastronomic future of cod in Bilbao .
  • Simon asked his supplier to send him a certain quantity and in the order he was wrong, the supplier sending him a large quantity of cod, too much. This merchant had no choice but to try to sell it in other provinces of the Cantabrian coast, with great success.
  • Thanks to that extra remittance, a good supply of oil and the ingenuity of the people of Bilbao, cod al pil-pil became one of the typical dishes of excellent Basque gastronomy.
  • The name of this dish has been debated for decades. For some purists it should be called “Linked Cod”, but the name does not come from the sound of the pan moving to create the emulsion, but from the noise the oil makes at around 80-90 degrees when creating bubbles that make a sound very similar to ” Pil-pil ” when exploding.
  • The Marquise de Parabere held the difference between these two preparations, as she says in her “ Culinary Encyclopedia The Complete Kitchen (1933) ”: “ Many confuse cod to Pil Pil with bound cod; The real pil pil has clear oil and I want to express that it has to be presented at the table with the noise of the boil

Tips for a cod pil pil de chupete

  • As in most recipes, the quality of the ingredients makes the difference. We must also bear in mind that it is a recipe that must be done several times until mastered and that it turns out perfect.
  • The quality and quantity of the ingredients, the temperature, where you prepare the pil pil, the type of fire and even the variety of oil, influence the final result. So if you know all the variables perfectly, it will surely be perfect for you.
  • If you like the spicy touch in this recipe, I advise you to use fresh cayenne or a little chilli. It fits very well, but it is optional.
  • You can also get different types of color using varieties of oil, so you will get a contest pil pil.

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