Do you need to gut sprats before cooking & eating them?


  • is it safe to eat them (so long as they're cooked).
  • do they taste ok (to the average non-squeamish person happy with a bit of fish offal).

Research so far

I've searched online but can mostly find the question asked without answer, or with people stating that they've only had them gutted; but with no advice on whether ungutted is acceptable.

e.g. There's a recipe for Grilled Sprats about halfway down the page here where it's advised that you can eat the heads, but the recommendation to remove the guts and gills remains (gills so they don't get stuck in your teeth; guts aren't explained). Since this chef is known for eating most things, I assume there's a good reason to avoid the guys; though perhaps he's tweaked his recipe for the paper's audience: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2006/oct/07/features.food7

  • 1
    My first time seeing the word sprats for these fish. Kinda fitting =) Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 21:17
  • 2
    The only ones I've eaten are these - brisling are young sprats, which are not gutted but are held in a tank for a certain period of time to ensure the digestive tract is empty. Personally I would gut full-grown ones before eating them if you aren't sure how they were processed, but I'm not sure it would be unsafe to eat them whole, just unpleasant.
    – user5561
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 3:36

2 Answers 2

  • It is safe to consume the guts.
  • Many people do.

More Info:

After digging deeper into the above article I spotted it contains the answer. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2006/oct/07/features.food7

They're so small (only up to 12cm long) that they're often cooked whole - head, guts and all. If you prefer, however, you can open up the belly with your thumb and rinse out the innards, and prise out the gills with your thumb and forefinger.

Regarding their association with brisling, it seems that the two terms are synonymous (though somewhat contextual):

Sprats are sometimes also known by their Scandinavian name, brisling, especially if they've been smoked and canned.


I live in Weymouth Dorset, I've been eating Sprats for 60 years and never gutted one yet, just wash them coat in flour and shallow fry for 1 minute on each side, drain on kitchen roll. Hold the head and the tail in each hand and the fish will fall off the bone into your mouth, absolutely delicious.

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