Hatteras Style Drum (Rockfish), Boiled Potatoes and Cracklin’

You, too, can make an island tradition from across the country!

Hatteras Style Drum (Rockfish), Boiled Potatoes and Cracklin’

Recipe by Hangry SarahCourse: dinnerDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time




  • 8 oz. package fatback (sub. 1 lb. bacon)

  • 1 lb. Red potatoes

  • 1 lb. Puppy Drum, Red Drum, Rockfish, or other white flaky fish

  • 1 onion, raw and diced

  • Salt

  • Pepper


  • Wash, peel and dice potatoes into 1-inch cubes. If you’re rustic like me, you can leave the skin on. Place into salted water to boil for at least 20 minutes. Prepare a 2nd pot of salted water, and set to boil.
  • While potatoes are cooking, cook your fatback (or bacon) and dice your onion. The onion is staying raw, so place in the refrigerator once done. Once bacon is cooked, leave the grease in the pan, and drain the solid bacon onto a plate with a paper towel.
  • Clean and dice the drum into 1-inch pieces. As the potatoes are finishing, put fish into the other pot of salted water. Drain your potatoes while the fish is cooking. Remove the fish from the water onto a plate as soon as it floats to the surface.
  • To assemble the plate, layer potatoes, fish, bacon, diced onion and drizzle with bacon grease, salt and pepper. Some people like to mash it all together with a fork before eating.
  • ENJOY 🙂


  • Fatback is a particular, fatty cut of a pig. If you don’t live in the southern states, you probably won’t have this in your grocery store. Bacon, pancetta, pork belly, or guanciale would be another good alternative to Fatback.
  • Because Drum is native to the east coast of the Americas (from MA to FL), you can use any other type of white flaky fish. Rockfish, cod, haddock, or “whitefish” would be a good alternative depending on where you live, and what your local grocery or market has supplied.

I was born and raised on Hatteras Island, North Carolina. Growing up my dad was a commercial fisherman, and more often than not seafood was a primary protein on our plates. This traditional dish repeatedly showed up in my mom’s rotation of cooking during the peak Drum time of year. Even after my dad was no longer a commercial fisherman, he would take us on his own boat for regular fishing trips, or just to go for a drive.

And now for food stuff!

It’s absolutely critical that you save all of your bacon grease. No bacon grease, or fatback grease, means an essential flavor of the meal is gone. To strain your bacon, you can scoop it out with a slotted spoon and place onto a paper towel on a plate.

Red Drum or Puppy Drum is the seafood ingredient of this dish. Currently living in Los Angeles County, I don’t have that – so Rockfish it is! It’s equally as flaky and neutral-tasting.

I’m a very impatient person, but you shouldn’t be when it comes to your POTATS. To boil your potatoes, put your potatoes in cold, salted water and bring to a boil. Always make sure that before you drain your potatoes, you test with a fork or paring knife. The knife/fork should easily go into the potato without any resistance.

I’m not gonna lie, boiling fish doesn’t look very nice and sometimes doesn’t smell great. Sometimes there will be some scummy-looking stuff (as you see at the edge of the pot), which should be scooped out so it doesn’t remain on the fish. As soon as the fish floats to the top, as you see in this picture, it needs to be removed from the pot.

The final result is a fantastic, rib-sticking meal. It’s super delicious, and the more bacon grease the better! I personally like to mash mine with a fork to disperse the ingredients, and make it easier to shovel into my pie hole! I mean, cake hole.

5 thoughts on “Hatteras Style Drum (Rockfish), Boiled Potatoes and Cracklin’”

  • I love this for so many reasons! When I make this, I spray the ‘fish’ pot with a non stick cooking spray to help with the clean up. Sarah nailed the essence of Hatteras Island cooking with this recipe. I should know, I’m her mom!

  • I had this many times as a child with the addition of apple cider vinegar drizzled on top after mashing up the potatoes, fish (usually boiled salted cod after a good soaking) and diced onion, fatback and drippings. Yummy. I never knew what this style of cooking was called until now.

  • Although I wasn’t lucky enough to have been born & raised on HI, I have been lucky enough to have been going there for the past 44 years & only recently sold our home in Avon that we owned for 30 years😢 I just got home from a two week stay with a haul of Drum & looked up some recipes. I love this!! I have always referred to this as a “Drum Boil” & had completely forgotten about this recipe! So glad I found your blog & this delicious recipe! Gonna make it & some dumplings, gonna make me so happy 😊 thank you!

  • Just thought of this.. I would love to see some more “Hatteras style” recipes. Do you have any for example, Hatteras chowder, fig cake, more fish recipes using those locally caught? (I mean, your dad was a fisherman & your mom (obviously ❤️), a good cook!! Dish on some mahi, grouper, flounder, tuna & stuff!! Thanks again!!

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