Fish is the greatest source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, and is an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet. To get all the benefits for your body you should aim to eat two portions a week, one of which should be oily fish, such as salmon or mackerel. It can be really tough to prepare tasty fish. The trick is not being tempted to overcook it. Fish is so versatile. Follow our helpful tips, and tricks to find out how to cook fish properly.
11 easy ways to cook fish
If you’ve ever tried to cook a fish, you may know that fish is one of the most versatile, delicious, and easy proteins to prepare. There are several common methods used to cook fish. Some fish, especially tuna and salmon, can be served medium-rare, meaning that the interior will still be firm and won’t flake. The choice is purely based on personal preference. Let’s talk all about cooking fish. It’s a beginner’s guide to cooking fish.
Cooking fish can be a tough task. The sturdier and fattier fish grill perfectly! It can be grouper, salmon, tuna, swordfish, or shark. You should definitely clean your grill and oil it lightly before cooking. Once the fish is on the grill, let it be until it is time to flip. A little tip for you: a grill basket will make grilling much easier if your fish is too delicate. But you should remove it fast once it is done because a fish can stick. You can also put a sheet of heavy-duty foil on the grill and cook the fish on that. Don’t cover the grill as the fish is cooking—the cover will trap too much of the smoke and overseason the flesh.
Broiled fish is a good way to cook it and make a delicious dinner, especially if you season the fish well before cooking. Be sure to preheat the broiler before adding the fish. Plus, be sure the fish is four to six inches away from the broiler. Watch carefully to make sure the fish isn’t browning too much. Tip: broiled fish with mustard butter is a simple recipe, but the combination of butter, mustard, and lemon juice creates a sophisticated dish. Broiled swordfish steaks with butter and paprika is also a delicious recipe.
This is one of the easiest ways to cook fish. But it is important to follow all the instructions for cooking, covering, and standing times. Baked haddock with Parmesan, herbs, and cream is an easy dish of a light white fish topped with garlic breadcrumbs, and fillets with mushroom sauce is a great dish to try with almost any type of fish.
Baking at a high oven temperature really concentrates the flavors of fish and helps the sugars on the surface caramelize for superior flavor. Roasting is essentially baking at temperatures above 400 F. You can season the fish with just about anything you like before roasting, like chili powder and cumin, which work well on roasted salmon fillets.
There are two main tips to make sauteed fish really delicious. You should use a bit of olive oil and make sure to preheat the pan. Also, remember to let the fish cook undisturbed for two to three minutes to develop a nice crust. Be sure not to crowd the fish in the pan—cook it in batches rather than trying to fit it all in the pan at once. The best way to saute thin fillets is to cook over medium-high heat for two to three minutes, then flip, cook for another minute or two, then remove the pan from the heat and let the residual heat finish cooking the fish.
A bamboo steamer is a great investment if you like this method of cooking fish. To steam fish, place water or stock in a large saucepan and add seasoning ingredients—anything from lemons to ginger will work. Bring the liquid to a simmer, place the fish in the steamer(s), and place over the simmering water. Do not let the liquid boil; this will cook the fish too quickly causing it to overcook in seconds. If you steam your fish, check for doneness starting at about seven minutes.
Deep-fried fish is usually battered, then gently lowered into 375 F oil and cooked for about four minutes per side, carefully turning once. When frying, maintaining the oil temperature is crucial for achieving that crispy exterior. Making sure not to overcrowd the pan is one way to keep the temperature in check. Fish generally takes 10 minutes to cook per inch of thickness. Just to be sure it won’t overcook, start checking the fish after seven to eight minutes.
Fish is traditionally poached in a flavored liquid called a court bouillon, but just about any aromatic herb or vegetable can be used in the poaching liquid. There’s one important rule for poaching: do not let the water boil! The liquid should be barely simmering. If the water boils, the outside of the fish will overcook quickly.
Cooking fish encased in parchment paper or foil is a wonderful way to get the best results out of your fish. The packet holds in the moisture, concentrates the flavor, and protects the delicate flesh. Follow the folding and cooking instructions carefully. The packets can be cooked in the oven or on the grill.
You may not think of using the crockpot when cooking fish, but there are some excellent recipes. Most will call for adding the fish toward the end of cooking time since at high temperatures, one-inch pieces of fish will cook in about half an hour. Be sure to carefully follow the recipe instructions when cooking fish in a crockpot or slow cooker. The low, moist, and slow heat is perfect to cook salmon that is tender, moist, and so flavorful, like in this crockpot salmon with caramelized onions and carrots. And, of course, we are all familiar with using the slow cooker to make soup, so why not a fish chowder?
The microwave oven will cook fish very well as long as you follow a few rules. First, make sure that you rotate the fish halfway through the cooking time so the fish cooks evenly. If the fillets are of uneven thickness, fold the thinner parts under so the fish is about the same thickness throughout. And standing time is very important—let the dish rest so the food finishes cooking.
20 tips for cooking
Fish can be prepared using almost any type of cooking method including baking, steaming, frying, grilling, broiling, or slow cooking. When cooking fish, care must be taken not to overcook the fillet, steak, or whole fish, which results in dry and somewhat tasteless meat. Therefore, these tips will help you to make your fish perfect.
The most important tip for every fish lover! When buying fillets, look for firm, solid flesh without any cracks. Fish should be wet and shiny, not dried out. Do not choose types sold in containers with water. It is a sign that they can’t retain moisture. For whole fish, opt for ones that have clear, bright eyes and shiny — rather than slimy — skin.
Be sure it is fresh
A fishy aroma can be a big turnoff and also a sign that fish is not fresh. When purchasing, be sure it smells like the ocean, and don’t let it sit in the fridge for more than a day or two. To avoid fishy smells, cook it in the oven (which keeps the smell contained) or an outside grill.
Don’t be afraid of frozen fish
While some people may associate frozen fish fillets with lower quality, this is not always the case. A lot of fish is flash-frozen at sea, meaning it’s frozen the moment it’s caught. Much of the “fresh” fish you buy in stores is actually just previously frozen fish that has been thawed, so don’t be scared to buy the frozen stuff!
Store fish the right way
Because fish spoils quickly, it’s important that you store it properly when you get home. One way to do this is to transfer your fish into Ziploc baggies and place them on top of a bowl of ice. This will keep them nice and cold, and the bowl will collect any ice that melts so there’s no watery mess to clean up.
Choose safe and sustainable types
Bypass fish varieties high in mercury (typically shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tuna). Also, select sustainable; overfishing causes the decline of certain fish populations, which isn’t good for the ocean or you. Download the free Seafood Watch app from the Monterey Bay Aquarium for top picks.
What about bones? Many fish, including trout and salmon, have a double rib cage, so the fillets may have small pin bones. You can remove these by pressing the flesh with your fingers and removing the bones using a tweezer. It’s possible to buy fillets of these species without pin bones, but they are generally much more expensive.
Buy a fish spatula
It will help you to avoid accidentally ripping your fish. These spatulas are super thin and flexible, meaning they can get underneath delicate fillets without ripping them apart. If you try to do this with a regular spatula, you risk tearing it apart or accidentally removing the skin.
Get the right tools for cooking
If you’re getting serious about cooking fish, it’s worth investing in the right tools for the job. Prepping whole fish requires a good quality sharp knife or a filleting knife, while a fish turner will help you with cooking.
Flavor it up
Top your fish with salsa, pesto, or a yogurt sauce with herbs of your choice. Or coat your catch with whole-grain breadcrumbs or crushed almonds. For deeper flavor, let the fish soak up your favorite marinade for 30 minutes to an hour before cooking.
Dry it before cooking
A general rule for searing any type of protein is to dry it before you cook it — and fish is especially moist, so this is extra important. Just pat your fillet dry with a paper towel before searing it and you’ll be OK.
Flour before you fry
If you don’t want to batter your fish, adding a light dusting of flour before pan-frying will help create a lovely golden color and crisp up your fillet. You don’t need to dip the fish in egg first; this will give you a soggier result.
Cook it right
To ensure tenderness, follow the recipe closely (in general, cook fish 5 to 7 minutes per ½ inch of thickness at its thickest point), and turn pieces only once. If there’s skin, remove it prior to eating.
Poach to perfection
If you’re poaching fish in water, you’re missing a big opportunity to add flavor. Light fish stock or broth will gently enhance the taste while milk adds richness. Herbs and spices should be added sparingly but can work brilliantly.
Add a sweet-and-savory flourish
Salty soy sauce and oily fish such as salmon make a happy marriage. Add a little honey for sweetness and it’s a combination that’s hard to beat. You can opt for a marinade, or better still make a sweet-and-salty reduction of minced garlic, olive oil, honey, and soy sauce to drizzle over the fish before serving.
Cornflake your fish
For added crunch with fewer calories, use cornflakes instead of breadcrumbs to coat fish fillets. Not only do cornflakes contain fewer calories than breadcrumbs, but they are also less absorbent and create a lighter covering, so the fish will soak up less oil.
Brush fish with mayonnaise
Brushing a thin coating of mayonnaise on skinless fillets can actually prevent them from sticking to the grill and help promote even browning. It sounds weird, but mayo is basically just fat, so it’s not actually that weird.
Do not touch
No matter which cooking method you choose, there’s one important point to remember—leave it alone! When you place the fish in the pan or on the grill, let it cook undisturbed for two to four minutes before you touch it. The fish will develop a nice crust and will release perfectly when it’s ready to turn. If you try to flip or move it too early, the fish will stick to the pan or grill grates and you’ll be left with a mess.
Reel in Fish-Phobics
Fish with a mild flavor, like Arctic char, or white fish like Maine haddock, Alaskan Pacific cod, and sole may appeal to reluctant eaters. Then get into a routine by eating fish (or shellfish such as shrimp) every Monday. Try out new recipes, and recruit your family in the selection process. Once they’re on board, consider adding a second day.
Pick the right sauce
Avoid rich sauces with very oily fish such as mackerel; these will work better with more delicate fish. Fresh herbs (dill, parsley) and citrus fruits (lemons, limes) always give fish a lift, while you can’t beat the sophisticated simplicity of a beurre blanc or hollandaise with pan-fried white fish.
Don’t overcook it
Because fish have very little connective tissue and fat, they are quite delicate when cooked. A reliable doneness test is to check if the fish flakes. Insert a fork or knife gently into the thickest part of the fish and twist. The flesh should be opaque and begin to separate along the natural lines.
The best tips to cook fish properly
If you have ever been afraid of under-cooking (or worse – overcooking) fresh fish, our tips will help you to make everything perfect! It’s not as tricky as you might think and will open up a whole new array of dishes to prepare, once you master the basics.