Want Perfectly Cooked Fish? Here Are 6 Tips And Tricks To Try

Cooking seafood can be a worrying endeavour for the regular home cook. It’s all too easy to over or undercook most fish, but with the right approach, cooking fish can be a delightful culinary adventure, but it requires some finesse to achieve that perfect, succulent result. Many aspiring seafood chefs unknowingly stumble into common pitfalls that can compromise the freshness and flavour of their fish dishes. It's important to acknowledge that preparing fish at home can be quite a challenge. From the meticulous task of cleaning and removing tiny bones to the delicate art of marination and flipping, this valuable protein source demands a level of culinary expertise to do it right.

The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish each week so it’s worth the time to get it right. This is because fish is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids while being low in saturated fat. Eating fish can also help you meet your body's vitamin D requirements. While some people feel intimidated by it, there are many simple ways to cook fish.

Here are 6 tips to help you cook fish perfectly every time:

Select Fresh Fish: 

The first step in creating a delightful fish dish is choosing the freshest catch available. Trust your sense of smell when examining fish at the market or fishmonger. Fresh fish should emanate a clean, briny aroma reminiscent of the sea. Avoid any fish that emits an off-putting, pungent odour, as it's a clear sign of age and potential spoilage. Another key indicator of freshness is the texture. Run your fingers lightly over the flesh; it should feel firm and spring back when touched. The skin should also display vibrant colours, reflecting the fish's vitality. 

Pat Dry Before Cooking:

To achieve a perfectly cooked fish fillet, it's crucial to start with a dry surface. Use a paper towel to gently pat each fillet, absorbing any excess moisture. This step is vital because excess moisture can lead to steaming instead of proper searing when the fish hits the pan. While it's important to remove external moisture, rest assured that your fish won't dry out when cooked. Instead, it will develop a delightful flakiness while maintaining the much-desired moistness within.

Season the Pan, Not the Fish: 

An often overlooked aspect of fish preparation is ensuring the pan and oil are properly heated before introducing the seafood. Placing fish in a cool pan can lead to uneven cooking, with the exterior overcooking while the interior remains underdone. Preheating the pan and oil is your best strategy to avoid this culinary pitfall. As the fish sizzles upon contact with the hot surface, it will sear evenly, locking in moisture and flavour.

Skin Side Down: 

When you're ready to start cooking, remember to place the fish skin side down in the skillet, on a baking sheet, or on the grill. This technique offers several advantages. Firstly, it allows the skin to become irresistibly crispy, adding a delightful contrast in texture to the tender flesh beneath. Secondly, starting with the skin down helps shield it from overcooking, ensuring it remains intact during the cooking process. While the skin may initially stick to the cooking surface, it will release as it crisps up, and you can effortlessly slide a spatula underneath when it's ready to flip.

Gentle Heat: 

Fish is a delicate protein that cooks relatively quickly. Using excessively high heat can result in drying out the fish and compromising its texture and flavour. Whether you're pan-searing or grilling, opt for a lower heat setting than you would for other meats. If you choose to grill, consider wrapping the fish in foil to preserve its natural moisture and prevent it from absorbing an overpowering charcoal taste.

Flip Only Once: 

It's essential to handle fish with care to prevent it from falling apart during cooking. Resist the temptation to flip it repeatedly. Wait until you notice a light brown colour forming around the edges of the fillet as a sign that it's ready to be flipped. This approach ensures even cooking without unnecessary disruption, resulting in a beautifully cooked fish that retains its shape and integrity.