Home cooks usually cite cooking fish as one of the more difficult tasks in the kitchen. In fact, many people don’t even bother cooking fish at home and reserve their seafood consumption to restaurant trips. On today’s episode we look at five tips to help you cook and eat more fish at home!
There are many great candidates for a home cooked seafood meal, and Americans definitely consume their fair share of shrimp and salmon (which account for the top two consumed seafood varieties, with canned tuna coming in third). But today we are going to take a look at white fish. There are many advantages to white fish; it is relatively inexpensive, has a mild taste that appeals to many palates, and takes just minutes to cook and get on the table. You can interchange most any white fish fillets and the following tips will still work fine. Look for snapper, sole, tilapia, catfish, flounder, or freshwater bass as good white fish options.
Five Tips for Fantastic Fish
Fresh or Frozen?
Don’t overthink the fresh vs. frozen fish question. Chances are even the “fresh” fish you are buying at the supermarket has been previously frozen for food safety reasons. Freezing fish doesn’t affect its texture, flavor, or nutritional value. In fact, the frozen fish fillets you find in the freezer cabinet may essentially be “fresher” since they are usually flash frozen right on the boat. Choose whichever is more convenient for you. If you do choose unfrozen fish fillets be sure to cook them right away as they won’t age well in the fridge.
Simple cooking method #1: Use the broiler
Preheat your broiler and oil a broiler pan. Salt and pepper your fillet and brush with a little olive oil. Place the fish on the pan and place as close to the broiler elements that you can. If your fillets are under a half inch thick, they will likely be ready in about 5 minutes or less.
You can use the “10 Minute Rule” as a baseline to figure out how long your fish will take to cook. Measure your fillet at the thickest point, then calculate cooking time as 10 minutes per inch at high heat (under the broiler or in a very hot skillet). So for example if your fillets are 1/2 inch thick, estimate 5 minutes cooking time.
Simple cooking method #2: Stovetop method
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Salt and pepper your fillets, then dredge through flour. Shake off excess flour and then place in skillet. Use the 10 Minute Rule to estimate cooking time, but plan to flip your fillets half way through the cooking time.
Don’t overcook your fish
The most accurate way to tell if your fish is done is to use an instant read thermometer until you get a 145 degree F reading. This is usually quite impractical with thin fillets so it’s better to go with touch and sight. Mark Bittman, in his excellent “How to Cook Everything,” gives two great pointers:
He says 1) when the thin outside edges of the fillet are opaque and not translucent, the middle of the fillet will be nearly done. This is definitely true if you are pan cooking and turn the fillets over. 2) With thinner fillets, when the outside edges flake, the thicker part is done. If the thicker part of the fillet flakes, you’ve overcooked it!
Kick up the flavor
White fish is usually mild and appealing to a wide variety of palates. While salt, pepper, and lemon juice are nice and simple, don’t be afraid to use bolder flavors. Try salsa or chimichurri sauce for a latin flair, or try butter and capers, or hot sauce or whatever sounds tasty to you. Check out this interesting list from Food and Wine for a few other ideas for white fish sauces.
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