Fish: Cook It Simply, Cook It Right
The Mayo Clinic is one of the world’s foremost medical establishments. It’s been advocating that people eat fish ever since the diet-heart trials of the 1970s. Fish, the clinic claims, is much better for you than meat and we need more in our diet.
Fish is something that has been consumed as part of a healthy diet since ancient times. Our ancestors in Europe often settled in areas near the coast where they could catch fish and supplement their diet. Fish, thanks to its omega-3 content has been associated with better heart health, at least compared to meat eaters.
But actually cooking with fish can be tricky. Unlike other meat, fish usually arrive whole. The skin, bones, and tail often remain attached. For some people, this can feel a little unnerving. Preparing and cooking fish at home is a challenge. The good news is that getting it right is easier than you think. Here we’re going to investigate how to do just that. Take a look at these tips for cooking the perfect fish.
Always Buy Fish Fresh
As with other food, the freshness of the fish is key. You can now find fresh fish online as well as at your local market. When the fish arrives, it’s easy to check the freshness. If you’ve purchased whole fish, first check the eyes. The eyes should be clear and smooth, not cloudy or rotten. Next check the gills of the fish, right behind the head. The gills should be bright red. Finally, check the fish’s scales. Fresh fish shouldn’t have any missing scales, and they should be shiny. Fresh fish shouldn’t smell of anything. If it smells, it means that bacteria has already started to build up in the carcass.
Keep checking the fish when you first cut it open. Fresh fish should smell like the ocean, but it shouldn’t smell overly strong or cheesy. Fish like tuna, trout and salmon should be red on the inside. If they are brown, it indicates that they are not fresh. White fish, like cod and plaice, should be white with subtle pink tinges. Again, if they’re brown, it means that it’s not fresh and not safe to eat.
Store Fish In The Right Conditions
If you buy quality fish, you should aim to cook and eat it as quickly as possible. Don’t store high-quality fish in your refrigerator for more than two to three days. Ideally, eat the fish as soon as you buy it.
Fresh fish should be stored in the coldest part of your fridge without freezing. This usually means keeping it somewhere near the back, but not touching the back plate.
If you’ve bought boxed fish, take the fish out of the packaging a few hours before you cook it. Give the fillets a quick rinse to remove any scales. Then dry the fish and leave it in the oven a tray, ready to cook.
Deal With Bones
The hardest part of any fish meal is dealing with the bones. Filleting a fish is difficult, and requires a bit of practice to get right. Often you can ask the fishmonger to do it for you. They’ll get rid of all those annoying belly bones that get stuck in your teeth. The other option is to use a filleting knife under each bone to remove it. Once this is done, the rest of the bones are easily removed by cutting out the bony strip or using tweezers.
A lot of people avoid bones entirely by buying just the tail end of the fish. This part of the fish doesn’t contain so many bones.
How To Pan Fry Fish
When pan frying fish, it’s a good idea to follow some important culinary principles. First, make sure that you use a combination of oil and butter when pan frying. The butter will add flavor to the dish, and the oil will stop the butter from burning. Second, always preheat the pan to a moderate to high temperature. The heat will help prevent the fish from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Third, always dust the fish with a little seasoning and flour before putting it into the frying pan. This helps to keep the moisture in and stop the fish itself from burning. It also provides a delicious crust for texture.
When pan frying fish, make sure that you keep a close eye on the clock. It takes about five minutes of cooking for each centimeter of thickness of the fish. If your fish is two centimeters thick, that’s ten minutes worth of cooking. It’s very easy to overcook fish, so make sure you regularly check it throughout cooking and avoid burning. If you’re cooking very thick pieces of fish, baking may be a better option.
When it comes to cooking tuna, the process is a little different. Tuna should be seared on the outside, but it’s okay to leave it pink in the middle, so long as the fish is fresh.
Once the fish is fried, let it stand for a minute or two.
How To Bake Fish
There’s always a risk when baking fish that the fish to dry out. Oven baking whole fish has the potential to be delicious, but only if you get it right.
When baking fish, it’s essential to season it first. Make sure you slather it with butter and lemon to give it flavor. Next, wrap the fish in a couple of layers of foil. This will help to keep the moisture in and protect the fish from dry heat.
Then pop the foil parcels in the oven at 180 degrees C. Small fish should take between 8 and 10 minutes to cook. Larger fish will need between 12 to 15 minutes if the fillets are thick.
To check whether or not your fish is cooked, pierce the fish at the thickest point and check the flesh. If it’s flaky and opaque, it’s cooked. If not, put it back in the oven for a few more minutes.
How To Baste Fish
Basting is the best way to get new and exciting flavors into fish dishes. There are all sorts of basting sauces you can make.
One of the best is apricot jam, mustard, and garlic. Making this baste is incredibly easy. All you have to have is 125g of butter, 1 beaten egg, 2 tablespoons of apricot jam, 2 cloves of garlic, salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon of mustard and a lemon. Just melt the butter gently in a pan, add the jam, lemon and the seasoning and wait until everything is melted. Then allow the mixture to cool before adding the egg mix and the seasoning. Then baste the fish with the mixture overnight before cooking the following day. Apricot jam, mustard, and garlic work really well with fish like Snoek and Yellowtail.
Another fantastic basting recipe is a simple soy, ginger, and honey. This recipe gives fish a distinct oriental flavor. It’s really easy to make too. Just grab half a cup of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of honey and a tablespoon of grated ginger. Then mix together with some chopped chili and brush it onto fish. This baste works well with white fish like Cob.
How To Poach Fish
The Mayo Clinic are keen to make sure that people don’t overdo it on fat. Therefore, they suggest that people poach their fish until tender.
The best fish to poach are those that are naturally high in healthy fats, like salmon. These fish won’t dry out too much during cooking and will come out of the pan tender and delicious. First, pour some water into a shallow pan. Then add aromatic ingredients, like lemon peel and fresh parsley. You can also add things like leeks and vegetable broth.
Then cover the pan and leave it to simmer gently. You don’t want it to boil, or you risk damaging the fish and causing it to break up. Cooking usually takes between four and six minutes, if that. Just remember that the amount of time it takes to poach the fish will depend on its thickness. The thicker it is, the longer it will take to cook.
Make Fish Easy To Incorporate Into Your Life
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that including fish in your life should be easy. There’s no point spending hours and hours slaving over a fish dish if, in the long term, you’re not going to keep eating it. Fish dishes need to be simple and convenient.
One really straightforward and convenient fish dish is the grilled fish sandwich. Grilled fish sandwiches are super simple to make and healthy too. Take a piece of fish, add some seasoning and then just pop it under the grill. It’ll take about three to five minutes on each side to cook through thoroughly. Then grab your favorite bread, preferably granary or wholemeal and make the sandwich. You can add a garnish with lettuce and tomatoes. You can also make your own tartar sauce to go with it, or just spoon it out from the jar.