If you're like most Americans, you probably don’t eat as much fish as you could. Yes, we all know that it’s generally one of the healthiest sources of protein, but the fussiness of preparing fish can be a major turnoff. Still, cooking fish doesn’t have to be a special event. In fact, it can be one of the quickest meals to prepare. Here’s a guide on how to buy fish, how to store it, and how to make it great.
|Roasted Sea Bass With Wine and Herbs|
Baking & Roasting
These are particularly good methods for cooking thick fillets. To bake, add fish to a shallow pan along with wine, lemon juice, olive oil, and herbs and spices. Cook, uncovered, in a preheated oven at 350 degrees until just tender. (Roasting takes a higher oven temperature and a few minutes less cooking time.) Tip: Start checking for doneness halfway through your recipe’s suggested cooking time. Insert the tines of a fork into the thickest part of the fish and lift up; if the fish is opaque inside, it’s ready to eat. Cooking time: 12 to 15 minutes.
At a Glance: Fresh Fish
All fresh fish should have firm and springy flesh. If you’re buying a whole fish, look for bright, clear eyes, red gills, and bright tight scales or shiny skin.
Fresh fillets or steaks should appear to be freshly cut, and not dried out or browning.
Ask for your fish to be placed in a bag of ice for the trip home, no matter how close you live to the store. Remove the fish from its original wrapper, and rewrap in plastic wrap or a plastic bag. Place the rewrapped fish in a dish, cover with ice, and store in the refrigerator. Use within 24 hours.
Broiling & Grilling
Fish steaks and thicker fillets hold up best under the broiler or on the grill. Brush them with oil before and during cooking. If the fish are small or a bit thin, you might want to use a separate fish griller basket that sits right on the grill. Cooking time: 10 to 15 minutes.
|At a Glance: Fish Types|
|Higher-fat fish like salmon and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a plus for heart health. Lean fish like snapper and flounder tend to have fewer calories and a lighter, more subtle flavor.|
You can coat thin fillets in whole wheat bread crumbs, crushed seeds or nuts, flour, or a combination of any of these. The best fish for panfrying are lean fillets such as flounder, perch, orange roughy, tilapia, and sole. Dip fish in a beaten egg or egg white first to coat with crumbs (for flour, no egg is needed). Heat a large skillet with a small amount of vegetable oil. Panfry fish, turning once. Cooking time: 8 to 10 minutes.
At a Glance: Frozen Fish
• There should be little or no odor to wrapped frozen fish. Look for solidly frozen flesh with clear color, free of ice crystals. Discoloration, a brownish tinge, or a covering of crystals indicates that the fish may have been thawed and refrozen.
• Keep frozen fish in the freezer in the original wrapper; use immediately after thawing. Never thaw and refreeze fish, since this will cause moisture loss and changes in texture and flavor.
• The best way to thaw frozen fish is to leave it in its wrapping and thaw it in the refrigerator or in a bowl of cold water. Thawing at room temperature can cause sogginess. Drain well and blot dry with paper towels before cooking.
In a skillet, cover fish fillets or steaks in water, clam juice, chicken broth, white wine, or a combination of any of these. Add a few whole black peppercorns and slices of onion. Bring the liquid to a simmer, cover, and simmer for about 8 minutes per inch of thickness. Remove the fish with a slotted spoon. You can boil down the poaching liquid until it becomes syrupy and then pour it over the fish. Or discard the liquid, refrigerate the poached fish, and serve it cold with a chilled or room- temperature sauce like cucumber yogurt.
|Technique: Baking in Parchment|
|When you bake fish in parchment paper bundles, what you’re actually doing is steaming it, which is super healthy since you need add no extra fat.|
|1. First, you’ll place the fish, veggies, and herbs in the center of the paper. ||2. Crimp the edges firmly closed so that no steam can escape during cooking.||3. You can bring the packets right out to the table and let everyone unwrap them—like presents!|