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Cooking Tips

Stop Effing Up Your Fish

“Eat more fish”, they say, “It’s one of the healthiest foods on earth,” they say. You know it, but when you make fish, it’s either overcooked, rubbery or half gets stuck in the pan. Here are 5 fish fixes that will make a fish lover out of you yet.

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Do you have a love-hate relationship with fish? Know you should be eating more of it but can’t seem to nail a cooking technique that makes it appealing? Then you’re probably in need of these fish fixes. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week. It’s an excellent source of lean protein, and many types of fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, the long chain omega-3s linked to reducing blood clots, triglycerides and arrhythmia. Plus fish is quick-cooking and delicious if it’s done right. More easily said than done, you say? 

 Here are five fish fixes that will make your fish cookery as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.

1. Test doneness as the chefs do 

Most fish recipes instruct you to cook fish until it “flakes easily with a fork.” Not only does this require you to stab at the fish repeatedly which messes up its appearance, it only works if you like your fish very well done, in other words, dry. 

Try a more reliable (and chefy) method: stick a thin steak knife into the thickest part of the fillet, count to 3, and then touch the dull side of the knife to just below your bottom lip. If the knife feels hot, the fish is well done (ideal for halibut); if it’s warm, the fish is medium (perfect for wild salmon); and if the knife is cold, the fish is still rare in the middle (good for tuna steaks). 

2. Grill smarter

It’s heartbreaking to buy a nice piece of fish only to leave a sizable portion of it stuck to the grill or pan. To avoid this, try this fish fix: season the grill every time you use it.  Simply roll up a clean dish towel, tie it with kitchen twine to create a compact roll. Pour about 1/4 cup of safflower oil evenly over the roll and rub it over the cold grill to moisten the grill grates with a whisper of oil. Then preheat the grill for at least 30 minutes before putting the fish on it. 

Choose thick, sustainably caught fish (halibut, salmon, and tuna steaks are good choices) and once you place it on the grill, let it cook without moving the pieces around. If you keep an eye on the clock (calculate about 8 minutes grill time per inch of thickness/4 minutes per side) and keep #1 in mind, you should only need to flip the fish once. Using a pan instead? We’ve got just the fix fish: See #5.

3. Take texture seriously 

Fish is more delicate than other proteins and it can turn out mushy if handled incorrectly. When buying, look for firm fillets without gaps in the flesh. If the fish was previously frozen, make sure that it’s not sitting in its own defrosting liquids at the market and defrost fish at home in the refrigerator out of its packaging, preferably on a rack set on a plate so any moisture can drain away from the fish.

While marinating is great for adding flavor to fish, it’s important not to overdo it. A quick 30-minute bath in acidic marinades is plenty of time, any longer and the proteins in the fish will begin to denature and become mushy. 

4. Season with a light hand

Fish is naturally well-seasoned, so often just a pinch of salt and pepper and squeeze of lemon or sprinkle of fresh herbs is all you need. Try tarragon, dill, parsley, chives, and lemon thyme with more delicate fish like sole and tilapia and garlic, rosemary, and smoked paprika for more full-flavored fish like salmon and mackerel.

 5. Say goodbye to sticking (and mess!)

Searing fish can be a messy business, leaving a greasy stove top and a fishy smell in its wake. A simple fish fix that will achieve restaurant-quality seared fish with a golden exterior and succulent interior with no sticking to the pan, try this restaurant trick: Put an oven-safe sauté pan in the oven and preheat the oven to 475°F. When ready to cook, lightly brush fish fillets with oil and season with salt and pepper. Pull the pan out of the oven and place over medium heat. Add the fish to the pan and cook without moving it until it is golden brown on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the fish over and put the pan back in the oven. Bake until the fish is cooked through (see #1).

Now that your fish is going to be fab, you’ll want to eat a lot more of it. Here are some recipes to try: