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How to Cook Fish: The Best Cooking Methods for Every Type

Fish is an excellent protein to serve because there are many ways that you can cook it, but not all methods of cooking will work for every type of fish. For example, some types of fish are too thick to cook under a broiler, and some types of fish are too delicate to deep fry. Here, we'll break down different things to consider when deciding how to cook a fish, and we'll show you the ideal types of fish to use for each cooking method.

What to Consider When Choosing a Cooking Method

There are several factors that affect how different types of fish cook. Here are some things to consider when deciding how to prepare your fish:

  • The thickness of the fish. One of the main things to consider is the size of the cut of fish. For example, it's not a good idea to cook steaks of swordfish under a broiler.
  • The natural flavor of the fish. Some types of seafood have a light flavor and others have a strong fishy flavor. Make sure to cook your fish in a way that doesn't overwhelm the flavor.
  • The level of fat in the meat. Leaner types of seafood dry out more easily, which makes them better suited for wet cooking methods like steaming and poaching. Fatty fish like tuna and salmon, on the other hand, are ideal for grilling and roasting.
  • Whether the skin is on or off. The skin can affect how your fish cooks. For example, leaving the skin on can keep delicate fish from falling apart while cooking.
  • If you have a whole fish, fillets, or steaks. The size and butchering of your fish can affect the best cooking method.

General Tips for Cooking Fish

When cooking fish, there are a couple general tips and trends that you can follow. This makes it easier to decide which cooking method is best, so you serve the best product to your customers. For example, dry cooking methods like roasting, grilling, and baking are better for thicker cuts of fish, as well as oily fish. This is because there is less of a chance that the fish will dry out during cooking.

On the other hand, wet cooking methods like poaching, steaming, and baking en papillote are ideal options for thin fillets and delicate seafood. These cooking methods are forgiving, and there's less of a chance that the fish dries out.

Best Cooking Methods for Fish

Cooking Method Best Type of Fish Reason
Arctic char, sablefish, halibut, clams Baking is one of the safest ways to cook fish, but thicker and oilier fish is ideal because it is less likely to dry out during cooking.
Delicate fish like pollack, tilapia, haddock, and cod Baking en papillote refers to cooking the fish in parchment paper. This creates a seal that prevents the fish from drying out, which is why it's an excellent option for delicate types of seafood.
Black cod and salmon This cooking method is good for sturdy fish that can handle the high heat without burning. Broiling is also an ideal cooking method when adding a glaze or marinade to your fish.
Sole, flounder, salmon, arctic char, halibut, scallops, shrimp Pan frying is a good choice for delicate and flaky fish. This cooking method creates a crispy crust, which is an excellent contrast to the flaky and tender center of the fish.
Tilapia, cod, hake, halibut, catfish, pollock, shrimp, oysters The best type of fish for deep frying are ones with a neutral flavor. Typically, any type of fish with white meat will fry well. Other types don't fry as well due to oiliness.
Salmon, tuna, swordfish, halibut, oysters If you're grilling a fillet or steak of fish, you want to choose a fish that won't dry out easily. In addition to these types of fish, you can also grill some fish whole or in aluminum foil to prevent them from breaking apart or drying out.
Tilapia, cod, sole, haddock, snapper, halibut, mussels Poaching is excellent for light fish, as it prevents the fish from drying out, and it helps to enhance the delicate flavor.
Clams, mussels, oysters, crawfish, shrimp Steaming is a traditional cooking method for many types of shellfish, but it's also a healthy way to cook other types of fish.

There are many ways that you can prepare fish, but certain cooking methods can bring out the full flavor of fish. In addition to matching the best cooking style with the right fish, knowing the characteristics of your fish and how that will affect how it cooks can help ensure that you serve the best possible dish to your customers.

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