How to Cook Fish

Fish is absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, many people are worried about cooking it as it is so easy to dry it out and ruin the texture. However, it really isn’t very difficult to cook fish at home. It takes very little time and it is an excellent choice when you want something healthy but do not have much time.

Here we will take you through a few different cooking methods, none of which are difficult to master. The only thing that you should remember is that regardless of the method you use, the thicker the piece of fish, the longer cooking time it will need.

Baking Fish

Baking fish in the oven is one of the easiest ways to cook fish. It has another huge advantage, if you set a timer, then once the fish is in the oven you can walk away and forget all about it. However, there are a couple of things that you need to be aware of. Certain fish, such as white fish, steaks and fillets, baked by themselves may end up very dry. To avoid this, before placing them in the oven you can brush them with melted butter and protect them by placing a buttered piece of foil lightly on top. If you have used a topping to add moisture, then you won’t need the foil.

This method of cooking is particularly good when cooking a whole fish. Brush the entire fish with butter or oil before placing it in the oven and if you wish, you can add some stuffing to the body cavity as this will also help to keep the fish moist.

Here are some simple guidelines for baking a fish:

  • Preheat the oven to 400F (200C or gas mark 6)
  • If cooking white fish or smoked fillets and steaks that are brushed, covered in buttered foil and weigh 6 to 8oz (175-200g) then they will require 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Cooking a whole mackerel, trout or herring weighing 10 to 12oz (275-350g) each will require 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Tilapia weighing 12 to 14oz (350-400 g) will require 15 minutes.

Fish Wrapped in Foil

Fish that has been wrapped in foil can be cooked using a variety of methods, in a steamer, under a grill, on the barbeque, in the oven, and so on. The advantage of this method is that the foil will help to keep all the delicious flavours and juices in place. It is a particularly good method when cooking whole fish or larger pieces of salmon or salmon trout. Furthermore, if you are intending to serve the fish cold, then it can be left in its parcel until it is time to serve, ensuring that it remains moist. For optimum results, most agree that the fish should be cooked slowly and gently.

If you are cooking something as large as an entire salmon, then you can cut the fish in half and wrap each half in foil. Then once it has been baked and cooled, the two halves can be placed back together on a plate and the joint hidden, perhaps with cucumber slices or something similar.

When cooking a fish this way, you will want to set your oven to 275F (130C, gas mark 1). Place two bay leaves in the fish’s body cavity and some fresh tarragon. You should season it with salt and pepper and add around 1 to 2oz (25-50g) of butter. The entire fish can then be wrapped lightly in a double sheet of foil. Ensure the foil is lose but tightly sealed. Place it on a baking sheet and place it in the oven. The cooking times are as follows:

  • 5lb (750g) salmon - 1 hour 10 minutes
  • 2lb (900g) - 1 hour 30 minutes
  • 3lb (1.35kg) - 2 hours
  • 4lb (1.8kg) - 2 hours 30 minutes
  • 5lb (2.25 kg) - 3 hours

The same method and timings can be used when cooking whole salmon trout. If you are cooking salmon steaks weighing between 6 and 8oz (175 to 225g), then each should be baked at a higher temperature, 350F (180C, gas mark 4). The steaks should be wrapped either individually or in groups of 4 to 6 in buttered foil. However, first be sure to season them with tarragon, bay leaves, and white wine. Seal the foil tightly and bake them on a high shelf for 20 minutes. If the salmon fillets are slightly smaller, 5 to 6oz (150-175g), then each will take 15 to 20 minutes.

Microwaving Fish

It is hard to provide precise instructions about microwaving fish as microwaves are not standard and have varying levels of power. However, most microwaves come with instruction manuals that will contain details about how to cook fish in them, and this is the best place to start. The danger with this method is that a few seconds can make all the difference between lovely moist fish and very dry, overcooked fish. Therefore, if you are not confident and you have an oven, it may be better to avoid this method until you are familiar with your microwave’s behaviour.

Barbequing Fish

This is a lovely way to prepare fish, especially on a summer’s day. Be sure to have melted butter at hand that can be brushed on the fish. Ideally, you should use one of the special fish grills that are available as it will help keep the fish together and prevent it sticking. Small fish, such as trout and mackerel, are fantastic on the barbeque, and they can of course be seasoned with herbs.