Never overcook. Cooking fish at too high a temperature or for too long a time
can toughen the fish and destroy natural moisture and flavor. Overcooking is the
most common mistake in fish and seafood cookery. Fish loses its translucent
appearance and becomes opaque when thoroughly cooked. Pierce the fish at the
thickest point. If it flakes easily and the flesh falls from the bones, it is
Know your product. For best results, it is helpful to know whether fish is
fat or lean. Both can be used in most cooking methods, but lean fish require the
addition of more fat during cooking to retain flavor and moisture. Fat fish
contain more than 5% fat; lean fish contain less than 5%. All shellfish are
lean.Handle with care. Fish flesh is delicate, so handle as little as possible.
Frozen fillets and steaks do not have to be thawed before cooking as long as
additional cooking time is allotted. Do not thaw breaded frozen fish items
before cooking. However, if you plan to bread or stuff fish, thaw it first.
Methods of Cooking Fish
To poach a fish, use a shallow frying pan, wide
enough to hold all of the fish without overlapping. Barely cover the fish with a
liquid such as water seasoned with salt, herbs or spices, milk, or a mixture of
either with wine. Put a lid on the pan and simmer the fish until just done.
Serve poached fish as main course or use it in casseroles or chilled and flaked
in cold dishes.
This is perhaps the least fattening way of
preparing fish because no oil or sauce is cooked with the fish. Natural juices
and flavors are retained. Steam generated from boiling water cooks the fish. To
steam, use a steam cooker or a deep pan with a tight cover and some sort of rack
to keep the fish from touching the water. You may add seasonings or wine to the
water. Heat the water to a boil, then place the fish on the rack and put a lid
on the pan. Cooking time is about 5-10 minutes. Serve the same ways as poached
fish (see above).
This method is similar to baking, using dry
heat. The heat generated by broiling is direct and more intense. To broil, place
the fish in a single layer on a well-greased broil-serve platter or broiler pan.
The surface of the fish should be 3-4 inches from the heat source. Cooking time
for fillets and split fish is usually 6-10 minutes without turning; for steaks
6-16 minutes. Turn whole fish and thicker pieces. Baste all types of fish at
least once during cooking. Lean fish and shellfish, especially, need fat added
to stay moist. Baste before and several times during cooking.
To bake a fish, place it in a greased baking
dish, uncovered, at a moderate temperature (350 degrees) for a relatively short
period of time. Baste the fish several times with melted fat or a sauce to keep
moist. A whole fish may be stuffed with an herb and bread stuffing. Fish baked
with the head and tail on is usually more moist.
This is a unique way of baking whole fish,
steaks, or fillets.Carefully oil a hard wood board or plank, then place in the
oven at a low temperature (225 degrees) to heat slowly. Remove plank from oven
and raise the temperature to 350 degrees. Arrange fish on the warm plank, brush
with fat, and bake until the fish flakes easily. Serve on plank at table, and if
desired, arrange potatoes, vegetables, or other garnishes around fish.
Also known as "charcoal broiling," this is a dry
heat method of cooking over hot coals. A well-greased, long-handled wire grill
will facilitate preparation, as the fish will flake and fall apart during the
end of the cooking period. Use a basting sauce that contains some fat to ensure
a moist, tasty final product. Baste before and during cooking. Broil about four
inches from moderately hot coals, turning once. Total cooking time is 10-20
minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.
A very popular method, pan
frying requires only an open fire, a fry pan, and a little fat. Heat about 1/8
inch of fat in a frying pan. Arrange breaded fish in a single layer, leaving
"breathing room" between pieces. Fry at a moderate temperature on the first side
until light brown. Turn carefully, scraping under each piece, and continue
cooking on the other side until brown. Total cooking time is about 8-10 minutes.
Drain on absorbent paper.
This method produces a
result that is quite similar to fried fish, but it isn''t really a frying
process. The fish is baked in a hot oven and basted once with a small quantity
of fat. Fish cooked by this method does not require turning and the cooking time
is short. The coating and high temperature seal in juices and produce a crispy
browned crust. This method is easily accomplished with a large quantity of fish
and is therefore especially good for serving to a group. Try dipping serving
sized portions of fish in salted milk and coat with cereal crumbs or toasted dry
bread crumbs. For additional flavor add dry mustard, grated cheese, or minced
parsley to the crumbs. French dressing and crushed cheese crackers make a good
coating. Place the fish on a well-greased cookie sheet. Drip melted fat over the
fish and bake in an extremely hot oven (500 degrees) for 10-12 minutes or until
fish flakes easily.
Deep Fat Frying
this method for the classic tender chunks of fish coated with a crispy brown
crust. Fill a fryer no more than half full with oil. Place breaded fish one
layer at a time in fry basket and lower it into fat heated to 350 degrees. Cook
until the fish are tender and browned lightly. Three to five minutes is usually
enough time (depending on the thickness of the fish). Drain on absorbent paper.
If frying additional fish, return the temperature to 350 degrees before adding
--Excerpted from "Fish and Seafood--Dividend Foods," by Charlotte M. Dunn.
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