How to cook
There are so many different ways for you to cook your fish; you could steam it, fry it, grill it, microwave it, roast it, poach it, bake it, sautée it and many more.
Here are some tips on these various methods - from how to cook fish to how you can make sure that it is cooked correctly.
Cook fish in a moderate oven (190 °C / gas mark 5). Depending on the size of the fillet, it should only take around 10 minutes – you’ll know it’s cooked when the flesh goes from a translucent flesh to opaque. When you put your fork into it, it should flake easily.
Barbecue your seafood
- There’s nothing tastier than barbecued whole fish or fillets – delicious and healthy!
- Throw a whole mackerel (or two) on the barbie – it’s chunky, succulent and great value for money. And don’t just stick to summer – what’s stopping you bringing back a taste of summer in the autumn? Mackerel is in season right up until the end of September so, if you get a nice day, fire up the barbecue then as well.
- Flat skewers will stop the ingredients twisting round when you turn them, so that everything cooks evenly. Another great practical tip is to start and finish seafood kebabs with something firm, such as a piece of onion, to help hold the other ingredients in place.
Deep frying your fish
- Coat the fish in batter or breadcrumbs, to protect the flesh and stop it from absorbing too much fat. Batter protects the fish and locks in the flavour and moisture, while breadcrumbs provide a crunchy texture but aren’t as protective of the flesh. Heat the oil to 180-190 ̊C / 350-375 ̊F and cook the fish for 4-6 minutes, until the coating is golden brown. Blot off the excess oil on kitchen paper before serving.
- Oil-rich fish doesn’t deep fry particularly well, so it’s best kept for other methods of cooking.
Easy en croute
For an impressive yet fantastically quick ‘en croute’ meal, place a fillet of fish in a rectangle of puff pastry which has been rolled out to less than 1cm thick. Top the fish with garlic and herbs, and soft cheese. Close the pastry parcel and bake. It’s that simple.
Go for the grill
- Grilling is great! Healthy, quick, easy and it seals in the flavour of the fish.
- Preheat the grill to a medium setting. Remember to baste white fish during cooking, to make it extra-juicy.
- Start with the fish skin-side up and turn larger fish – after between 4 and 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.
How to get kids to eat seafood
Kids love to eat what they’ve cooked for themselves, so get them involved when you’re making fish fingers or fishcakes – it’s a great way to encourage them to eat more healthy fish.
How to tell when it is cooked
White fish and salmon: White fish and salmon are fully cooked when they lose their translucent appearance and turn opaque. The flesh should flake easily when you test it with a fork.
Prawns: Prawns are cooked when they turn pink, are firm to the touch and their insides have changed from translucent to opaque. Prawns that are bought pink already have been cooked and only need to be heated through.
Lemon sole: Lemon sole is cooked when the flesh has turned opaque and, when the fish is pierced in the main fleshy part of the body, any juices run clear.
Mackerel: To check if mackerel is cooked, cut into the thickest part of the fish – the flesh should appear just opaque but still be moist.
Jazz up your Mussels!
Poach to perfection
- Poaching can be done on the hob or in the oven (at 180 ̊C / gas mark 4) and it keeps the fish moist and tender.
- All white fish, such as cod fillets, turbot steaks, halibut and haddock, will poach particularly well. Whole fish, such as sole and sea bass, are delicious, too.
Portion size / cooking times
For a portion of fish 2cm thick, allow 4-5 minutes per side when pan-frying, griddling, grilling, barbecuing, baking or roasting. For a 3cm width, make it 8-10 minutes per side. If the fish is on the bone, add an extra 2-3 minutes per side.
- You’ve probably got most of what you need already in your kitchen! Store-cupboard staples that go well with seafood are white wine, butter, parsley, curry paste and, of course, salt and black and white pepper. Fish seasoning, found in the herb and spices isle at the supermarket, can be sprinkled on top of your favourite fish dishes when cooking.
- Check out the ready-prepared sauces in your supermarket, too – many of the ones recommended for chicken will taste even better with seafood.
- Try using canned anchovies instead of salt for seasoning seafood dishes: they melt when they heat up in a sauce and give it a lovely richness, without overpowering the flavours of the other fish. If you need a finer purée, crush the anchovies in a garlic press.
- Make it fancy without the faff! Spread fillets of flat whitefish with chutney, marmalade or apple sauce, roll them up and cook.
- Shake on the sesame seeds! Toast them first, then brush tuna steaks with soy sauce and a little oil before coating them with the toasted seeds and pan-frying.
- Steaming will seal in moisture, keeping the fish tender and full of flavour, and locking in the vitamins too.
- Just add seasoning and a little lemon juice, and steam for 5-10 minutes for thin fish fillets, or 15-20 minutes for thicker pieces or whole fish.
- All white fish are super steamers, especially sole, sea bass, plaice, smoked cod and haddock.
Use a cooking bag
- Baking is pretty much fuss-free, especially if you use a cooking bag: just put your fish inside with a little oil or butter and any seasoning or stock you’re using, seal up the pouch pop it in the oven on a baking tray.
- Some fishmongers even offer oven-ready bags at the counter, to which you can add your herbs, lemon or butter, and they will seal it for you as well.
Use your microwave
Always remember to cover the seafood with a lid or microwaveable food wrap and, to get even cooking, arrange the thickest parts of the fish towards the edges of the dish; fold the tail pieces underneath. At the ping, remove from the microwave, season and add around two tablespoons of liquid (water or white wine work well for this). Leave to stand for around 2-3 minutes before serving.
What to do with Prawn Shells!
After cooking and peeling prawns, don’t throw the shells away! Pop the prawn shells into a large stock pot with one chopped onion, 2 bay leaves, one lemon cut into quarters, 5 black pepper corns, a bunch of parsley, 250 ml white wine and 750ml water. Bring to the boil slowly and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Put to one side to cool and then strain the liquid through a sieve into a bowl or jug. You will be left with an amazing seafood stock which can be used as a base for soups, fish stews, fish curries and fish pies.
What to do with your Fish Infused Poaching Milk
Many recipes for fish, smoked fish in particular, call for the fish to be poached with a bay leaf in milk before adding the poached fish to certain recipes. If the milk is not required straight away, pour it into a zip-lock bag or plastic container and freeze it for up to 2 months; it makes the most delicious base for a white sauce in a fish pie, or as a base for a creamy fish soup or chowder.
Which stock to use with which type of seafood
Milk stock works best for white or smoked fish, but you can use wine or cider, too. Whichever liquid you choose, cover the fish with it if using the hob, put the lid on and keep it just below boiling.
You can shallow fry fish
- Shallow frying makes for fabulous flavours and moist flesh. Start by leaving the skin on, as this keeps the fish together (you don’t have to eat the skin). You won’t need very much oil and, by dusting the fish with seasoned flour, you’ll keep the absorption of oil to a minimum. Get the pan nice and hot – you want to hear the fish sizzle when you put it in.
- For scallops, get your frying pan really hot before you put the scallops in – arranged round the frying pan like a clock face. Make 12 o’clock the start, then once you’ve put them all in and you’re back to 12 o’clock, it’s time to turn them over; when this is done and you’ve reached 12 o’clock again, whip them out as they are ready to enjoy.