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Cooking seafood

Watch Seafish Ambassador and all round seafood expert CJ Jackson of Billingsgate Seafood Training as she provides some useful insight on how to cook seafood

How to poach fish

How to fry fish

How to steam fish

How to bake fish

How to grill fish

A Quick Overview of Some Common Seafood Cooking Methods:

  • Pan frying: This is a great method for any whole pan-ready fish, any fillets, portions and also for scallops.
  • Griddling: Good for suprême portions, where searing the outside produces attractive bar-marks and leaves the centre of the portion more moist and succulent. Perfect for tuna, which should always be served slightly rare in the centre. Good also for whole king prawns, but not a suitable method for thin, flaky fillets.
  • Grilling: Better suited to whole fish and flaky fillets. Particularly suitable for oil-rich fish such as mackerel and herring and for halved lobsters.
  • Barbecuing: Suprêmes of meaty game fish are perfect for marinating in citrus, salt, pepper and olive oil and then barbecuing. Whole portion-sized fish such as snapper and bass are also great, as are whole king prawns and langoustines.
  • Deep frying: This method is good for fillets, goujons, very small round fish (eg., whitebait) and langoustine tails (scampi). Fish is either coated in flour, egg and breadcrumbs, or dipped in a batter and then fried in hot oil (180°C) until golden. Lighter tempura batters are also becoming popular.
  • Poaching: A delicate method suitable for both whole fish and portions, which can be poached in various liquids including lightly salted water, fish stock and wine. Smoked Haddock is especially good poached in milk. After poaching, the liquors can be used as the base of a sauce.
  • Mi Cuit: A variation on poaching/deep frying is a technique known as Mi Cuit, where portions of oil-rich fish (ideally salmon) are lightly salted, then immersed and slowly semi-cooked in a flavoured olive oil or duck fat at a constant 48°C. A 60g portion needs 11 minutes, at which point it will have a unique colour and texture. The oil must be discarded after cooking, which makes this a costly method but the result is unique.
  • Steaming: Perhaps the healthiest way to cook fish and widely used in many aspects of South East Asian cuisine. Simply place portions or whole fish in a steamer over 2–3cm of boiling water. Whole fish can be stuffed with herbs and is also good with aromatic flavours added around the fish or marinated beforehand. Scallops are good for steaming this way. Another method is to fill the base of a large pan with seaweed, add enough water or wine to create steam (but not cover the fish), place portions or whole fish on top, cover with a lid and steam over a medium to high heat. Mussels and other molluscs are also best steamed in the same way but without the seaweed. Fish can also be steamed in a microwave, but the portions must be of even thickness.
  • Baking and roasting: Since fish is easy to overcook, oven cooking should be used carefully. Whole fish and pavés are best for roasting, particularly oil-rich species. Here are four different methods for baking fish:
  • Foil wrapping: Fillets, portions and whole fish can be wrapped in foil with a little liquid to create the steam, which cooks the fish.
  • En papillote:The same principal as using foil but adding greaseproof paper to create individual portion sized ‘parcels’ which are served to the table, adding an element of ‘theatre’ to the dining experience, as the parcels are opened and steam bursts out.
  • Baking in salt: Whole fish can be placed on a layer of sea salt on a tray, with further sea salt packed around and coating the fish. This is sprayed with water which creates a thick crust when cooked (a 500g fish requires 25 minutes at 200°C). Once cooked, break the crust and gently pull away from the fish without damaging the skin. The fish is then filleted and served. This technique brings out the flavour of the fish and is ideal with sea bass and sea breams.
  • En croute: Fillets or portions wrapped in pastry, usually with a sauce or filling. Can be individual parcels or made in a multiportion size such as with ‘Koulibiac’ – the traditional Russian ‘salmon Wellington’ made with rice, hardboiled eggs and mushrooms.
  • Boiling: Shellfish such as lobster and crabs can be boiled, but this method is not recommended for finfish.