On Cooking Fish

Types of Fish

Fish Steak – A cut taken from the thick part of the fish which includes a short section of the backbone, a fish steak is completely round (or oval) unlike a cutlet.
Fish Cutlet – A cut across the middle back with a short section of backbone, unlike steaks a cutlet does not form a complete circle, more like a badly shaped letter “C”.
Middle Cut – A large cut taken from the middle of a round fish.
Fillet – A cut taken from a fish with the bones, head, fins removed. Two fillets are cut from a round fish and four from a flat fish.

Cooking Techniques

Poaching Fish
This method is best described as slow simmering in liquid eg. fish stock such as Court bouillon.

Poaching can be achieved in a large saucepan on the top of a stove or in an ovenproof dish in the center of the oven at 350°F gas mark 4 for approx. 8 – 10 minutes per pound. Best results can be achieved by wrapping the fish loosely in aluminum foil, keeping the juices around the fish for a better flavor.

Grilling and Barbecuing

Suitable for small whole fish, round or flat fish fillets and steaks, whole fish needs to be cut diagonally on each side several times to allow the heat to penetrate evenly. White fish requires basting with melted butter or oil two or three times during cooking to prevent the fish from drying out. Oily fish do not require basting, cooking times for grilling fish or barbecuing fish under a moderate heat turning once are 4 – 5 minutes for fillets, 10 – 15 minutes for thick steaks, cutlets and whole fish; the flesh will separate into flakes when tested with a knife.

Baking and Roasting
This method is used for small whole fish, fillets and steaks. The advantage of this method is the fish cooks in its own juices, white fish requires frequent basting to prevent drying out. Brush with melted butter and season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Use a well buttered shallow ovenproof dish. Bake in the center of a pre-heated oven at 350f gas mark 4 allowing 25 – 30 minutes for whole fish and 10 – 20 minutes for fillets and steaks.

Fish can also be baked in foil which seals in the flavor. Butter the foil and sprinkle with lemon juice and salt and pepper, wrap the fish loosely. Allow 8 minutes per pound for a large fish plus add 10 minutes. Cook steaks for about 20 minutes.

Braising
This is fish placed in a cooking dish on top of a mixture of root vegetables, herbs, and seasoning, with water, wine or stock added until just level with the fish. Cook in a pre-heated oven at 350f gas mark 4 until the flesh flakes when tested with a knife. Any root vegetables can be used with a few sprigs of parsley and thyme.

Steaming Fish
With this method the fish cooks in its own juices. Season the fish with lemon juice, wrap in aluminum foil, and place in a steamer. The fish is done when the flesh comes easily off the bone with a fork or knife.

Pan Frying Fish
Ideal fish for shallow frying are plaice, sole, trout, herrings, mackerel, and mullet. Dry the fish and then coat in seasoned flour or dip in beaten egg and then dry breadcrumbs. Use a equal mixture of butter and oil melted in a frying pan and fry until brown on one side. Turn and fry the other side, about 10 minutes in all depending on the thickness. Drain on absorbent paper.

Deep Frying Fish
To deep fry, use a deep pan half filled with vegetable oil, dripping or vegetable fat. Heat until you can see a shimmer of heat just above the fat. It should brown a small piece of bread in under a minute. Because of the intense heat fish must be coated with a batter or egg and breadcrumbs before frying. Frying takes 4 – 6 minutes depending on thickness.

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