Dry flesh? Soggy skin? Bland watery fillets?
Here you’ll find a few simple tips and steps to make sure you serve up perfect fish every time!
1. Buying the best
I’ll say it again, with any good dish you have to start with the best ingredients! When buying fish you always want to buy it as fresh as possible and as close to the day you are going to use it as you can.
If you can, steer clear of frozen fish as the freezing process enlarges the cells on the fish and drastically changes its texture. With frozen fish its also common to see a lot of water escape during cooking, which leads to a soggy soft fillet instead of a firm flaky piece of fish. I recommend buying from a local fishmonger, and don’t be afraid to ask how fresh it is. Be warned, the supermarkets have a trick of selling defrosted fish in their pre-packed displays and on the fish counters, so always double check the labelling!
Fish shouldn’t smell overly fishy, shouldn’t feel slimy and if you get chance to see the whole fish the eyes should be clear and bright and the gills should be a vivid red.
If you’re cooking a small to medium size fillet of fish its always best to get it with the skin on. Even if you don’t intend to eat it, the skin will protect the delicate flesh from direct heat and help to keep it all together.
2. Preparation makes the difference
If you’re cooking a large chunky piece of white fish like hake or a thick cut piece of cod loin, take the fish out of all packaging a couple of hours before you want to cook, or up to 12 hours if you have time in the morning.
Pat dry all sides of the fish with kitchen paper and then season with salt. Return back to the fridge. The salt will remove some of the excess water from the large fillets. Leave it un-covered if you are doing this for just 2 hours. If it’s for longer than this, cover it over. An hour before cooking, pat dry again and leave uncovered for this last hour in the fridge.
This all helps to firm up the flesh and dry out the skin to help create a perfect crispy golden finish.
3. Time to cook!
Always cook your fish as close to serving time as you can as it can over-cook very quickly and doesn’t respond well to being kept warm or reheated.
Take these as some guidelines: An average fillet of sea-bass or bream will take around 8-10 minutes to fry. A 150g piece of salmon or piece of chunky hake or cod will take around 5-6 mins in a pan followed by 6-10 minutes in a preheated oven.
Start with a non stick frying pan on a medium high heat. Completely dry the pieces of fish. Slash the skin around 3 or 4 times not going to deep in to the flesh, this will prevent the skin from curling too much in the cooking process. If it hasn’t been salted already then season now, more generously on the skin side.
Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the pan and place the fish skin side down. Use a fish slice or spatula to firmly press the skin on to the pan for around a minute.
The oil in the
pan should be hot but, not smoking and burning the fish.
For a whole fillet of fish like sea-bass, bream, mackerel just continue to cook the fillet on the skin side at a medium heat, until you see the flesh start to change colour. When the skin is an even golden brown colour and there is only a small amount of translucent flesh left showing, flip the fillet over and cook for a final minute. Serve immediately.
For a larger piece of fish like salmon, thick cut cod or hake, follow the initial process in exactly the same way. When you have a golden crispy skin flip the fish over, cook for a further 2 minutes and then transfer it to an ovenproof tray and place in a preheated oven at 180 degrees c.
Bake in the oven until the flesh is starting to feel firm and the centre has changed colour. This could be 6-10 minutes depending on the performance of your oven. Allow the fish to rest for 2 minutes in a warm place and then serve.