Do you enjoy eating fish? Like many food lovers, you may enjoy the flavor and variety of fish dishes you can eat from cuisines all over the world. You like everything from grilled to fried fish, tuna and salmon to sardines and anchovies. Fish can be cooked in any way imaginable for tasty results.

Additionally, fish is a healthy protein loaded with essential vitamins and minerals. It’s a delicious and nutritious addition to your diet, if you’re not already eating it regularly. Fatty fish like salmon and sardines are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are heart healthy.

It’s also easy and quick to cook at home. Don’t know how?

Don’t worry! We’re going to show you what kinds of fish to cook and the healthiest, simplest ways to cook them. Follow along as we show you how to include healthy fish recipes into your home cooking diet.

What Kind Of Fish To Cook

how to cook fish

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The first hurdle you might face in learning how to cook fish is picking from the dizzying array of options in your local fish market or grocery store. You’ll see freshwater fish, ocean fish, fatty fish, white flesh fish, whole fish, and fish fillets. What’s more, you can buy it fresh or frozen.

Where should you begin? And how should you store your fresh fish after you bring it home from the store? Won’t it make the house smell like fish?

Don’t panic. We have the tips you need to make sure you can pick the right fish for your cooking adventures.

When buying fresh fish from the fish counter in your grocery store, ask to smell it. If the fish smells fishy, it’s not fresh. Fresh fish should smell briny.

Take an opportunity to get a good look at the fish. If the fish is whole, the skin should be shiny and firm. The eyes should be bright, as though it’s still alive. If you’re looking at a fillet, the flesh should be firm and uniform in color and texture.

If you live near the coast, it should be simple for you to find good fresh fish available in your local grocery stores. However, if you live inland, it might be better for you to buy frozen fish instead. For inland consumers, most of the “fresh” fish at the fish counter of the supermarket is previously frozen.

Fillets are usually ready to cook as-is. They have usually been de-scaled, but you may need to check for pin bones before cooking. Pin bones are part of the rib cage of some kinds of fish, and sometimes the fishmonger doesn’t remove all of them before packaging the fillets.

Whole fish can come gutted and scaled or completely whole. You should only buy completely whole, unscaled, un-gutted fish if you’re experienced at doing the job yourself.

Best Healthy Ways To Cook Fish

Once you’ve chosen a type of fish to cook, it’s time to consider your cooking methods. You’ll discover as many ways to cook fish as you can imagine, but some methods are more flavorful and healthier than the rest.

1. Grilling

grilled fish on a plate

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The key to healthy cooking is to limit the additional calories you add to your food. While you’ll have to add some oil to the meat to prevent it from sticking or drying, grilling is one of the healthiest ways to cook fattier fish like salmon.

Grilling is a dry cooking method using a lot of heat, so when you cook fish this way, keep in mind a couple of important things. Fish cooks quickly, so don’t put it near the hottest part of the grill and watch it carefully for signs of burning. Also, make sure you use a fatty fish, not something dry or fragile.

2. Baking

baked fish

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Another healthy dry cooking method for fish is baking. This method is ideal for fattier fish since you won’t need to add much additional fat during cooking. One possible disadvantage is time. Baking takes more cook time than grilling.

On the other hand, baked fish can cleverly mimic the crunchy texture of fried fish with a fraction of the calorie load. Just take care not to add too many calorie-dense sauces.

3. Poaching

poached fish on a plate

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Poached fish may not be as popular as grilled or baked, but it’s a great option for flakier, less fatty white flesh fish. Poaching preserves the flavor and structure of more delicate fish.

Since you don’t need to add any additional fat when using this cooking method, poaching is a great way to make a healthy and flavorful meal. Instead of water, you can use broth or wine to add flavor to your poached fish.

4. Steaming

steamed fish on a plate

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Steamed fish is a popular dish in some parts of Asia, and it’s no secret why. The steam helps the fish hold in moisture, while at the same time adding flavor. You can use broth, flavored with herbs and spices as a steaming liquid.

Steaming is a great way to lock in the aromatic flavors of garlic, ginger, and herbs. It’s also a quick cooking method, like grilling, so your dinner can be on the table in minutes.

5. Sautéing

cooked fish in a pan

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Sautéing comes in last on this list because it does require more added fat than many other methods. It’s also known as pan-frying.

Like baked fish, pan-fried fish can mimic the texture and crunch of fried fish with much fewer calories. It’s also a great way to cook more delicate, less fatty fillets.

Factors To Consider When Choosing A Cooking Method

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As you can see, you can learn how to cook fish in a wide variety of healthy ways for excellent results. But not every cooking method will have the same results with every kind of fish. Some fish are fattier than others, some have thicker flesh, and some tend to fall apart during cooking.

How will you know what cooking method you should choose?

We’ve assembled a handy guide below of aspects you should consider when deciding how you should cook your fish.

When cooking fish, you should consider the following:

  • Fat Content of the Fish: Fish with lower fat content can dry out when grilled or baked. These types of fish taste better when cooked with a wet cooking method like poaching or steaming. If you want grilled fish, you should choose a fish with high fat content, like salmon.
  • Whole Fish Vs. Fillets: If you’re cooking a whole fish, it’ll hold together better than a fillet, and it’ll take longer to cook through. This will affect the cooking methods you can choose from since you probably won’t be able to pan fry a whole fish.
  • Skin Vs. Skinless: If you’re cooking with a delicate fish, you should probably leave the skin on since it’ll help the fish stay together. Also, if you’re using a cooking method requiring you to flip the fish during cooking, leave the skin on.
  • Thickness of the Flesh: If you’re cooking thinner fish, like trout or sole, you can use high-heat methods, like broiling. If your fish is thicker, like tuna steaks or salmon fillets, you should probably use a longer cooking method, so the fish will thoroughly cook in the middle. 

By evaluating your fish on these simple criteria, you should be able to select the right cooking method. The right cooking method can turn a simple fillet of fish into a delicious and healthy entrée you’ll be happy to prepare time and again.

Common Cooking Mistakes While Cooking Fish

two grilled fish

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So, now that you know how to cook fish in the best and healthiest way, what could go wrong?

Well, it turns out you could make several crucial errors while cooking fish. Here are a few of the most common mistakes and some ways to fix them. 

Here are some common cooking errors you might run into:

  • Removing the Skin: Most of the time, you’ll want to leave the skin on during cooking, even if you don’t plan to eat it. The skin preserves moisture and helps keep your fish from falling apart while it’s cooking. If you end up with skinless raw fish, you can poach or slow roast it for good results.
  • Overcooking: Overcooking your fish is a serious problem. It’s the most common problem for people to have when making fish. The best way to prevent this is by cooking the fish skin side down until it’s about 90% done, then flip it and turn the heat off, letting the residual heat of the pan cook your fish.
  • Undercooking: While undercooking is a problem, rare or medium fish probably won’t hurt you. Also, you can always cook your fish more, but it’s not possible to un-cook it once it’s overdone.
  • Poor Fish Quality: Arguably the most important aspect of cooking is the quality of your ingredients. When possible, use wild instead of farm-raised fish, and if you live inland, buy your fish frozen instead of “fresh” at the fish counter.
  • Underseasoning: Missing an opportunity for adding flavor to fish – especially white flesh fish, leads to bland food, which is unpleasant to eat. Everywhere possible, choose to add flavor. Marinade your fish before grilling it. Poach in broth or white wine instead of water.

By avoiding these common pitfalls, you can create a delicious and healthy meal using any kind of fish you enjoy. After learning how to cook fish in easy and healthy ways, you can confidently add it to your repertoire of homemade meals.

Featured Image: Image by RitaE from Pixabay

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