5 of the Healthiest Ways to Cook Fresh Fish
Making the most of your Topsail Island vacation rental is easy when you're given everything you need to make a fabulous meal right in the comfort of your home-away-from-home. Take a few nights to stay in and enjoy the local bounty of fresh fish, whether you catch it yourself of stop by the local seafood market and bring it home with you. Not only are you supporting the local economy by buying fresh and local, but you're also staying healthy by choosing a lean, nutritious and totally delicious protein that's sure to be the star of your meal.
Here are five of the very best ways to cook fresh fish and to keep it healthy all at the same time. Try one or try them all!
1. Grill Your Fish
How to Grill Fish
- When you’re grilling fish, keep a close watch. (Fish only takes a few minutes per side to cook.)
- If the fillets are an even thickness, sometimes they don’t even require flipping–they can be cooked through by grilling on one side only.
- Brush the fish lightly with oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- Place fish near the edge of the grill, away from the hottest part of the fire. (Don’t try to lift up the fish right away; it will be stuck to the grill).
- Start checking for color and doneness after a few minutes, once the fish starts to release some of its juices.
- Flip the fish over when you see light grill marks forming.
- Grilling is a quick, easy and healthy way to impart big flavor without too many added ingredients.
Best Types of Fish for Grilling
When choosing a fish for grilling it's important to consider how firm or sturdy it is. Delicate fish like sole, tilapia, or flounder don't fare so well on the open flame. They're more likely to become flakey, break apart or fall through the grates. It's best to choose a firm, hearty fish.
- Mahi Mahi
Recommended Grilled Fish Recipe
2. Broil Your Fish
How to Broil Fish
- When the weather’s not right for grilling, try broiling instead.
- Broiling is great when you want a fast, simple, hassle-free preparation with delicious results.
- It gives fish a nicely browned exterior with the convenience of a temperature-controlled heat source.
- Just follow the basic grilling instructions given for #1, substituting your oven broiler for the grill.
- For easy cleanup, line the broiler pan with a piece of foil.
Not every kind of fish is suitable for broiling. The best are fish with high levels of natural oils. Their natural fat provides a degree of protection against overcooking under the intense heat of the broiler, and the fish will brown beautifully. Moderately lean fish can be broiled successfully if you brush the surface with a protective glaze or a thin layer of a high-temperature cooking oil. Very lean, thin and delicate fillets go from uncooked to overcooked in a heartbeat, and are very difficult to broil successfully.
- Cod (brush with oil)
- Haddock (brush with oil)
Recommended Broiled Fish Recipe
This recipe recommends 4 fillets weighing about 6 ounces each. Suggested fish for this recipe are orange roughy, red snapper, catfish or trout fillets, but you can use whatever you like. Just keep in mind that thin, delicate fillets are not a good option for broiling. Take a look at how to make this Perfectly Broiled Fish recipe with everyday ingredients like olive oil, lemon, worchestershire sauce and parsley that elevate the broiled fish and add complexity to the flavor profile.
3. Bake Your Fish
How to Bake Fish
- Baking fish allows you to get the satisfying crunch of fried fish without all the fat.
- Just because it’s baked, though, doesn’t mean it’s healthy: watch the amount of butter, oil, mayonnaise, or cheese called for in the recipe.
- Baking is a more relaxed affair, because of the lower temperatures used.
- Whole fish, large fillets, or especially lean and fragile fish can be baked at temperatures between 300 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit, to preserve their moisture and delicate texture.
- Fish that might otherwise be broiled can be baked at higher temperatures, ranging from 400 F to 450 F.
- The broiler incinerates fresh herbs and many other garnishes, but oven-baked fish can take full advantage of these light, low-fat flavoring options.
- Many recipes call for fish to be dry-baked, sitting on a sheet pan.
- Baking fish in a sauce or flavored liquid is an attractive alternative. Simple cooking liquids, such as fish broth or spiced white wine, impart a gentle flavor to the fish with few or no added calories.
- More elaborate sauces based on tomatoes or tropical fruits are just as effective at keeping the fish moist, and also simplify your mealtime preparation process.
- As soon as the fish begins to flake, it is done.
- If you're using white fish, check it more often, and remove it from the oven as soon as it's fully firm.
- If you don't intend to serve it immediately (as in it's going to be 10 minutes before you actually eat it), you can even remove it a bit before it's fully cooked and let the residual heat finish the cooking in the center.
- The good news is that you can bake pretty much any type of fish.
- The recipe you choose often dictates which type of fish would be best for this method.
- A general rule is that white, flaky fish tend to dry out quicker than oily fish like salmon or mackerel.
- Smaller fish or thinner fillets will cook more quickly, so you may need to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
Recommended Baked Fish Recipe
How to Poach Fish
- This gentle cooking method is perfect for seafood.
- Poaching keeps fish moist and won’t mask the delicate flavor of the fish.
- To poach fish, use vegetable or chicken stock, or make a court-bouillon, a homemade broth of aromatic herbs and spices.
- Use a pan big enough to lay each piece of fish down flat.
- Pour in enough liquid to just barely cover the fish.
- Bring the liquid to a simmer, and keep it there.
- If you see any bubbles coming up from the bottom of the pan, it’s too hot–the liquid should "shimmer” rather than bubble. The ideal poaching temperature is between 165 and 180 degrees F.
Best Types of Fish for Poaching
Poaching is a good technique for cooking lean fish, as well as fatty fish, and is usually best served with a sauce. Poaching preserves moisture and adds flavor without adding fat.
Fish that take well to poaching:
Recommended Recipe for Poached Fish
5. Steam Your Fish
How to Steam Fish
- Steaming is another gentle cooking method.
- It produces a mild-tasting fish that is often paired with a flavorful sauce.
- Rub the fish with spices, chopped herbs, ginger, garlic, and chile peppers to infuse flavor while it cooks.
- Use a bamboo steamer or a folding steamer basket with enough room for each piece of fish to lie flat.
- Pour about 1½ inches of water into the pan.
- Place the steamer over the water, cover the pot, and bring the water to a boil.
- Begin checking the fish for doneness after 10 minutes.
Best Types of Fish for Steaming
We like steaming any type of white fish. But you can also steam salmon this way too with great success.
Great fish for steaming:
- Red Snapper
- Yellowtail Snapper
- Rock Fish
Recommended Recipe for Steamed Fish
We love the minimal simplicity with the focus on the pure elements of this Simplest Steamed Fish recipe from the New York Times. If you have forgotten how delicious a great fillet of fresh fish can be, try this one. All you do is steam the fish with nothing on it. Drizzle it with olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle it with coarse salt. Eat!
What's your favorite healthy way to prepare fish? Share with us!
Which of these fabulous fresh fish dishes are you going to try next?