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3 Essential Cooking Techniques You Need to Become a Master Fish Chef

When it comes to seafood, a few key methods will make even a novice weekend warrior into a culinary pro.
3 Essential Cooking Techniques You Need to Become a Master Fish Chef
Travis Rathbone

Baking is simple, foolproof, and mess-free. It’s also easy to do a large quantity at once, it doesn’t stink up the kitchen, and it’s healthy because little extra fat is needed (in fact, you can get away with using no oil at all). Plus, pretty much any fish can be baked (just adjust the time based on thickness). To start, try the instructions below to bake a) salmon with lemon and dill; b) branzino with lime and basil; or c) rainbow trout with orange and oregano.


Gently toss a pound of fish fillets with two tbsp each olive oil, any fresh citrus juice, and any minced herb. Salt and pepper to taste. (For even more flavor, add some minced garlic, sliced onion, grated ginger, or chopped black olives.) Wrap fillets in parchment paper (folding edges so it doesn’t leak), or place in a tightly covered baking dish. Bake in a 400 ̊F  oven for 12-15 minutes (denser fish and thicker fillets will take longer), or until it breaks apart easily with a fork. Don’t stress about overcooking—sealing in the juices like this keeps it moist.

Poaching is one of the healthiest ways to cook fish, and also keeps it from drying out or stinking up the kitchen. Poached fish can be served hot, cold, or at room temperature. Best fish for poaching: salmon, Arctic char, halibut, trout, cod, hake, and snapper. 


Place fillets in a wide saucepan with just enough vegetable or chicken stock to cover them (or you can make a quick poaching liquid by boiling water with some carrot, celery, onion, herbs, salt, and a splash of white wine, then straining). Remove the fish to a plate, and heat the liquid over low heat until it’s steaming but not bubbling (you’re ideally just trying to keep it below a boil). Return the fish to the pan in a single layer and cook until it flakes easily with a fork, about 10 minutes. Poaching is very forgiving, so don’t stress.

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Using only a light brushing of oil to prevent sticking, grilling is super healthy and results in a concentrated fish flavor. It’s ideal for whole fish or skin-on fillets and steaks; firmer fish, like tuna, striped bass, salmon, mahi mahi, and snapper work best—just be sure all are of the same thickness, for even cooking.


Make sure the grill grates are clean, well-oiled, and blazing hot. Pat fish dry, then lightly oil both the skin and the grill. Gently place the fish on the grill and let sit—don’t nudge, or it’ll stick—for about 3 minutes (check after 2 minutes to see if it releases easily), then flip and cook, with the grill covered, another 3 minutes. If you’re worried about it sticking, use a grill screen or grillfish basket, or even a sheet of foil.

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