Fish on the menu tonight? If you’re guilty of doing any of these 8 things, you should adapt your style before you take to the stove tonight.
1. You choose the wrong pan
Most people instinctively reach for the non-stick cookware pan, but the secret to cooking fish is a hot pan. Stainless steel or cast iron help you reach the right temperature so you can create that perfectly seared salmon. The only want to achieve that delicious crust is with a high dose of heat. Plus, a lot of recipes call for a quick turn in the oven to finish off the dish, so an oven-proof pan is the only way to go.
2. You don’t dry the fish off
To make sure your fish gets a crispy outer layer, dry it off first with a paper towel. This also helps seasonings, salt, or marinade stick to it. Starting with a wet piece of fish means that the flavor you’re adding won’t penetrate past the top level, leaving the inside bland.
3. You don’t get the pan hot enough
The pan (or grill) should be searing hot. If you’ve ever had fish fall apart on you mid-flip — or you left pieces stuck to the pan — those are tale-tell signs the pan wasn’t hot enough. Super seared skin won’t stick to the pan. So before you get that filet close to the pan, make sure you crank the heat and oil the pan well. Then, slide the film skin side down along the pan. The fish should resist being pulled along the pan. If it sticks, get it out quickly, and wait a few more minutes for it to get hot enough.
4. You remove the skin before cooking
The skin serves as a protective layer between your delicate, flaky fish and the hot pan. It also makes it easier for you to flip the fish or move it around the pan. Plus, cooking loosens the fat that binds the skin to the fish, so it will be easiest to peel off if you wait until it’s been cooked.
5. You cook it too long
To avoid dry, flavorless fish, use this rule of thumb: Measure the piece of fish at its thickest point, and then approximate 10 minutes per inch. Flip halfway through. This works for just about any type of fish. For salmon, look for white lines to appear. These are the coagulated proteins leaking out of the fish. Whitefish like cod should be cooked to about 140ºF, and medium rare salmon should be cooked to 125ºF in the center. Tuna can be eaten rare with an internal temperature of just 110ºF.
6. You use the wrong tool
If you use the same tongs you use to flip your steaks and burgers, you’re doing it wrong. Fish is much more delicate than these meats so opt for a spatula or a fish turner.
7. You don’t thaw it correctly
If you’re setting your fish on the counter to thaw, you’re inviting all kinds of gross bacteria that could make you physically ill in no-time. Instead, thaw fish for four to five hours in the refrigerator. If you didn’t plan ahead and need it now, place fish in a zip-top bag and place in a bowl with very cold water. The bag should be completely submerged. (Don’t let the fish touch the water or else it will become too hard to cook.) Letting the fish thaw in this method will only take about 30 minutes.
8. You marinate fish too long
Marinating is one of the simplest ways to flavor food, but don’t let your fish sit too long (See #2). Fish and shellfish should only marinate for 30 minutes to an hour. Any longer and you’ll be left with mush and it will be difficult to cook.
Also see, Copycat Bang Bang Shrimp recipe.