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Fish Guide: How To Choose and Cook Fish To Perfection - Joy of Kosher

Cooking fish is like skydiving. Exciting, thrilling, and yet, a bit daunting. Overstating fish cookery? 

Maybe, but once you master cooking fish, you will have the fastest cooking, most versatile and delicious, lean protein at your bidding. 

Choosing and cooking fish

PURCHASING FISH 

Like everything else, the best dish starts with the best ingredients. I always recommend starting with seasonal and wild fish

Nature knows best and with fish this is especially true. Wild fish swim freely and eat what nature provides. No added antibiotics, growth hormones, and no coloring agents added. Plus the flesh is briny and delicious. 

Farmed fish is just not the same and I avoid it all costs, so much so, that I would rather deal with frozen, wild fish than fresh, farmed fish. That says it all right there! 

When purchasing fish be sure to look for several things:

  • Fish fillets should be glossy, firm, and smell like the sea—not fishy. Ask your fishmonger if you can smell the fish, I always do.
  • If purchasing a whole fish, the eyes should be shiny and gills should be bright red.  
  • When purchasing salmon, halibut, or bass, ask for fillets that are at least 1-inch thick. Thicker fillets are easier to cook and don't dry out as easily. 
  • Be sure to tell your fishmonger that you do not want the tail portion. It is too thin and will over-cook very easily. Most fish purchased at grocery stores or fish markets comes boned out and either skin-off or sometimes on. The skin adds a crispy texture if cooked properly and helps hold the fish together, especially with delicate fish like sole. For most of the recipes here, I have listed the fish as having been skinned. I prefer my fish that way, unless I’m eating a whole fish (which you absolutely must try). 

STORING FISH 

Once you get your fish home, place the fish in a reusable storage bag and then, place that bag in a pan of ice, in the coldest part of the refrigerator. 

COOKING FISH 

Can we get one thing straight? Fish is never baked! I know everyone says it, but baking is a term that refers to taking mostly liquid ingredients (say for example, cake batter and cookie dough) and transforming it into a solid item (cakes and cookies). We roast fish, chicken, and vegetables. Fish is easily, and often served, roasted. 

I also love pan basting fish (spooning hot oil and butter over it), frying, poaching, and grilling fish. Most fish can be prepared multiple ways with just a few exceptions. 

Wild salmon starts appearing in late spring and can be found through mid fall. Salmon is delicious roasted, poached, and grilled but not so great fried. It’s a fatty fish and takes on a weird texture when cooked at high heat and the delicious natural fat (hello Omega 3’s!) actually gets squeezed out and the fish ends up dry. 

Frying is best reserved for cod, halibut, snapper, and other lean fishes that do not fair well with poaching. Tuna is similar to salmon and has the added benefit of being available most of the year. Salmon is best served medium rare or even rare while halibut and cod need to be cooked all the way through. 

A FINAL THOUGHT 

While the cheese police are not going to fine you or haul you off to culinary jail, it is taboo to put cheese on fish. Most fish has a delicate, mild flavor. Fish should taste of the sea, and should be consumed as close to the catch as possible to ensure this. And it should be served simply, for the same reason. The rich, salty and often funky flavors of cheese can too easily overwhelm the flavors of fish, forcing a contrast not only in intensity of flavor, but also a sacrifice of the integrity of both ingredients. In Italy, France, and most of the world, grated cheese over fish pasta is considered either extraneous or excessive. Go ahead, do your homework. Dishes with cheese and fish are non-existent in good restaurants (where there is an actual chef) and in any Italian or French cook’s repertoire. However, you can use butter and cream in your fish dishes, but no cheese, please! 

Browse through 23 fish recipes with different kinds of fish and every kind of cooking method.