One of the first things you learn when you are trying to eat healthily is that you should have more fish in your diet.
Which is great if you grew up cooking fish or live near a seashore and have access to excellent fresh seafood. But for those of us who grew up predominantly on frozen fish sticks and canned tuna, wanting to add fish into our diets can be a bit daunting.
Never fear, my friends, I have been where you are, and I am here to tell you that cooking fish at home can be easy, fast, and delicious. And you don’t need a recipe, just a technique. What you do to your fish once it is cooked, with sauces or garnishes, that is up to you. I am just here to get you from fishmonger to table with a well-cooked filet on your plate.
For starters, be sure that you are buying your fish from a place with good turnover, and that the fish you buy smells like the sea and not fishy. It should be tacky to the touch, not slimy or wet. The choice of fish is up to your preference. And frozen filets are fine, just thaw in the fridge overnight.
The key to preparing perfect fish is following a two-step process. Sear on the stovetop, finish in the oven.
The stovetop gives you browning or crispy skin, and the oven finishes the cooking and keeps it moist. I like a thicker filet for this process, a minimum of ¾ of an inch, but up to two or even three inches thick is fine, or you can use it for small whole fish like trout or snapper. Super thin fish like sole or skate do better with just a pan fry.
First, you will need an oven-proof non-stick skillet.
Heat your oven to 400 with a rack in the top third, but enough space to slide the whole skillet into the oven without touching the sides or getting too close to the top.
Pat your fish dry with paper towels and oil it lightly on both sides with cooking spray or a drizzle of neutral oil. Season with salt, and any other seasonings you prefer. Oiling the fish and not the pan will help prevent both burnt oil and smoking and will keep spattering to a minimum.
Heat your skillet over medium-high heat and add your fish (skin side down if you are cooking skin-on) once the pan is hot, the fish should sizzle as soon as it hits the pan. Leave without moving for 2 minutes, to get a bit browned or crisp the skin, then flip using a thin flexible spatula.
Cook on the second side for one minute, then slide the whole skillet into the 400-degree oven. Cook for 10 minutes for thinner fish, 12-14 for thicker, 16-18 for super thick.
Remove from the oven and serve hot with the sauce or garnish of your choice. If you are cooking a fish like a tuna or salmon and you want them a little more on the rare side, reduce the cooking time by 2 minutes for thinner, 4 minutes for thicker.