It’s a common gripe: you love ordering fish at restaurants, but cooking it at home is a different story. We understand. Cooking with fish can be intimidating! Not to mention an expensive learning process.
We’re here to help you overcome your fears with expert tips for selecting and preparing fresh fish. No matter what fish you’re working with, these tips from the Louisiana Cookin’ test kitchen will improve your end product.
Do you have any advice for preparing fish and other seafood at home?
Look for a reputable supplier with sustainable fishing and aqua farming practices. Don’t buy something that is chemically treated. It’s great if you have a fishmonger do the cleaning for you, but you can always gut, scale, and trim at home. Also, make things work twice for you, like getting head-on shrimp. Saving the heads and shells after cleaning is an excellent way to make a seafood stock for something later.
What equipment do you recommend for any home chefs wanting to prepare great seafood dishes?
You’ll definitely want a sharp fillet knife as well as a fish spatula. I also recommend a paring knife for shrimp. And if you insist on removing the skin, make sure that the fish is very cold. These are musts. I also recommend using fresh seafood at all times, but if you must do frozen, make sure there is no freezer burn.
What specific things should people look for when sourcing their fish and seafood?
No matter what you’re getting, the aroma should be of the sea but not stink. The eyes of the fish should be clear, and the gills should be clean if you’re looking for whole fish. For fillets, make sure that they are firm. With shrimp, the bodies must be well-intact and have no black spots.
Do you have a fail-proof method for preparing fish at home? Does it vary from fish to fish?
Cooking in the oven is the easiest for me—it’s the least messy. Use a rimmed sheet pan, covered in foil for easy cleaning, or you can use a baking dish. However, keep in mind that fatty, oily fish versus lean will affect the cooking method, so pay attention to the thickness of the fish.
What are some things that commonly go wrong in preparing fish and seafood, and do you have any suggestions to remedy those?
Overcooking is the most common mistake. Seeing the fish whole is the easiest way to determine its freshness. I recommend a 10-minute cook time per inch of fish. With a whole fish, it will begin to flake when it’s done.
Any tips for preparing skin-on fish at home and doing it well?
Be sure to season it well on both sides, but keep it simple: salt and pepper, garlic butter, and lemon with herbs are great. While cooking, start with skin side down first if it’s on a fillet, and if you’re working with a whole fish, don’t forget to season the inside cavity. If you’re grilling, it’s best to cut slits on each side to keep the fish from curling up.
Put these tips to work and check out these great 7 Whole Fish Recipes for Summer!