Basics of cooking fresh fish

Posted on: 17 April 2013 by Gareth Hargreaves

Including fish in your diet can be good for your health and add delicious variety to your meals

preparing fish basicsIn case you haven't heard, including fish in your diet can be good for your health and add delicious variety to your meals. Fish is lower in saturated fat than meat and poultry, and contains omega-3 fatty acids - "good" fats that are believed to have many health benefits. Research by the American Institute for Cancer Research suggests that eating fish regularly may slow or prevent cancer growth. Other studies have shown that fish can help protect against heart disease and relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. And to top it off, fish is easy to prepare.

Starting fresh

To make sure that fish is at its peak flavour, start with a fresh catch. A long-since-fresh fish can still look good in the case, so ask to smell before you buy. Fish should have a fresh, mild odour, not a "fishy" smell. Fresh fish will also be firm to the touch and "spring back" into place.

Cooking Methods

Once you have a fresh fillet or steak, there are many simple, delicious ways to prepare it. Here are some of the basic cooking methods. In general, the cooking time for fish is 10 minutes for every inch of thickness. Start checking for doneness halfway through the suggested cooking time in your recipe by inserting the tines of a fork into the thickest part of the fish and lifting up to make sure that fish is opaque.


  • Good for: lean fish such as sole or flounder
  • Cooking time: approximately 12 to 15 minutes

Cook fish in a preheated oven at 400 degrees until just tender.


  • Good for: all types of fish
  • Cooking time: approximately 5 to 10 minutes

In a covered skillet, simmer just enough liquid (broth, water, lemon juice or white wine) to cover the top of the fish. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then carefully place the fish in skillet. Let the liquid return to a simmer before you start the cooking time.


  • Best for: thick, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, about one inch thick
  • Cooking time: approximately 10 to 15 minutes

Marinate fish or brush fish with a little olive oil before and during cooking. If grilling, set an oiled grill rack about six inches from the heat. Try to minimize the time fish is exposed to smoke and direct flame, and don't cook fish directly over the coals. You can also grill fish on a piece of foil that is punched with holes.


  • Good for: most types of fish
  • Cooking time: approximately 3 minutes

Place fish in a microwave-safe dish and cover with waxed paper. To avoid overcooking, check every 30 seconds to one minute when cooking thicker varieties of fish.

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