A Guide For How To Cook Fish Like a Pro March 3, 2018
Getting perfectly cooked fish is a lot easier than you think. The key? Knowing the basics. After that, all you need is a little bit of practice to cook deliciously simple seafood recipes like a pro.
Remember the old saying, there are a lot of fish in the sea? Well, in fact, there are over 32,000 species of fish and seafood. Consumers have an enormous variety of locally sourced and imported seafood to choose from, including both wild and farmed. And while everyone has their personal favorites, there is no question that shrimp, salmon, tilapia, and scallops are some of the most popular for the recipe developers in the HelloFresh test kitchen.
Here are some helpful tips, techniques, and recipes to help you learn how to cook fish and make a big splash the next time you serve seafood.
General Storing, Prepping, and Cooking Dos and Dont’s
- Always keep fish/seafood refrigerated until ready to cook.
- Rinse the fish/seafood thoroughly and pat it dry with paper towels before cooking.
- Rest fish for a few minutes before serving. This allows the juices time to redistribute.
- Invest in a flexible fish spatula to make turning the fish and removing it from the pan easier.
- Thaw at room temperature or with hot water — this is how bacteria grows! Instead, thaw for 2-4 hours in the fridge. If you forget to thaw, keep it in a re-sealable plastic bag and place in a bowl filled with very cold water. Filets should thaw in as little as 30-40 minutes.
- Over-season or marinate for too long — this can “cook” it like ceviche or cured fish, and once cooked the texture can be mushy. Instead, season with dry spices, salt, and herbs just before cooking to prevent drawing out the moisture and breaking down the texture.
- Don’t overcook! Err on the side of caution and remember that just like meat, fish and seafood will continue to cook even after you remove it from the heat source. It’s a lot easier to add a minute or two if it’s a little underdone, but once overcooked, you can’t fix it.
All About Shrimp
How to grill shrimp
Preheat the grill (outdoor or indoor) to high. Be sure to brush the grill grates or pan with oil to prevent sticking. Pat the shrimp dry (this is true even if they’re marinated — drain or pat off any excess moisture) and grill 2-4 minutes per side depending on size.
TIP: To prevent shrimp from falling between the grates, skewer them or use a grill basket.
How to broil/roast shrimp
High heat works best for evenly cooking shrimp in the oven while locking in moisture. Preheat oven to 425 – 450ºF or to broil. Toss shrimp with oil and season with desired spices. If marinated, pat dry with paper towels. Place shrimp in a single layer on a baking sheet or broiling pan with space between them — you don’t want to over-crowd. Roast until pink and opaque, about 6-7 minutes.
For broiling, place on top rack and broil until pink and opaque, about 3 minutes per side.
How to pan sear shrimp
Pat the shrimp dry all over with paper towels. Heat oil and/or butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Tilt the pan to evenly coat the bottom. Add shrimp to the hot pan, making sure not to overcrowd (otherwise, they’ll steam instead of sear). Cook until pink and opaque, about 2-3 minutes per side (depending on size). Alternatively, stir fry, turning occasionally, about 5-7 minutes.
TIP: To check if your pan is hot enough before searing, add one shrimp. If it sizzles on contact, you’re good to go.
How do you know when they’re done?
Shrimp is perfect when you’re in need of a quick meal. Depending on the size, they cook in as little as 2-7 minutes.
Most raw shrimp start off a little flabby, translucent, and/or gray. When done, they’re opaque and turn a pearly pink. If the tails are still on, they’ll turn bright orange/reddish in color.
If they’re frozen, simply place in a colander and run under very cold water for about 5 minutes.
Recipe: Crispy Chipotle Shrimp Tacos with Cabbage Slaw and Radishes (on the menu the week of March 24 – March 30)
All About Salmon
How to bake salmon
The dry heat of baking works best with salmon fillets. The key to success is to watch the time carefully so the fish stays moist and doesn’t dry out.
How to grill salmon
First things first, always remember to oil the grill grates thoroughly to prevent sticking. Grill skin side down.
TIP: Foil packs and grilling baskets are good ways to prevent salmon from falling apart when it’s being moved. Also, look for cedar planks, which add great flavor and prevent the fish from sticking to the grates.
How to pan sear salmon
Carefully dry the salmon on both sides. Make sure you preheat the pan and use enough oil and/or butter. Cook them skin side down most of the way through. Flip and cook a couple more minutes. This will help to insulate the flesh from the direct heat of the pan and prevent sticking. Press the fish down with a spatula as soon as it hits the pan to keep the skin flat (and deliciously crispy).
TIP: We’re big fans of using a combo of oil and butter to help bring out the salmon’s buttery flavor.
How do you know when it’s done?
A good rule of thumb is for every half-inch of salmon, bake 4-6 minutes. 4 minutes is best for those who prefer it on the more rare side, and 6 will thoroughly cook it. Fish should still be slightly translucent and pink in the center. Although it’s totally harmless, when you start to see white gunk seeping out of salmon, you’ve probably overcooked it. But don’t worry, it’s just the protein (aka albumin) coagulating, so don’t panic. Try to avoid overcooking so this does not happen. Salmon’s ideal internal temperature range is 125-140ºF depending on desired doneness.
Recipe: Wasabi Zinger Salmon over Jasmine Rice and Green Beans (on the menu the week of March 17 – March 23)
All About Tilapia
How to bake/broil tilapia
Baking tilapia is fast and makes for easy clean up.
A higher heat works best, so preheat the oven to 400-450ºF. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Place the fish in a single layer on a greased, shallow baking pan. Brush fish with olive oil or melted butter and season with desired spices. Cook until white and the flesh can be flaked easily with a fork, about 7-10 minutes. No need to flip.
How to pan sear tilapia
To avoid splatter, make sure the fish is dry before adding to the pan. If it’s coated with crumbs or flour, shake off any excess before searing. Make sure the pan is very hot and that you have enough oil and/or butter to prevent sticking.
Heat oil and/or butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the fish, making sure not to crowd the pan. Fry until golden, about 2-4 minutes per side.
TIP: To make sure the oil is hot enough, add a few breadcrumbs. If they sizzle on contact, you’re good to go.
How do you know when it’s done?
How long to cook tilapia depends on size, but a good guideline to keep in mind is 7-10 minutes for every 1/2 pound piece depending on thickness.
Recipe: Tilapia with Scallion Sriracha Pesto over Ginger Jasmine Rice with Green Beans (on the menu the week of March 3 – March 9)
All About Scallops
How to broil scallops
High heat in general works best for scallops, so if you’re not pan searing, try broiling for a golden and crisp outer surface. Pat dry with paper towels and place them in a single layer on a lightly greased broiling or sheet pan. Brush with olive oil and/or melted butter and season with desired spices. Broil until golden brown, about 2-4 minutes. Turn and continue to broil until golden brown, about 2-4 more minutes.
How to pan sear scallops
Pat scallops dry before adding to avoid splattering. If they’re coated with crumbs or flour, shake off any excess before adding to the pan. Make sure the pan is very hot and that you have enough oil and/or butter to prevent sticking.
Heat oil and/or butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Place scallops in the pan in a single layer; again, don’t overcrowd. Cook until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. Don’t try to force it when flipping — if the scallops don’t release easily, just let them cook for another few seconds until they do.
TIP: Same deal here about testing to make sure the oil is hot enough. Add a few breadcrumbs and listen closely. If they sizzle on contact, you’re good to go.
How do you know when they’re done?
Depending on their size, scallops should take 5-8 minutes no matter which way you prepare them. They should look opaque all the way through and feel slightly firm to the touch. You don’t want to overcook scallops; otherwise, they become tough and rubbery.
A few more scallop tips
Before cooking, look for a little strip of tough muscle on the side of the scallop and remove it. That is where the meat was stuck to the shell. Gently pull it off with your finger. If you don’t pull off the muscle, don’t worry! It is safe to eat, but your scallops will be a little tougher.
Recipe: Scallops Over Truffled Mushroom Risotto with a Brown Butter Herb Sauce (on the menu the week of March 17 – March 23)
Finishing fish/seafood tips
- Fish and citrus pair perfectly, so try to save a couple wedges of lemon or lime to squeeze over the top before serving for a bright, fresh flavor.
- While most fish and seafood can be stored after cooking in a sealed container for 1-2 days, eating it right away is your best bet.
Learn more about HelloFresh’s responsible fish/seafood sourcing practices in partnership with Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch and keep an eye out for more deliciously simple seafood recipes on upcoming menus.