If you love to fish, you would know that cooking means that you will be making various other small decisions. Should you choose cultured or wild fish? Do you have to buy them frozen or fresh? Should you fillet them or cut them whole?
These are among the questions that you’ll likely have to answer right at the supermarket or wet market. When you reach home, you’ll be faced with even more decisions to make. Do you fry or boil the fish? How do you deal with the lean fish and the fatty type? This article aims to answer these questions.
Fresh Vs. Frozen
Fresh is usually better, but the perishable nature of fish sometimes makes their frozen counterparts better. Imagine how many days it would have taken for fish to travel from the boats they were into the market, which is why some buyers would prefer buying frozen fish.
However, you also need to decipher the freezing process used on the fish. Since fish is composed of 70% water, the longer the freezing process is, the bigger their ice crystals grow, piercing through the fish’s cells.
So when the time comes that you have to thaw and cook the frozen fish, the damaged cells would cause it to shrink and dry up quickly. Make sure to look for flash-frozen fish because this method reduces shrinkage, kills germs and parasites, and preserves the fish’s moisture even after thawing and cooking them.
Fish with thick and fatty flesh is better frozen than fish with delicate flesh. Lean fish also tend to release sulfur and fishy ammonia aromas after getting thawed from being frozen. It usually gets a spongy and dry texture after thawing.
Thawing is best done using a sealed bag submerged in water with ice or slowly doing it inside the refrigerator. Some even suggest cooking frozen fish without thawing them. Rinse them to get rid of the ice and dry them with paper towels before cooking them.
Fillet Vs. Whole; Skin Taken On Or Off
Cooking fish whole is better than filleting them. Exposed fish flesh has low collagen content, making them less rich to the taste, but their bones and skin have plenty of collagen to make up for this. So, cook fish with its bone and skin to cover its lean flesh with lots of collagen. Fishbone is low in heat conduction so it prevents your fish from getting overcooked and the skin stops it from losing moisture.
Cooking Fatty And Lean Fish
Fatty fish is best cooked using dry-heat cooking, such as baking, grilling, sautéing, and broiling, These methods are perfect because this type of fish has high collagen content that keeps them moist.
However, don’t poach them because doing so will let them lose their natural flavours. This applies to herring, mackerel and bluefish, for instance, but not for salmon, which has astaxanthin that releases aroma the same way flowers and fruits do when moist or dry heated.
Lean fish can get overcooked using dry-heat methods because they get quickly dried up. So, cook them by steaming or poaching them. Pan-fry or grill them whole as well.
Cooking Wild Vs. Farmed Fish
Wild fish cooks faster than their cultured counterparts because of their wider coverage when swimming helped develop their bones and muscles. Farmed fish, on the other hand, are usually fatty, making them cook slower because fat is a slow conductor of heat.
It would be best to whip out the thermometer to get the right cooking temp for your fish. Cook the fish until it reaches 125°F for medium-rare, 130°F for medium, 140°F for medium-well, and 150°F for well done. Cook salmon and tuna to medium-rare. On the other hand, prepare sea bass and cod medium or medium-well.
Cooking With Crispy Fish Skin
Remove moisture from your fish as much as possible to keep the skin brown and crisp. Fish skin is high in protein collagen, which turns gelatin when exposed to moisture.
To get rid of fish skin moisture, leave the fish fillets on a plate without a cover in the refrigerator with the skin side up. For whole fish, put it on a baking sheet then place it on a rack to expose all sides to air.
Before that, you can even apply salt all over the skin to facilitate the air-drying process. When cooking, set the stove on high heat to remove moisture right away. Don’t add any form of liquid, too. If you follow these, you will get fish with crispy skin.