When we’re cooking fish, it can often go one of two ways: it’ll be perfectly moist and flaky, or become drier than a summer’s drought. Are we the only ones who get nervous to even try cooking fish because of that? And even if you don’t, wouldn’t you like to know what a chef does to nail that moist cook every time?
Spencer Watts, chef and host of Fish the Dish (Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. ET on Gusto), gave us some insight on how to not just do a good job cooking fish, but also how to never be afraid to cook fish again.
1. Use a fattier fish
If you’ve been given the curse of always drying out your fish (no judgement, we have that issue too), then there’s one simple thing you can try doing: use a fattier fish.
“If you do get in a situation where you slightly overcook it,… there’s a little bit of fat to help you,” said Watts. “They’ll keep the moisture in the entire time.”
Plus, a fattier fish means that there’s just more to love. It’s a win-win in our books.
2. The thicker, the better
Your thin cuts of fish are drying out every damn time you try to cook them, and that’s okay. First, you need to accept the fact that thin cuts of fish cook very, very quickly (we’re talking two or three minutes tops in a pan). So if you still can’t seem to get it right, just start buying thicker cuts of meat.
Watts explained how your fish will have more time to cook, which will make it harder to dry out quickly.
3. Keep the heat on low
If you’ve already been using thicker cuts of fish and still manage to dry them out, don’t give up hope just yet. There’s one more trick you can do to improve. Cooking your fish on a lower heat for a longer time will make it a lot easier to get that perfectly cooked fish.
So instead of slapping it on the grill or in a pan on high heat (while trying–and failing–to get a sear), just put it on low and let it sit. You’ll also have time to go do other things, and come back to a fully-cooked fish. Just remember to put on a timer.
4. Stay away from bony fish
Watts explained that “Any of the cods have a lot of bones in them… [while] a fillet of salmon and a fillet of halibut have virtually no bones.”
So if you tend to steer clear of fish because of the choking hazard, you may want to reconsider. If you buy the right cut, odds are you won’t end up with any bones whatsoever.
6. Defrosting is key
For all you chefs and fellow home cooks, always make sure your fish is completely defrosted. We can accurately predict that you’ll end up with a dried out piece of fish if you pop it into the oven frozen.
“I like a dry piece of fish that’s at about room temperature,” said Watts. “That way the centre is not ice cold, and the outside’s overcooked and the middle’s still cooked.” So don’t go drying out your fish, just make sure it’s not covered in water after defrosting.
7. Use a tester piece
You don’t really need to destroy your fish to see if it’s cooked or raw. Believe it or not, there is a better way to check. Watts recommends using an extra, small piece of fish to break open and test, instead of destroying your own meal.