Fish and seafood are absolutely delicious when done right — and absolutely disgusting when prepared incorrectly. We all know eating more of the fruits of the sea is great for our health, but too often we get caught up in the fear of messing up what can sometimes be a pricey dinner option. The key to making fish and seafood part of your weekly meal repertoire is knowing how to avoid the most common blunders we’ve all made when preparing fish at home. What kind of fish should we buy? Where is the best place to get it? Arm yourself with a little bit of fish-cooking knowledge, and you’ll be confident buying and cooking delicious fish options any day of the week.
Buying bad fish
The most dire part of preparing and cooking delicious fish and seafood lies in buying the best quality fish you can. Unfortunately, there is a lot of questionable fish flooding the marketplace. Fish that’s been blatantly mislabeled, fish that’s endangered, fish that’s been injected with fillers, fish that’s dangerously high in mercury. Find a fishmonger in your area you can trust, who runs a shop that has an oceany, briny smell, but not offensively “fishy.” Ask questions. Where is the fish from? Is it wild? What’s freshest today? If buying a whole fish, look for eyes that are bright and clear. Fresh fish will have a light scent, but not a strong odor. Once you’ve made your selection, arm yourself with a plan for the proper method of cooking the fish you chose.
So you’ve come home from the store after buying the freshest fish you could possibly find…now what? Ideally, you would cook your fish that very day, keeping it as cold as possible until you’re ready to prep and cook it. My fishmonger wraps my fish in plastic, and places it in an additional plastic bag filled with ice. If I plan to cook with it that day, I leave it in the fridge this way until I am ready for it. Unlike colder commercial fridges, home refrigerators only get down to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, which is not a cold enough temperature to keep your fish at its peak of freshness for multiple days. If you won’t be cooking your fish for a day or two, wrap the fish in plastic or parchment paper, and set on a bowl of ice in your fridge. You never want to set cut fish fillets or steaks directly in a bowl of ice water, as the excessive moisture will break down the fish. The idea is to keep it very cold, and a bit moist, but never completely wet.
You’ve already made the incredibly smart decision to enjoy some heart and brain healthy wild salmon, so don’t ruin your plan by cooking it incorrectly. For starters, whether you prefer to eat the skin or not, make sure to leave it on during the cooking process.