Cooking methods

Cooking methods

Fish fall into several categories, each suiting particular cooking methods. The light white-fleshed fish, such as bream, flounder, whiting, john dory, mulloway and ling are all best suited to frying or gentle baking. The darker, oiler fish with a strong flavour, including kingfish, mullet, tuna, gem fish and tailor, are better grilled, poached or braised.

Fresh fish flesh is reasonably translucent, becoming opaque or whitish when cooked. At this stage the flesh will flake along the muscle and cooking fishrelease a clear juice. Once cooked the fish should be served immediately. remember, the flesh will continue to cook a little when removed from the heat, so always serve fish firm and juicy, not firm and dry.

The following cooking methods are suggestions only. It is up to the individual palate. Why not experience; you will discover that most fish can be cooked by any method. Just remember, it takes great chefs and even greater recipes to make something out of a second-rate fish. Really fresh fish only needs a simple recipe.


Frying fish can be carried out by either of two methods: panfrying, also known as shallow frying, and deep-frying, which is the style used in fish and chip shops. Both frying techniques are suited to most fish species. However, in panfrying, the fish only needs a light dusting of flour before being placed gently into the hot cooking agent. In the case of deep-frying, the fish needs to be coated in batter or breadcrumbs to benefit from the oil saturation.


This is a method of cooking where the fish is either placed on a grill over a fire or placed under a griller. In the latter case, the heat source is above the food, and the heat is generally very severe. It is an ideal cooking method for people requiring a diet with no added fat. Alternatively, grilling can be done on a barbecue. Generally, the severe form of heat of the barbecue is ideal for all fish. Delicate-fleshed fish benefit from a little basting with butter or oil. Darker, fattier types of fish grill well without added fats, but a squeeze of lemon and some greater peppercorns will enhance the flavour.

When grilling fish, care must be taken not to overcook or dry out the fish and constant attention and basting with a little oil or butter will help. Leaving the skin on can also protect the flesh from drying out too quickly.


This is one of the simplest ways to cook a whole fish, particularly a large specimen. The fish should be buttered on the outside, laid on a baking tray with a little liquid in the bottom, and moist baked.


Thi is not a commonly used cooking method but it is suited to delicate-fleshed fish. In poaching, the cooking liquid is generally water, with an onion, bay-leaf and clove added. The water should only just simmer. Poaching is a great way to cook a whole fish, which can be served hot or cold. Served with a sauce, it is ideal for lunch.


This is the easiest way of cooking without the addition of any fats. The fish are laid out on a rack over water that must be boiled to maintain a constant temperature above 100degrees Celsius. Bamboo steamers are ideal or a colander sitting over a saucepan of water will do. A tight-fitting lid is required or enough aluminium foil to seal in the steam. This method of cooking is quite quick, and a fillet only takes a few minutes.


Braising is a cooking method generally done in a large pot or casserole dish with a lid, or a baking tray, which is later covered with foil. The fish should be placed in the casserole, on a bed of vegetables, and barely covered with fish stock or wine, covered with a lid, and slowly simmered in the oven or over a very gentle heat on a stove, or on the hot coals of an open fire. In the over, most fish will require slow cooking for at least 1 hour. This method of cooking is best for fish that will improve with the addition of the subtle flavours of vegetables and wine.

Shakespeare Navigator Spinning Combo

Sharespeare Navigator Spinning Combo

The bed of vegetables is often referred to as a mirepoix, and comprises coarsely chopped vegetables and herbs cooked in butter. Shark and nannygai lend themselves to braised dishes with tomato and fennel. Large mulloway and eel can also be braised.


There are two forms of smoking: hot smoke and cold smoke. Recent research has shown that cold smoking can form perfect conditions for the incubation of harmful bacteria. Hot smoking, however, is safe. This method was first employed to preserve fish, but the flavours imparted by the wood and smoke make fish cooked this way worth trying.


This is another form of preserving fish, but is also a way of imparting additional flavours to the flesh of what might normally be a fairly bland-tasting fish. You can use either a liquid marinade (a mixture of oil, acid – vinegar, wine or citrus juice – and spices), in which the fish will soak for several hours prior to cooking, or a dry marinade, made up of salts, sugar and spices. The dry marinade mix is sprinkled heavily over the fish flesh, which needs to be trend regularly over a period of 48 hours. The result will be a fish ready for eating, which has required no cooking. The Cajun style of marinating uses chilli, cumin and coriander, before cooking the fish over a very high heat. The “blackened” result is attractive and particularly flavoursome.

Soups, stocks, patties and pies

Good stock is made from good bones and fish offcuts, which must always be fresh. Pies and patties can be made from fresh uncooked fish pieces or from cooked leftovers. By adding herbs and spices, and eggs and flour, you can make crumbed patties or pastry-topped pies, all great hot or cold for picnics or that next fishing trip.


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  1. Hello there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group?
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    • Thanks for reaching out. I’d really appreciate you sharing some of my posts from time to time.

  2. Went to northern Pa retned a cabin, fished and relaxed all weekend. My little girl hauled in bluegills, catfish, several nice smallmouth (about 14 inches), rockbass, and other assorted fish. Everything we hooked we gave her to reel in, plus she caught a bunch on her own. I almost stepped on a huge Copperhead lying in the water, damn thing got away. I hate snakes.

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