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How to cook fish

September 03, 1997


Staff Writer

Are you casting about for something different for dinner? How about fish?

It's a nutritious choice - rich in vitamins, minerals and easily digested protein. Fish is generally low in fat, and research confirms that the polyunsaturated fatty acids found almost exclusively in fish and shellfish can reduce the risk of heart attack.

Concerned about safety?

All seafood should be thoroughly cooked, according to Lynn F. Little, an extension educator, family and consumer sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Maryland.

Eating raw or undercooked shellfish can be a serious problem for people with liver diseases, diabetes mellitus, immune or gastrointestinal disorders.


Food and Drug Administration is primarily responsible for the regulation of fish and seafood, but consumers need to take care by practicing good sanitation and cooking fish sufficiently.

The rule of thumb for cooking fish is 10 minutes per inch, according to Little.

Food and Drug Administration recommends turning the fish halfway through the cooking time unless it is less than a half inch thick. Add 5 minutes to the cooking time if the fish is wrapped in foil or cooked in a sauce. Properly cooked fish should be opaque and firm. It will flake easily with a fork.

Chuck Anderson, director of seafood for Giant Food Stores Inc. which operates Martin's Food Markets in Maryland, recommends broiling at the highest setting, baking at 400 degrees and grilling four to six inches from medium coals. A long-handled hinged wire holder works well. Anderson recommends spraying it with a light coating of cooking spray so the fish doesn't stick.

Versatile food

Fish is versatile. It can be pan fried, oven fried or deep fried, although other cooking methods are more healthful, Little says.

U.S. Department of Commerce, National Marine Fisheries Service recommends moistening fish with a melted fat, an oil or sauce before and during baking, broiling and grilling. The service also offers these cooking suggestions:

  • Planking is baking fish on an oiled plank or board that has been warmed in the oven. Arrange fish on plank, brush with fat and bake in a moderate oven until the fish flakes easily.
  • Poaching is cooking in a simmering liquid. Place a single layer of fish in a wide, shallow pan. Barely cover it with a liquid such as salted water or milk. Bring liquid to a boil, reduce heat and simmer.
  • To steam, place fish on a rack to prevent it from touching the water in a steam cooker or deep pan with tight cover. The water may be plain or seasoned with herbs, spices or wine.
  • When cooking fish in a microwave oven, use a shallow dish covered with plastic wrap with one corner turned back for ventilation. Arrange fillets in a dish with the thicker parts pointing outward and thinner parts, separated by pieces of plastic wrap, overlapping in the center of the dish.

Allow three minutes per pound of boneless fish cooked on high. Rotate dish halfway through cooking time.

Pecan Crusted Atlantic Salmon with Lemon Butter Sauce

salt and pepper, to taste

4 salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each

2 cups all-purpose flour, divided

1 cup ground pecans

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Sprinkle salt and pepper over each fish fillet.

Put flour in a medium mixing bowl. In another bowl, combine the pecans and the bread crumbs. Pour the buttermilk in a third bowl.

Dredge fish fillets first in the flour, then the buttermilk, and finally in pecan mixture. Gently shake off excess mixture.

Heat oil in a skillet over high heat. When oil is hot, add the fish and saute until golden, for about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from skillet and place on a baking sheet in the oven for approximately five minutes.

To serve, pour about 1/3 cup of Lemon Butter Sauce on each plate and place fillet on top.

Lemon Butter Sauce

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 lemon, squeezed

1 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper

Heat a medium saucepan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add heavy cream and bring to a boil.

Over low heat, whisk in butter a few pats at a time. When all of the butter has been added, remove from heat, but continue whisking.

Add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Strain sauce. Serve immediately.

Serves four.

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