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Tips on fish

January 23, 2012

A blogger friend of mine, Imported Kiwi asked me for some tips on fish in general so here we go, I hope they come in handy!

Although books  and books of info could be written on each of the following sub titles, here are just a  few and by no means endless pointers to go by..

London Borough fish market

Buying fish

Where you can, buy local, fresh, line caught fish as this is without doubt the most environmental and sustainable means of purchasing fish and also the best for eating purposes too. I’m a great believer in you get what you pay for (for most things in life at least) and the same most definately goes for food too. This is the most expensive way to buy fish but well worth it for all the above reasons.

Selecting your fish

When selecting your fish

“Buy in season”- check with your local fish monger/fisherman/internet on what is best at what time of year for your local area. Certain fish are available “out of season”  however will not be at their best for eating, or if they are roeing, best not to support the catching of fish when full of roe as after all, they are the future fish they are carrying… also the roe = weight = extra cost to you the buyer.

Flesh should be firm, eyes should be bright and clear and prominent from the head. Gills should be bright red in appearance. If sea caught, the fish should smell of the sea and not “fishy”. I get transported back to the seaside when inhaling the smell of a fresh fish, takes me back to my childhood living and playing by the beach and parents fish and chip shop.. happy days.. 🙂

Prepping fish


Without writing a book on this with step by step photos for each category of fish, my main point here which I have told many a Chef in my kitchens.. a filleted fish means boneless and the eating expectation is not to get a bone stuck in the roof of your mouth or worse stuck in your throat.. so take the time and care to check once filleted that all bones are removed.. same goes for fish scales too

Pan fried

Cooking fish

Pan frying – This is my personal favourite method of fish cookery and eating.. the crispness of the skin adds another dimension to the eating pleasure in my opinion. Ensure the fish is dry before cooking. season lightly with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice on the flesh side. using ideally a non stick pan, heat to smoking point. Add oil then carefully place the fish skin side down in the pan, pressing with a spatula/fish slice so the entire surface of the skin is in touch with the pan, maximising the crispness of the skin’s surface. Control the heat so it maintains heat without burning the skin. Resist the urge to shake the pan or move the fish until you can see a nice golden colour at the base of the fillet by the skin (usually approx 2 mins or so) then with a clean, dry fish slice, turn over and continue to cook flesh side down. If your fillet is skinless, process same technique but place the fillet down on the presentation side first (the opposite side of the fish to where the skin was)

For all fish cookery excluding shellfish, but including pan frying, grilling, steaming, baking, poaching, I was taught and still cook to the same degree today, to cook the fish to 4/5’s or 80% of the way through. the fish will continue cooking from the plate to the table and during you eating it and the eating texture in my opinion for this cooking technique is at its best at this point. you can check this by inserting a toothpick or fine metal skewer into the flesh and it should withdraw from the flesh easily. Place on your lower lip and it should be warm to hot, approx 55=60c core temp. There are other methods of cooking at lower temps of 39c which deserves a post all on it’s own about this technique. Maybe another time for that one 😉

Happy cooking all!

"herdy gurdy.. herdy gurdy..!"

  1. Nice post here 🙂 Will definitely try the toothpick trick! I grow up in Taiwan with abundance of seafood. The selection in NZ is really limited in comparison… Really miss the seafood market there! The vendors actually keep the fish alive in circulating sea water by the seaside until you decides to buy. (They go out by boat overnight, and the amount they keep on shore usually get sold out by the end of the day.) Then they scale and gut it for you with great efficiency! I love fish roe though (and being Asian I guess we eat a lot more variety). Sole is in season in NZ right now and a lot of time I’d get ones with roe attached from my vendor these days 🙂

    • Your markets back in Taiwan remind me when I visited Hong Kong and saw the fish markets there.. never seen anything like it in Europe but a great way to sell the fish for maximum freshness!
      fish roe is eaten in Europe too, its quite nice dusted in flour and pan fried but I guess as far as the price is concerned, its one of those things that when you can pay up to £30 p/kg for sole, do you really want to pay that for the roe too? A beautiful fish though, my Fathers favourite. makes a great fish mouse with any trimmings you may have too 🙂

  2. Geez, that’s expensive for sole! I get mine from the fish mongers for <NZ$20/kg! And since roe is expensive in Taiwan, I'm usually really happy if I get roe with my fish 😉 (No one sells just fresh roe here except for salmon…)

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