7 Cooking Mistakes That Are Wrecking Your Fish

Fish too dry, too tough, or otherwise not what you'd hoped? Here's where you went wrong.

March 17, 2017
fish cooking mistakes
dima sikorsky/shutterstock

You know you should be eating more fish, because just about every piece of nutritional advice out there says so. And yet, every time you splurge on a beautiful filet, something goes wrong in the kitchen. 

First it was too soggy. Then it was unpleasantly dry. And then it fell apart in the pan. (So much for presentation!)

Sure, it could be some faulty fish. But more likely, it's you. Cooking fish is quick and easy—but it's delicate, so it's also surprisingly easy to screw up. Here's where you might be going wrong, plus how to treat your fillets with the TLC they need to taste delicious. 

bones
1/7 atsushi hirao/shutterstock
You didn't check for bones

Surprise! Even fish labeled as boneless still sometimes have tiny bones. And getting one caught in your throat is a surefire way to ruin your dinner. Before doing anything else to prep your fish, use your fingers to feel for any rogue bones (sorry, a visual check isn't always thorough enough). If you find any, pull them out with tweezers. (Confused about how to buy the best-for-you fish? You won't be after reading this.)

salt
2/7 mooredesigns/shutterstock
You put too much salt in your marinade

Salt is essential for flavoring your fish, but it's also really good at breaking down protein and drawing out moisture. Let your fillet sit in a too-salty marinade, and it'll likely end up mushy and dry instead of firm and moist. Instead, add just a pinch of salt to the marinade, and add the rest of the seasoning right before putting the fish in the pan. (Lower your blood pressure naturally with these 13 power foods.)

pat dry
3/7 greg brave/shutterstock
You didn't pat the fish dry

Want your fish to have a crisp, golden crust? Of course you do. If the surface of your fillet is wet, it'll steam—rather than sear—in the pan. So do yourself a favor and pat your fillet dry with a kitchen towel before you cook it. 

(Slash your cholesterol, burn stubborn belly fat, solve your insomnia, and more—naturally!—with Rodale's Eat For Extraordinary Health & Healing!)

hot pan
4/7 africa studio/shutterstock
You didn't get the pan hot enough

The whole reason you decided to make fish for dinner was because it cooks so fast. But you've got to be patient and let that pan get good and hot (the oil should be shimmering but not smoking) before you start cooking. A too-cool pan won't just cause your fish to cook unevenly—it'll probably cause it to stick. (Find out the 4 grossest things you didn't know about your fish.)

cook skin
5/7 side hlphoto/shutterstock
You didn't cook the skin side first

Starting the fish skin-side-up doesn't seem like it should matter that much. But it does—a lot. The first side of your fillet tends to cook longer than the second side, and the thick, fatty skin helps protect the delicate flesh. Don't actually want to eat the skin? That's fine. You can peel it off after the fish is cooked. 

messing
6/7 adisa/shutterstock
You kept messing with it while it cooked

There's no need to keep flipping or prodding at your fish while it sears. In fact, trying to flip a fillet before the bottom side is cooked will only make it stick and tear. Let the first side cook until it releases evenly, flip it once until the second side does the same, and then stop. 

cooked too long
7/7 marcel bakker/shutterstock
You cooked the fish for too long

Overcooking is the most common mistake most people make when they cook fish. It's also the worst, since fish that's left in the pan too long turns tough, dry, and tasteless. Cook times vary for different types of fish, but in general, you want to stay in the range of 3 to 5 minutes per side. (Here's the tastiest way to cook your fish.)

When in doubt? Just use a meat thermometer. Take the fish off the heat when it reaches an internal temperature of 140°F in the thickest part of the flesh. Then let it rest until it reaches 145°F, which is the USDA's recommended minimum internal temperature. 

The article 7 Cooking Mistakes That Are Wrecking Your Fish originally appeared on Prevention.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Comments