6 Simple, Delicious Ways to Cook Fish

The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of fish each week. This is because fish is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids while being low in saturated fat. Eating fish can also help you meet your body's vitamin D requirements.

Fish can be prepared in a way that lets it maintain its innate nutrition benefits. It is also a versatile protein with many potential preparation methods. Here are our six favorite ways to prepare and serve fish.

Choosing Which Fish to Cook

Each type of fish offers its own nutritional value. For example, salmon contains vitamin A, vitamin D, and a few of the B vitamins. If you eat tuna, you'll give your body more calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and a few additional nutrients.

Both of these options are also among the top fish for omega-3 fatty acids, as are herring, halibut, and sardines. Eating a variety of fish helps your body meet more of its nutritional needs.

That said, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that small children and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding avoid fish that is high in mercury. This is because mercury can negatively impact the fetus or young child's brain and nervous system.

1

Baking

Fillet of Salmon
Morten Falch Sortland / Getty Images

Baking may help preserve some of the fish's nutrients, such as its omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Although, it does take longer than other cooking methods; maybe 15 to 20 minutes of total cooking time.

This simple method of cooking fish requires only seasoning for fattier fish such as salmon and tuna. But you may want to add liquid or fat for leaner white fish. This helps for both the taste and so it doesn't dry out.

Fish is cooked when it flakes easily and turns white or opaque instead of having a raw, translucent appearance. When it is fully cooked, its internal temperature should be around 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

2

Grilling

Grilled fish on a salad
Michael Krinke/Getty Images

Fish is great for the grill because it cooks fast without becoming dry. Just be sure the grates are non-stick or coated with oil. Grilling works best with whole fish but a thick steak works well, too.

The more delicate filets can be grilled in foil packets. Remember that fish cooks quickly on the grill. Once the flesh is flaky, it's ready to be served.

Broiling is a similar way of cooking fish, it's just done in an oven versus on the grill and the heat source is above instead of below the fish.

3

Sautéeing

Sauteed fish on a plate with spinach and orange slices
alle12/Getty Images

Sautéing, or pan frying is another speedy way to cook fish without the added fat that typically comes with deep frying. It's best for white fish and you can add a little butter or oil to the pan if necessary. Use a medium heat.

This is also a good way to get the flavor of deep fried fish but with fewer calories if you are watching your calorie intake. Using a light coating of crumbs or flour instead of a thick batter can reduce the fat and calories as well.

4

Poaching

poached white fish on a plate with herbs and asparagus tips
Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

Poaching involves cooking something in a liquid that is barely simmering on the stove. You can use water, broth, or wine to poach fish. (Steaming is a similar method.)

It won't take long to poach your fish—only about 10 minutes. Best of all, poaching doesn't add any extra fat or calories if you're watching either, and the result is delicious and tender.

5

In a Soup

Fish shoup in a bowl
Philippe Desnerck/Getty Images

Soups, stews, and chowders are all fun ways to enjoy fish, and a good reason to use your slow cooker. If you're looking for lower-calorie soups or prefer not to eat dairy, choose fish soups and chowders made with clear broth.

You can serve fish soup as an appetizer or just add a green salad and a whole grain roll and you've got a meal.

6

Using Pre-Cooked Fish

Tuna

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Canned fish is an easy, convenient way to add protein and other nutrients to salads, sandwiches, and more. Both tuna and salmon are available in cans and pouches, making them perfect for a quick lunch or dinner.

Sardines and anchovies are also available in cans. They're great served as appetizers with whole-grain crackers. Canned, pre-cooked fish can be used in a variety of main dish recipes as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

What oil is good for cooking fish?

If you are pan frying or sautéing your fish, choose an oil with a high smoke point, such as canola, grapeseed, or avocado. Play around with different options to see how they each affect the taste of the fish. You might find that you prefer one over another.

What are some ways to cook fish for people who don't like fish?

Cooking fish with a slice or two of lemon or bit of dill can help make it more pleasing to the taste buds. Also, white fish doesn't taste as strongly as some other types of fish, so stick with cod, tilapia, grouper, and flounder if you want a lighter, less fishy taste.

What is the healthiest way to cook fish?

If you're watching your fat intake, choose cooking methods that don't involve the use of added oils (or require minimum oil). If your goal is to preserve the fish's nutrients, it appears that baking is the way to go.

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Article Sources
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  1. American Heart Association. Fish and omega-3 fatty acids. Reviewed Mar 23, 2017.

  2. van Schoor N, Lips P. Vitamin D (fourth edition). 2018. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-809963-6.00059-6

  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Questions & answers from the FDA/EPA advice about eating fish for women who are or might become pregnant, breastfeeding mothers, and young children. Updated Jul 02, 2019.

  4. Schneedorferova I, Tomcala A, Valterova I. Effect of heat treatment on the n-3/n-6 ratio and content of polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish tissues. Food Chem. 2015176:205-11. doi:10.1016/j.foodchem.2014.12.058

  5. Szlinder-Richert J, Malesa-Ciecwierz M. Effect of household cooking methods on nutritional value of cod and salmon-twin fillet approach. Carpathian J Food Sci Tech. 2018;10(5):142-57.

Additional Reading
  • American Heart Association. "Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids."