Growing up in a small town by the riverside meant making memories of fishing with my dad on Sunday evenings. Sitting side by side, our legs dangling in the water and fishing rods submerged in the river, we would observe the dusky horizon and setting sun in all its glory. While my dad eagerly anticipated trouts and carps, I would secretly hope that a shark would show up. Morbid, I know!
As I grew into a teenager and then an adult with little time for fishing, one thing that I was well-versed in was the art of cooking fish. Years passed, watching my parents try different recipes from grandmother's archaic cookbooks or some TV shows in the kitchen and add new seasonings they discovered in the local market. Getting to observe them and or taste the outcomes first hand unintentionally instilled some remarkable tips about cooking fish. Though I barely go fishing now, I often handpick fish varieties from the fishmongers or order them from a reliable delivery service to relive the childhood days.
When you experiment, there is an entire range of things that can go wrong, especially with fish, since it is so delicate. My parents cooked up some disasters in the kitchen, and so did I! Nevertheless, I have assimilated some great ways of minimizing the mistakes and achieving your desirable taste.
You will find below the list of most common mistakes that you are prone to making while cooking fish and how to avoid them!
Seen-zoning the Bones
Suppose your nutritious fish is finally ready, and you are eating it while watching television on the couch with your family. An engaging contest is going on in the show; you are about to exclaim when a small fishbone pickles your throat-you can picture the horror!
It often ends up happening even if you buy boneless fish. It is because some bones are too deep inside the meat and challenging to pick by hand. What if I informed you there is a way to avoid this horror by weeding out the tiny culprits even before cooking?
Trust me; pliers are lifesavers! Using them would make your experience much safer, and the best part is that they require no hefty costs and are available at home. To avoid this looming horror of the shade, take out a couple of minutes to pick out any bones from your fillet using tweezers before you marinate, bake, or cook it.
Over seasoning the Fish
Ever wondered why your fish is too dry, and you have trouble swallowing it without a gulp of wine? The felon is the salt that you added with spices and herbs while marinating. I get it-it's vital, and nobody wants to eat a flavorless dish. However, fish is specifically salt-sensitive, making it liable to drastic changes in the flavor if you overdo seasonings like salt. It is because salt speeds up the breakdown of proteins in fish and draws the moisture, causing the skin to be too flaky and the center too firm. So, make sure you adhere to the recipe for seasoning during the cooking of fish.
Overcooking Your Fish
Many people prefer fish due to the brief time it takes for cooking. You can pan-sear sablefish in a couple of minutes, serve with maple, or bake sockeye salmon with garlic and butter. While the period is efficient, it can make it tricky for you to assess when to turn off the heat. Following a useful guide is the most effective way to go about it, mainly because the margin of error of overcooking is small in the case of fish.
The signs of overcooking that you should keep an eye out for include opaqueness in the flesh and crispy outer layer. These make the flesh firm and chewy instead of tender and juicy. To avoid it, you can braise the fish by searing it at a low flame before dipping it in the liquid and cooking.
Flipping too Much
The urge to flip sides every few minutes while your fish is on the grill or in the pan is almost irresistible. After all, what harm can some harmless poking do, right?
Quite wrong. This incredibly common mistake is often the reason behind the fragmented flesh and skin of the fish. Unlike other meats, fish requires extra care in dealing with it as it is very delicate. Flipping or disturbing it with cooking tools recklessly can not only fragment it but also hinder an even distribution of flavor. As a result, you encounter a fish too salty at one end and too crusty at the other. Some of its skin may stay stuck to the pan.
To avoid this tragic end to your beloved fish, make sure you use rubber spatulas. You can slide them underneath the fish and then flip. One tip to remember is the golden ten-minute rule that says only flip an inch of the fish after ten minutes have elapsed. It would help you make more consistent and textured fish.
Taking Off the Skin
Often, people peel off fish’s skin before cooking or even marinading or storing it due to misconceptions. It takes away the protective layer between the pan and the fish’s flesh, leaving it vulnerable to direct heat that runs the risk of overcooking and inflicts damage to the texture. It is also complicated to flip or move the fish once the skin is gone because it has tough proteins and acts as glue for the flesh.
A better way of going about is by making sure you cook the skin side first, as it will protect the soft, raw flesh before it handles the heat. Once you have cooked the fish accordingly, the skin is flaky, and you can easily peel it off if you would like to.
These were some mistakes that you should avoid for the experience of a tender and juicy fish. I accumulated these over the years of watching my parents cook and then doing it myself. For the record, that shark (thankfully) never showed up!