How to Cook Your Fish
Cooking, like all art forms, takes time and patience to master. Lucky for all of us, seafood is one of the easiest proteins to cook. Many of us were raised to think it’s overly complicated, but it’s actually not when you start with the highest quality seafood. Follow along with our guide and choose your desired cooking method. Why not mix it up and try something new? You’ll probably surprise yourself! Good luck and bon appétit!
Table of Contents
- Getting Started
- Thawing Techniques
- Preparing to Cook
- The Benefits of a Brine
- How to Know When Fish is Done Cooking
- Cooking Techniques
- Pan-Fried Crispy Skin Salmon
- Notes on Salmon
- Pin-Bone Removal
- Salmon Skin
- Notes on Shellfish
- Shelling Spot Shrimp (Spot Prawns)
- Shelling Crab Legs
- Simple Shellfish Stock
- Additional Species Notes
- Know Your Fish
Fish should be removed from the vacuum-sealed package and thawed in the refrigerator for about 8 hours, depending on the thickness of your fillet. Never microwave your fish or allow it to sit out at room temperature to thaw as both methods can affect the texture.
Although fish can technically be cooked from frozen, it’s not recommended because sudden temperature changes can negatively affect the texture, leaving it soggy.
To quick-thaw your fish, keep fish in the package, but cut off the top to create an opening. Place package with fish inside and open side up in a bowl with cool water, making sure water does not enter into the bag.
Preparing to Cook
Begin by removing the fillets from the packaging and bringing them to room temperature, which will allow the fish to cook more evenly.
Rinse fish in cold water, then pat dry.
Buy a fish spatula. It’s not 100% necessary, but it’s 100% wonderful!
The Benefits of a Brine
To help enhance flavor and maintain moisture, try a brine before cooking fish. James Beard-nominated chef Eric Harcey recommends these two wet brine techniques for leaner fish or we’ve added a quicker dry brine for fish with a high fat content like king salmon:
- Quick 6% brine - Dissolve 5 tablespoons Kosher or coarse salt per 2 quarts of water. Soak fish in brine for a maximum of 12 minutes. Thoroughly dry with paper towels. Cook fish as directed for the recipe.
- Gentle 4.7% brine - If you have time, try this gentle brine - where fish can soak anywhere between 5 and 12 hours. Add 2 tablespoons Kosher or coarse salt and 3 tablespoons white sugar per quart of water. Remove fish from brine and thoroughly dry with paper towels. Cook fish as directed for the recipe.
- Dry brine - Pat the fillet dry and season with 1 tablespoon salt and ½ teaspoon sugar. Let rest 10 minutes. Rinse off salt and sugar and pat dry once again. Cook fish as directed for the recipe.
How to Know When Fish is Done Cooking
Salmon is best when cooked to medium rare and begins to flake. Fish will continue cooking after it’s removed from heat so it’s best to take it off when it reaches about 120°F.
Flaky whitefish like cod should be removed from heat when it reaches an internal temperature of 135°F while meatier whitefish like halibut should be removed at 130°F to avoid moisture loss. Fish will continue to cook after it’s removed from heat. Whitefish will turn from translucent to opaque when cooked through.
Sablefish, otherwise known as black cod, is high in omega-3 fatty acids and therefore needs to be cooked thoroughly in order to achieve the velvety texture it’s known for. Sablefish is best cooked at high heat until it is caramelized and flakes a bit on the flesh side.
Due to our careful handling process, Sitka Salmon Shares seafood is sashimi-grade so it is safe to eat raw or lightly seared. Go Under! The beauty of a great piece of fish is lost when it’s over-cooked so cook it less. Remove from heat before you think it’s done and it might just end up being cooked perfectly.
Heat a skillet over high heat and add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Season fish with desired spices then add to the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and sear for 3 minutes. Flip the fish and continue to cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes.
Pan-Fried Crispy Skin Salmon
Heat pan over medium-high until it’s very hot. Season fish with desired spices. Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan, then add fish skin-side down. Allow the fish to cook on this side until it’s almost done. When you see the sides of the fillet turn opaque, turn off the heat and flip your fish. Allow it to rest in the pan for a minute or two to finish cooking.
For deep-fried fish, begin by removing any excess moisture from your fillet with a paper towel. Add enough oil to a pot so that the fish can be fully submerged, then heat to between 350°F and 375°F. Vegetable oil, canola oil, or any oil with a high smoke point will work. Dip fish into whisked egg, then panko crumbs (or a favorite batter recipe), shaking off any excess, then carefully lower into oil. Fry until golden brown, about 2-4 minutes. This same method can be used for spot shrimp, but with slightly less cooking time.
For shallow fried fish, begin by dipping fish in a binding liquid like egg or buttermilk, then coat with panko or favorite breading recipe. Add enough oil to a pan so that it will cover ⅓ to ½ of your fillet. When oil is hot add fish to the pan. Cook until the breading is golden brown, about 2-4 minutes per side.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Season fish with desired spices then place on a well-oiled baking dish. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the fish becomes firm and opaque. A good rule of thumb is 10 minutes of cooking time per inch of fish.
Turn on broiler to high. Season fish with desired spices then place on a well-oiled baking dish, skin side down (if applicable). Broil for 5-8 minutes until fish flakes.
Try cooking at a lower temperature of 300°F for 20-30 minutes until fish flakes.
Firm, meatier fish like salmon, lingcod, and halibut are great for grilling. Preheat the grill to between 375°F and 400°F. Coat fillets in a high heat oil like canola and season with desired spices. Place fish, skin-side down if applicable. Allow fish to cook most of the way through on one side to promote a nice char and to ensure the fish releases from the grill without breaking, about 3-5 minutes. Flip your fish and continue cooking an additional minute or two. You can also slow the cooking down and add some wood chips or chunks to enhance the flavor of the fish and prevent moisture loss.
Alternatively, fish can be grilled using a cedar plank that has been soaked in salted water for 2 hours. Heat grill to medium-high and place plank on grates, away from heat. Cover and grill for 20-30 minutes or until cooked through.
Bring poaching liquid to a boil. If you use water as your liquid, be sure to flavor it with aromatics like herbs, garlic, spices, or fresh citrus. Alternatively, try poaching in broth, white wine, butter or any other flavorful liquid. It’s important to add enough salt to the cooking liquid to maintain flavor, about 1 tablespoon per quart. Once liquid is boiling, reduce to a simmer and add fish. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, depending on the fillet size . For most effective poaching, make sure liquid covers at least ⅔ of the fillet.
Fun Tip! If you poach fish in olive oil, you can reuse the oil again. Simply store it in the fridge after use. The oil will not retain any aromatics from poaching.
Poach & broil: If a crisper top to a moist fillet is preferred, use the power of water and fire by finishing your poached fish in the broiler. Check out our Wild at Home video for tips on how to perfect these techniques.
Steam-Braising: Another great technique that involves cooking your fish in a shallow layer of braising liquid to achieve a perfectly tender, flaky fillet. Check out our Wild at Home video for more on steam-braising.
Curing fish goes back to days before refrigeration, preserving the fish with salt and spices. Sugar and aromatics, or even alcohols (like gin or aquavit) can be added in the curing process to flavor the fish. There are many curing methods including salting, pickling and smoking; we give you the tools for salt and acid curing to get you started on your adventures in preservation.
Salt cure: Our own Wild at Home explores one way of curing salmon: gravadlax. Dry cures often mix salt, sugar, and other aromatics to draw out moisture from the fish and add flavor. Dill is a traditional aromatic but clove, coriander, and lemon zest can help bridge the gap between using only salmon and exploring oily whitefish like sablefish. Wet cures, called brines, can reach up to 8-10% salt (see Getting Started section above).
Acid cure: Ceviche is a Latin American method for raw fish marinated and cured in citrus juice, typically lime and orange juice. The acid in the citrus denatures the proteins in the fish, effectively ‘cooking’ it in the process and resulting in opaque fish with a firm texture. Check out this episode of Wild at Home to learn more about the ancient art of ceviche.
All of our fish are sashimi-grade and make a great choice for creating sushi at home. Watch this Wild at Home episode to learn all about the ins and outs of maki and nigiri sushi.
Notes on Salmon
Notes on Shellfish
Shelling Crab Legs
- Steam or boil crab legs for about 5 minutes until heated through then allow them to cool until they are an appropriate temperature to handle.
- Break crab shells using a wooden mallet, a nut-cracker, the back of a knife blade, your forefingers and thumb, or a wooden spoon.
- Gently remove meat from shells. Note that there is plenty of good meat in the knuckles, where the legs attach to the body.
- Find additional crab recipes here and be sure to save your shells to make a stock (recipe below).
Simple Shellfish Stock
For an easy shellfish stock, sauté onion, celery, and carrots along with shells until vegetables are softened. Add garlic and any other aromatics such as parsley, thyme, or bay leaves. Sauté 1-2 minutes. Add some tomato paste, white wine, water, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, then simmer for 1 hour. Finish by straining the broth. Stock can be stored in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Additional Species Notes
Join Our Community Supported Fishery
We are always improving our website, so return often for more recipes and cooking tips. If you're in need of high quality seafood, you can also support our fishermen and our mission by enrolling in our community supported fishery (CSF). Feel free to follow the link below to view our share options.