Choosing and cooking fish
You want to eat more fish, in keeping with the latest dietary guidelines. But you don't know where to start. Don't worry — choosing and cooking fish isn't difficult.
To begin with, only buy fish that is refrigerated or properly iced. Fresh fish should smell fresh and mild, not fishy, sour or ammonia-like. Whole fish and fillets should have firm, shiny flesh and bright red gills free from slime.
When buying frozen fish, avoid packages placed above the frost line or top of the freezer case. If the package is transparent, look for signs of frost or ice crystals. These could mean the fish has been stored a long time or thawed and refrozen — in which case, choose another package.
Poaching is a healthy and easy way to cook tender fish, such as the salmon shown here. In a shallow pan, place the fish on a bed of aromatic ingredients, such as leeks or fresh herbs, and add a few ounces of flavorful liquid, such as vegetable broth. Cover loosely and gently simmer on the stove. Cook four to six minutes. Poaching time will vary with the amount of fish being poached and the thickness.
How to tell when fish is done
Fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 F. But if you don't have a food thermometer, you can determine whether fish is properly cooked by slipping the point of a sharp knife into the flesh and pulling it aside. The flesh should be opaque and separate easily, as in this photograph of poached cod.
Cooking in parchment
It's easy and delicious to cook fish fillets in packets of parchment paper, a technique called en papillote. The fish is cooked by the trapped steam. If you don't have parchment paper, use aluminum foil to make the packets. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes at 400 F.
Baking not frying
Baking is a healthier alternative to frying. You can bread and bake any fish this way, but tilapia is a good choice because it's thin and cooks quickly in a hot oven, producing a crispy crust. For the breading, use whole-wheat breadcrumbs, cornflakes or panko, as shown here.