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Healthy Ways to Cook Fish

Are you intimidated by cooking fish? Not sure how to make sure it’s healthy and tasty? You’re not alone.

Raw salmon
Photo by Caroline Attwood on Unsplash

I hear it alllll the time. “I know eating fish is healthy, but I don’t make it because I don't know how to make it right."

I was there once, too.

But once you see how quick and easy it is, you’ll wonder how you thought cooking fish was harder than chicken. (Chicken, by the way, is one thing I find intimidating to cook…and so labor intensive. All the fat-trimming, counter/sink Cloroxing and overcooking because I’m scared I’ll poison my family with salmonella…just too much for me.)

Let me remind you just how and why fish should star as your entrée at least two nights per week. With only 100-200 calories per serving, seafood is considered a low-calorie, high-protein food source. Seafood is also low in total fat and saturated fat. Even the fattiest fish have no more than 15% total fat. Most cuts of fish are also low in cholesterol (a little less than chicken and beef - shellfish is the exception).

And a large portion of that fat – oh, here’s the good part – is that heart-loving’ polyunsaturated, omega-3 fatty acid fat. Yup, the good stuff that decreases your risk of heart disease by making your platelets less sticks and improving your cholesterol numbers. Those omega-3s also help brain and vision development in infants. See more about all the good and bad about nutrition and fish here.

The fish with the most omega-3s are: salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines.

Did you know fish also has B vitamins, vitamin D and vitamin A? Also, zinc, selenium, iron and iodine. Lots of good stuff.

So, what are some easy ways to cook fish?

Sautéing Fish

The fact that it takes barely 10 minutes to bang out a healthy weeknight dinner should be an automatic selling point here. You can flop a white fish or salmon filet on a non-stick pan and have dinner in a few minutes. A cast iron skillet will get you a slightly crispy touch (which I do like), but you’ll need a little grease for the pan. Try a little olive oil and / or butter.

The key to perfect sautéed fish: don’t crowd the pan and don’t mess with it.

Cook on medium, skin side down. The fat under the skin starts to melt and moisten the whole piece while the outer layer gets crunchy. Flip at the last few minutes for a little crunch on the outside and moist yumminess inside. Cook 5-7 minutes for 5 ounces of fish on the skin side (or until almost completely cooked) then flip it over for another minute or so.

Poaching Fish

A method that often gets overlooked, this can be an easy way to cook fish. It produces moist fish, but takes a little longer than other methods. In a pot, boil water/stock/wine with some herbs. Then reduce heat so the water is barely simmering. Then, lower the fish into your simmering liquid and poach until it’s cooked through until it’s opaque.


So easy! For pieces of fish (like fillets and steaks; not a whole fish), arrange in a single layer on a greased baking pan.

Lean white fish: dries out easily, so add a liquid over the fish and in the pan. Use water, wine, lemon juice, orange juice or stock. You can also brush it with a little olive oil or melted butter. Sprinkle with a little salt/pepper, if you’d like. You can also add herbs in the oven or after, as well as onions, tomatoes or other vegetables.

OR bake lean fish in foil. This creates some nice steam so your fish stays moist and clean-up is a cinch. You can add liquid/seasonings inside the foil pouch or grease the base of the foil before placing fish in it.

OR protect fish by coating it in flour or breadcrumbs before baking.

Fattier fish (like salmon, herring, mackerel): do not require extra liquid or fat, but you can always add some. Bake uncovered. Season with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Bake at 350 degrees F until fish is no longer translucent. (Allow 6-9 minutes per ½ pound of fish.) or until an instant read thermometer reaches 125 degrees F.

Grilling Fish

Warm a grill, then place fish skin side down diagonally on the grill. On medium heat, cook for 2-4 minutes until skin is crispy. If you can lift the fish off the grill with tongs, then you can flip. (Otherwise, don’t mess with it – fish is delicate and easily falls apart.) Then close the lid and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Frying fish, by the way, decreases the amount of omega-3 fatty acids. So, eating fried fish doesn’t provide you with a battered version of heart healthy fats. Sorry.

What are some of your favorite ways to cook fish?

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