Most cooks strive for the kind of crisp texture on their fish that gives that satisfying crunch when you bite into it. But you don't have to automatically reach for the frying pan every time you want to prepare fish. You can crisp fish just as easily in the oven if you combine high heat, oil and a shallow baking dish using a technique that mimics pan-frying. Both freshwater and ocean perch stand up to the heat needed for oven-frying, and usually fit just right in a medium-sized baking pan, whether you're preparing a whole fish or fillets.
Things You'll Need
- Whole perch, scaled, cleaned and head off
- Shallow baking dish
- Paper towels
- Fresh herbs and lemon slices (optional)
- Toasted breadcrumbs or panko (optional)
- Meat thermometer (optional)
Place a shallow dish containing about 1/4 inch of oil in the oven and heat it to 450 degrees Fahrenheit about 30 minutes before you plan to cook the perch. It usually takes 25 to 30 minutes for an oven to reach 450 F.
Remove the perch or perch fillets from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before cooking and let the fish reach room temperature on a plate.
Pat the perch dry with paper towels and season it to taste. If you have a whole perch, season inside the cavity, and fill it with fresh herb sprigs and lemon slices, if desired. Lemon slices create steam during cooking and help the interior stay moist.
Season perch fillets on all sides.
Coat the perch liberally with oil. Oil helps the skin crisp on whole fish and helps toast and crisp the flesh on fillets.
Dredge the perch in toasted breadcrumbs or panko, if desired. Although perch will crisp with oil alone, quality breadcrumbs or panko breadcrumbs give it extra crunch and a satisfying texture.
Open the oven and place the perch in the hot baking dish. Roast for about 8 to 12 minutes if cooking a whole perch that weighs under 2 pounds, 15 to 18 minutes for a 3- to 5-pound perch and about 20 minutes for 5 pounds or more. Cook fillets between 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the perch over halfway through cooking to let the oil that pools around the bottom fry the other side.
Remove the perch and check its internal temperature if you're not sure if it's done. Insert the thermometer in the cavity of a whole perch and through the side and into the middle of fillets. Fully cooked fish measure 145 F.
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