Simple to cook and easy to season, fish fillets are a good source of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids. They are also versatile, adapting well to a variety of cooking methods. Whatever cooking method you choose, aim for a target internal temperature of 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and 120 F for dense-fleshed fish, such as tuna and salmon. Experiment with herbs and seasonings to create spectacular fish dishes that will wow your friends and family.
The 10-Minute Rule
A general rule of thumb in the culinary world is to cook fish fillets for a total of 10 minutes for each inch of thickness, measuring the fish at its thickest point. Turn the fillet one time during the cooking process unless it is 1/2-inch thick or less, in which case you do not need to turn it at all. When cooking stuffed or rolled fillets, measure the thickness after rolling or stuffing. Check fillets for doneness by measuring the internal temperature with a quick-read thermometer, or make a small incision so that you can see whether the fish has gone from translucent to opaque.
On the Grill
Most fish fillets, especially grouper, halibut, salmon, swordfish, mahi mahi and tuna, cook particularly well with the dry-heat, high-temperature grilling and broiling methods of cooking. Place more delicate fish, such as flounder or sole, on an enclosed wire rack so that it does not fall apart when you turn it. Before you start grilling, clean and oil the grill grates and season the fish. Cook fillets roughly 5 inches from the heat source -- whether grilling or broiling -- to ensure that they cook through without burning. For a tropical-inspired taste, baste the fish with a mixture of freshly squeezed lime juice, grated fresh ginger and honey several times throughout the cooking process.
Plain, stuffed or rolled fillets are well-suited for gentle oven baking, which cooks through the use of hot air rather than direct heat. When baking a plain fillet of a lean fish variety, such as tilapia, cod, flounder, sole and haddock, add some liquid to the pan before cooking. A touch of citrus juice, white wine or oil keeps the fillet from drying out, as will stuffing or rolling the fillet before baking. Fillings that pair beautifully with delicate fish fillets include a seafood stuffing made with crab or shrimp, mayonnaise, bread crumbs, mustard and other seasonings, or a healthy spinach stuffing made with spinach, basil, garlic and a touch of tomato sauce.
Give Them a Fry
Saute fish fillets in a little bit of oil in a hot pan to give it a crispy exterior and soft, flaky interior. Depending on the thickness of the fillet, this cooking method takes only take a few minutes on each side. For a British-inspired treat, dip your fillet in batter and deep-fry it at 350 F until cooked through. Serve the fillet with a side of fries and either tartar sauce or vinegar to give the fish a little kick.
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