Fish is a popular main dish, but for many, how to cook fish remains a mystery. Fish can be cooked by baking, frying, grilling, poaching and steaming. To avoid a fishy taste when purchasing fish, either whole or fillet, look for fresh or flash frozen. The Food Safety and Inspection Service of the USDA recommends that all fish be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degree Fahrenheit in order to ensure it is safe to eat.
Fish should be baked on a rack in a shallow pan to allow the fat to drip away from the fish. The oven should be set to no lower than 350 degrees and the fish should be cooked until the flesh has lost the look of translucency and can be easily flaked with a fork. For 1-inch thick fillets, they will need to bake 10 to 15 minutes to reach 145 degrees internally.
Sunfish and fish fillets can be cooked by pan frying or deep frying. The key to either method is having hot oil and thin fillets or sunfish. Fillets should be less than 1/2 inch in thickness. Fry the fish in the hot oil, over medium high heat, turning when brown. Fish should cook in two to three minutes per side.
Fish should be grilled over indirect heat for a six to seven minutes per side for a 1-inch thick fillet. After the initial six to seven minutes, test the fish with a meat thermometer for doneness. If necessary, grill another two to three minutes to reach 145 degree.
Poaching fish can be done on the stove top or in the oven. The poaching method is cooking just below the boiling point of 212 degrees at sea level. Place the fish in the poaching liquid, water, juice, wine or milk, cover and cook for approximately eight to 10 minutes for fillets or 15 to 20 minutes for whole fish. Test for doneness using a meat thermometer.
To steam fish, the fillets are laid in a single layer in a steaming basket or tray and cooked above boiling liquid. To reach the proper cooked internal temperature, fish will need to steam, covered tightly, for 10 to 15 minutes depending on the size of the fish.