How to cook Fish and Seafood

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Even confident cooks get nervous about cooking fish. They shouldn't; it's really very simple. Rather than following recipes to the letter, view them as a starting point. The important first step is to start with great quality ingredients, choose the freshest fish and go for those species that are in season. The Fish for Thought team would be glad to advise you on what is in season and at its prime. Once you've selected the type of fish, you need to decide what to do with them as what works for oily fish like mackerel doesn't always work for delicate fish like Dover sole. Here is a rough guide to the various methods for cooking fish.


Not just for sausages. Great fun in the summer months, the charcoal lends the fish a hint of smokiness. Works best with firm-fleshed fish, juicy fish steaks and oily fish. Avoid cooking delicate flaky fish on the bbq as it can fall apart when trying to turn it over during cooking. However it is possible to cook this type of fish on a bbq if wrapped in a foil pouch "en papillote", see our recipe section for more ideas for summer outdoor eating.

Try: mackerel, tuna, salmon, sardines, whole sea bream, half shell scallops

How to bbq fish


This healthy method stops fish drying out as the heat is moist and indirect. It's very good for whole fish, but check your pan's large enough first! It is possible to add flavours during steaming by placing the fish over some herbs, slices of lemon, fennel etc. Steaming shellfish in a liquid that you then use as a base for a sauce means you can steam using wine, beer or fish stock, which adds a wonderful flavour to a dish.

Try: whole sea bass, sole, plaice, haddock, mussels, cockles, clams

How to steam fish


The heat of a hot oven can dry out more delicate fish so keep a close eye on the timing. Drizzling with oil or brushing with butter helps protect the fish from drying out. Firm-fleshed white fish work well and whole oily fish can produce great results. This is a practical method when cooking for larger numbers as you can prepare and tray up the fish in advance.

Try: cod, herring, halibut, salmon, hake, monkfish

How to bake or roast fish


Perfect for flat fish. The fierce direct heat is so quick, thinner fillets won't need turning. Brushing with oil and butter can help fish stay moist. Try putting fish like monkfish, scallops or prawns on skewers, brush with a marinade or a sauce and grill for a few minutes either side. Just make sure the grill is pre-heated and you keep a close eye on it as it cooks.

Try: dover sole, lemon sole, mackerel, sardines, monkfish, scallops, skate wings

How to grill fish


This is a good way of keeping more delicate white fish that don't have much natural fat of their own, nice and moist. You can also add ingredients and flavours to the pan as it cooks then use the juices as a base for a sauce to go with the fish. It is also possible to start a cooking using this method and then finish off in a hot oven, just make sure the handle of the pan can take the heat of the oven.

Try: sole, whiting, megrim, black bream, hake, red mullet, cod

How to pan fry fish


Take a cue from the Great British chippy and deep-fry white fish. Batter and breadcrumbs protect the fish from the heat, so it gently steams inside. By substituting the liquid in you standard batter recipe for beer, lemonade or ginger beer you can create fish batters with distinctive flavours. You can't beat fish and chips served with cider vinegar, sea salt and a large wedge of lemon.

Try: cod, haddock, pollack, whiting, plaice

How to deep fry fish


This refers to cooking fish in liquid at a very low heat. Particularly suitable for whole fish and white-fleshed fish, it results in delicate moist fish. Just make sure you have plenty of aromatics in the poaching liquor, try added herbs, wine, onion, garlic etc.

Try: salmon, haddock, plaice, trout, sole

How to poach fish