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Please help me cook fish at home

I am usually a really good cook. My husband says most of my dishes are good restaurant quality. But I have never been able to cook fish very well. My husband hates salmon, and I don't like tilapia. Cod and catfish are good, and I'm willing to experiment with tuna steak. Do I need parchment paper to keep moisture in? I've always used foil, is that bad? Please help! Also, what can I do to minimize the smell after cooking?

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  1. I just cooked cod for the first time the other night. I think it was smtucker or cassoulady who recommended to put some evoo in a nonskillet and then add the fish. Cook maybe 2-3 minutes, turn it over, cook the same amount of time. GREAT. Made fish tacoe and then fish salad for sandwiches the next day. Terrific.

    1. I cook fish 1-2 times a week, sometimes more. Everything from tilapia, salmon, tuna, grouper, flounder, whiting, cos, you name it.

      First I'll ask what you don't like about tilapia? And what flavors do you like. I can give you many recipes. From just pan seared to a bit more unique.

      I grill with foil pouches, I do parchment pouches in the oven, I grill outside, inside, grill pan, cast iron, bake or just broil. Anything goes.

      Tell me a bit about what you would enjoy and I can easily help you. There are many great simple non work recipes that take minutes with no clean up.

      2 Replies
      1. re: kchurchill5

        I don't exactly remember what I didn't like about tilapia. It's been years since I had it. Maybe it just wasn't a good piece I had.

        1. re: starbucksbrew

          I was just curious many don't. It is very milk. Almost too mild for me, I enjoy the flavor or fish. It is very bland and does need a little flavor unlike some fresh grouper, Cod, flounder, snapper, etc.

          I enjoy all fish, doesn't matter but even frozen is ok but they all should have a fresh smell. Shouldn't smell like bad fish or too fishy. Not everyone can get fresh fish all the time, so frozen is ok at times.

          You have many good recipes. Enjoy, I eat fish so often I can't count. 3-4 times per week at times. But remember, it is also great in quesadillas, tacos, pitas, on top of salads, tuna especially in salads and in pasta. Many baked dishes over layers of fresh sliced potatoes and tomatoes with fresh herbs and even a light drizzle of a cheese sauce. For me I like it with as little other ingredients but I really not everyone does so there are great recipes out there.

          And for me if there is a smell in the house it is probably fried and you do get some oder but with a fan not much and if the fresh is fresh you shouldn't get hardly any.

      2. I rarely fry fresh fish in my home b/c t he lingering smell as well. Ventilate really well!

        I grill ahi, swordfish & Mahi Mahi after being marinated in olive oil, s&p, some lemon peel, maybe a dried spice blend, in the fridge for 2-3 hours. Top any of them with a fruit or tomato & olive salsa.

        We eat a lot of frozen cod since it's widely available here and it's already battered and fried. Easy to make crispy fish tacos or tostadas.

        I also found a great microwave sole recipe from Martha stewart that was tasty, super easy and didn't leave a lingering fish odor.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Phurstluv

          I remember now that recently Sam gave some instructions for MW fish. Myabe he'll remind us of what he does. I'm now all hot to trot to cook fish more after 10 days on Cape Cod :)

          1. re: c oliver

            c.o: Sam's recipe is in the link that Old Spice referenced below.....

            1. re: Gio

              Thanks, Gio. I want to try that.

        2. Whole fish or fillets? It'll make a difference.

          I cook game fish, usually striped bass, by scaling it, removing the head and dorsal fin, removing the inards, washing and rinsing it well, filling the cavity with a mixture of chopped garlic/butter/fresh rosemary sprigs, laying it in a baking dish with about a 1/4 inch depth of soy sauce and white wine, and baking it at 350 degrees for as long as it take for the flesh to flake easily.

          Fillets at our house are cooked in a variety of ways. One of our favorites is to brush the center portion of a piece of foil that's large enough to wrap the fish with veg. oil, place the fish on top of the oil, drizzle on enough lemon juice to lightly wet the piece of fish, cover the fish with chopped celery tops (including the leaves) and chopped onion mixed with a little S&P, the sprinkle oil over all of the ingredients on the foil and wrap the fish up nice and tight to seal it in. Those packages of fish go onto a rimmed cookie sheet and bake at 375 - 400 degrees for about 20 - 25 minutes. Be careful opening the packets; they're full of steam. Good idea to poke a few holes in the tops to let some of the steam out before opening.
          Oh, and open them on a plate. The juices will be abundant and you don't want a flood on your kitchen counter.
          A variation on this recipe is to use chopped garlic cloves (to taste) and oregano or basil and to use butter in place of the veg. oil.

          1. Along with what everyone else has mentioned, have heard that soaking a white fish in milk for a little while in the fridge (covered please!) helps remove a fishy smell.

            But really, the fish cooking best starts with the fish shopping - ideally you're finding a fish source so fresh that there's not really any fishy smell. There are some good vac-pac frozen fish filets out there also. (Frozen at sea.)

            1. I've linked to a similar thread below. And I'll say what I said then: Get a good fish cookery book, one that imparts techniques that you can learn and transfer, as well as recipes. Like you, I cooked very well, except for fish. Until my cooking pal gave me "Fish & Shellfish" by James Peterson. And I nailed fish. Other Chowhounds recommend different books. So, browse in your library or book store and check out the titles discussed. FYI, a feature you might like in the Peterson book is a listing of fish substitutes for most of the recipes. So, if you like the seasoning or sauce in a recipe, but not the fish, you'll find recommended substitutions.

              As for the odor, I don't know how to minimize it. I just figure it's the by-product of a delicious dinner, and it'll go away.


              1 Reply
              1. re: Old Spice

                The Peterson book is an excellent reference book with some lovely recipes, I agree. I also have the Fish Without a Doubt book and echo JoanN's comments about it in then link you provided, Old Spice. Here's the linlk to her response:

              2. Toss in a combo, or all, of the following in your parchment or foil wrap when baking or steaming fish:

                Sliced ginger
                Lemon wedges
                Green onions

                Another option, if it's available to you, is simply to grill or cook it outside on the 'Q.

                1. Cod or halibut, flounder, snapper, etc is great on the grill in a foil pouch. Add a little butter, a couple of lemon slices, salt and pepper, some fresh dill and a little parsley add a little white wine and close up the pouch. It comes out perfect. You can also add some sliced vegetables as well. Julienne strips of zucchini, carrots, summer squash, thin slices of onion, and even some mushrooms are great in the foil pouch as well.

                  You can do the same thing using parchment pouches in the oven.

                  Catfish I like either with a pecan crust and pan seared or a cornmeal coating also pan seared.

                  I also like cod pan seared and then finished in the oven, add some lemon, white wine and capers. Very plain but great flavor.

                  Cod with tomatoes, onions and capers. I make a tomato sauce using canned diced tomatoes, capers, thin sliced onions and black olives. Add the sauce to a baking dish and top with the cod fillets. Top each fillet with a lemon slice, s/p, fresh parsley. Bake until flaky

                  Tuna, I love to pan sear with sesame seeds and good black pepper.
                  You could also do a simple soy, ginger, lime, red pepper flakes and grill. Tuna also makes great kabobs with a spicy dipping sauce.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: kchurchill5

                    How long do you grill the foil pouches?

                    1. re: masha

                      Hard question sorry. For thinner fish, flounder snapper, tilapia, whiting, probably 10 may 12 tops. If adding extra veggies in the pouch maybe 15 tops. You can put some veggies underneath the fish and some on top to even out the cooking.

                      Thicker fish as is grouper, Cod, Halibut will take longer, about 20, again relative to the thickness and what else is in your pouch. 20 min as always worked for me with cod and a variety of veggies in the package. I don't flip, but I try to move over hot spots and cooler spots on the grill but the wine in the pouch adds a bit of a steam and ensures that the fish doesn't burn. I did have a very thick piece of cod once that I cooked with the veggies and took 25 almost 30 because it was soo thick. I should of cut it in half but didn't. It still turned out great. I roll the foil on the top so I can always remove unroll and check just in case. Remember when you take off, they continue to cook for a few minutes so take off ahead of time and let rest of few minutes

                      1. re: kchurchill5

                        Thanks, K. I've been in a rut with fish and this opens up some new preparations.

                        1. re: masha

                          The foil pouches are great on the rill, it is just always hard for a time because of thickness. I leave the top easy to pull aside and open to check but not long for thin fish. It is really great and easy.

                          Experiment with a little pesto spread on the fish or salsa or cheese, veggies, lemon and herbs, white wine or broth. Many options to make a great simple fish.

                          I do snapper with a little fresh salsa and then a little montery jack, just cook and then serve over polenta is so easy and quick, but many more sophisticated ways. White wine, spinach and goat cheese is great with grouper over wild rice. And you can go from there.

                          Enjoy. Try different combos. It is a great easy way for not just fish. Shrimp, although I preferred grilled, but this a great way to steam, even crab, salmon, swordfish. Clams, mussels I prefer in a broth but the pouches are great. Enjoy!

                          And FYI, don't forget this works for veggies and even potatoes as well.

                          Mushrooms, thyme, s/p, butter and sherry wine is great, wrap and bake. I often make my whole meal on the grill. Sliced fingerlings with butter and chives in foil. Sauteed mushrooms and tomatoes, then the fish. What could be easier. What I like is the amazing fresh flavors of fresh summer ingredients.

                          Have fun!

                  2. The easiest thing in the world is to get sole filets, or flounder filters ( they are very thin). Salt Pepper and dust them in flour. Add to a hot skillet with melted butter, cook about 1-2 min per side max. Serve with lemon, or you can make a little sauce with lemon juice, butter, parsley and capers. This is a spin on sole meuniere. I never seem to get sick of this.

                    1. There really is very little "fishy smell" if you are buying fresh, quality fish and not overcooking it.

                      Tuna steak wants very little cooking - just a minute or two extremely hot pan sear on each side. It's supposed to be very red/rare in the middle. If you cook it all the way through it'll taste like 8bad8 canned tuna...

                      Bread the fish by dredging in beaten egg and then panko breadcrumbs or corn meal.

                      You don't *need* parchment paper or foil to keep moisture in if you don't overcook the fish. Cook just until it flakes easily - not more than 5-8 minutes total unless you have inch-thick pieces. Cooking "en papilliote" is a good technique that is not restricted to fish, and not necessary for fish.

                      Pescado Cubano
                      2 good sized Catfish Filets or other white fish
                      1/2 cup green olives
                      3 Tbsp Capers
                      1/2 cup White Wine
                      1 Lemon juiced and zested
                      1 Onion chopped
                      1 stick Celery, chopped
                      2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
                      1/4 cup chopped Cilantro, or Parsley
                      Salt & Pepper to taste

                      Heat oven to 300. Put fish, and then everything else, in a covered casserole or 9x13 foil covered pan. Bake 30 minutes or until the fish flakes apart with a twist of a fork.

                      Catfish Courtbouillion
                      2 Catfish Filets
                      2 sticks Celery
                      1 Onion chopped
                      1 Green Bell Pepper, diced
                      2 Roma Tomatoes, chopped
                      Cajun/Creole Spice blend to taste
                      Chile Powder to taste

                      Saute the Trinity - celery, bell pepper & onion with the chile powder and a splash of oil, until the onion starts to turn translucent. Add the chopped tomato and stir. Lay the fish on top, dust with the Creole Spice, put the lid on the skillet and reduce the heat to med-low. Simmer for 15-29 minutes until fish flakes easily.

                      1. I love to make a tropical fruit salsa and serve it over pan fried flounder or grouper. I use a little red pepper in a simple dried bread crumb coating.

                        The salsa has mango, pineapple, avacado, jalapeno, red onion, cilantro (or parsley), lime juice.

                        This works with most any white fish.

                        1. if there is a fishy smell, it means the fish wasn't fresh to begin. no amount of seasoning or skill will disguise that.

                          most people overcook fish. remember, when you remove it from the heat source, it will continue to cook in the center, just like meat, so take it out of the pan or oven a bit before you "think" it's done. let it rest a few minutes before saucing and serving.

                          most salmon and catfish and virtually all tilapia in the markets are farmed. they tend to be softer in texture than their wild cousins and virtually devoid of flavor. the tilapia and catfish can sometimes even taste muddy because of the pellet diet they're fed. i avoid them all entirely.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            agreed, fresh fish smells like ocean air. if it makes your kitchen stink, find a new fish monger.

                          2. Grilled Wahoo
                            6 Wahoo Steaks about ½ inch thick
                            Good Olive Oil
                            S & P
                            Drizzle Olive Oil all over the Wahoo steak; sprinkle on some good kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper…both sides!

                            Pre-heat grill to med-high and place the steaks on the grill 5 to 6 minutes each side, it is a quick cooking fish and you do not want to overcook the Wahoo. Over cooked Wahoo is nasty! It should be tender and juicy. We have found that by only using olive oil, salt and pepper the flavor of the fish is not masked and the natural flavors are enhanced.

                            However...Gourmet It UP…
                            1tbsp of soy sauce
                            1 tbsp of sesame oil
                            1 tsp of fresh graded ginger
                            1 clove of pressed garlic

                            Mix well and pour over Wahoo, marinate for 30 minutes, grill and garnish with chopped green onions...grill as per above

                            Seared Wasabi Tuna

                            2) 2 inch Tuna steaks, either from your local fisherman or fish monger

                            Dust all over with wasabi power (found in nearly every grocery store)

                            Heat skillet med high and drizzle with Olive Oil, allow pan to get smokin’ hot, add tuna steak, turn after 1 to 2 minutes and allow other side to sear for 1 to 2 minutes, remove from heat to allow to cool, the tuna should still be rare inside. Once cooled slice the steaks against the grain and place on platter, serve with soy sauce and wasabi paste, garnish with toasted sesame seeds...Served with a nice seaweed cucumber salad

                            Black (Magic)‘ened Fish
                            4 to 6 fillets of white firm fish, snapper or grouper will do nicely
                            Drizzle fish with olive oil and then generously coat fish with blackening seasoning

                            Blackening Seasoning
                            1 Tbsp paprika
                            ½ Tsp smoked paprika
                            1 Tsp Dried Mustard
                            2 Tsp Kosher Salt
                            1 Tsp garlic powder
                            1 Tsp onion powder
                            1 Tsp cayenne pepper
                            2 Tsp black pepper
                            1 Tsp thyme
                            1/2 Tsp oregano

                            Heat skillet to med high (cast iron works well) drizzle with olive oil. Cook fish 3/5 minutes each side, depending on thickness…it may look burnt, but that is just the seasoning forming a nice spicy crust. Squeeze a little lemon on the fish and serve with a nice tossed salad and you have a low carb and healthy dinner.

                            Grilled Swordfish
                            4 cloves garlic, chopped finely or pressed
                            1/3 cup white wine
                            1/4 cup lemon juice
                            2 tablespoons soy sauce
                            2 tablespoons olive oil
                            Salt and pepper to taste
                            4 swordfish steaks
                            1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)
                            4 slices lemon, for garnish (optional)

                            In a glass baking dish, do not use metal it will react with the acid on the lemon, combine the garlic, white wine, lemon juice, soy sauce, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix just to blend. Place swordfish steaks into the marinade, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil the grate. Grill swordfish steaks for 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.

                            Citrus Swordfish Kabobs
                            2 lbs Fresh Bermuda Sword fish cut into 1 inch cubes marinate in Citrus Mix
                            You can add any fresh Veggie to the Kabob you like, I like red onions, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes, except the mushrooms I also place the veggies in the marinated. Allow to marinate for 30 minutes.

                            Juice of two oranges
                            Juice of two Limes
                            Juice of two Lemons
                            1/4 C Canola Oil
                            Pinch of salt and pepper to taste

                            Skewer the fish with rotating the veggies (if you want veggie) and grill over med heat while turning at least twice...About 10-12 minutes and they should be done. You do not want to overcook, the fish will become dry! If you are taking on a picnic, allow to cool a bit before packing. Don’t like Fish...it’s great with Chicken!

                            Gourmet IT UP! Serve with a tropical salsa …

                            Tantalizing Tropical Salsa
                            1/4 of a cantaloupe, small diced
                            1/4 of a mango, small diced
                            1/4 of a pineapple, small diced
                            6 cherries, minced (it’s what I had on hand, but you can sub with watermelon or strawberries)
                            1 jalapeño, minced
                            1 tbsp minced cilantro
                            1 tbsp tequila
                            Juice of 1/2 lime
                            S&P to taste

                            Mix well and serve with grilled swordfish…it’s a win win

                            1. Here are a few tips for cooking fish.

                              1. Always buy fresh fish, never frozen. Fresh fish is moist and smells less.
                              2. Fish cooks faster than beef or chicken. Cook on high to medium high to keep in the moisture. General rule of thumb is 5 minutes per side per 1 inch of thickness.
                              3. mild fish to try - halibut and dover sole. If you want to try tuna steaks, throw them on the bar-b-que or marinate with italian salad dressing for about an hour. I use bernsteins.
                              4. I have an outdoor gas grill with a side burner, I fry my fish on the side burner to keep the smell out of the house.
                              5. I do not bake my fish so I cannot address parchment vs foil. I fry, grill, steam or poach my fish. I also eat sashimi.
                              6. poaching with wine produces less smell in the house. Below is an simple red snapper poaching recipe. Don't forget to pull out the bones from the snapper before cooking.

                              Heat a TBS of onions with 2 TBS of butter. soften, Add 2 cups of white wine, TBS chopped parsley, bay leaf, TBS paparika, and salt. Heat for 8 minutes, add filets cook for about 5-8 minutes turn once if necessary. garnish with chopped parsley.

                              1. Thank you for all the ideas! I think next week I'll try a white fish baked with . . . I don't know yet, maybe tomatoes, onions, garlic, capers, butter, some herbs, and . . . can you substitute sherry for white wine with fish? I keep sherry on hand b/c it's so good with a lot of other things. What about with fish?

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: starbucksbrew

                                  I've read here that alot of people substitue white vermouth for white wine.

                                  1. re: c oliver

                                    i'm a big fan of dry vermouth and white fish. sherry is a bit too strong, and the vermouth is pretty shelf-stable once opened.

                                  2. re: starbucksbrew

                                    I found this recipe on Chow for roasted cod with tomatoes, white beans and white truffle oil:


                                    Haven't fixed it yet but it sounds great even without the truffle oil.

                                    1. re: starbucksbrew

                                      if you are referring to my recipe above I would not use sherry.

                                    2. Here is a simple no clean up recipe. This was developed one night when I made some boiled potatoes for a warm potato salad and went to get my frying pan realized they were all in my tupperware from a catering event that day. Well, I didn't want to bake or broil and it was raining so grilling was out so I decided to steam the fish. It was using Cod. I already decided I was making a very simple lemon, dill cream sauce to go with it.

                                      Well I pulled out a nice size piece of saran wrap and put a small pile of thawed frozen spinach in the center, added s/p too, then placed the fish on top, I then drizzled a little olive oil, s/p, a dash of paprika, lemon slice, dill and a teaspoon of butter. I wrapped up the fish like a package. I then place them on a collander over the medium boil water and covered it with a larger lid. I fit 3 fillets in the collander. 20 minutes later, fish was done and flaky. Unwrapped them and put them on the plate and topped with a little of the lemon cream. Just made enough for a light drizzle. I served roasted beets and my warm potato salad.

                                      Tender flaky and a different flavor from baking or frying. Just easy

                                      1. I pan fry/sautee fish most often. Dry the fish very well. Simply season with just S and P. I rub the fish with olive oil then season. Into a med/high to med pan to get good color on both sides. For some fish I will dry and coat in Wondra then add to a hot pan with olive oil.

                                        For a thick piece of fish I would brown on one side, flip and place into a hot oven. Can also just cover the pan but you will get some protein laden juice that coagulates when the lid is on. I might use marinades with salmon but for most white fish I keep it simple since the flavors are so delicate I don't want to cover them up. Salmon is very rich and can stand up to the marinades.

                                        1. Do yourself a favor and buy a copy of "Fish Without a Doubt" by Rick Moonen. I know Gio mentioned it and gave you a link that referred to it, but I think it worth mentioning again. I've been cooking fish since I was a child and my father taught me that if I wanted to go fishing with him I had to learn how to do everything from baiting the hook through cleaning and cooking the fish. After all these years, and with a pretty good library of books on and about fish, I thought I knew just about all I needed to know. And then I bought Moonen's book and haven't stopped proselytizing since. I learned great techniques from that book that I'd never heard of before and it's loaded with mostly very easy, very tasty recipes that work for weekday as well as company dinners. If you really want to learn to cook fish at home, check out Rick's book. I promise you won't be disappointed.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            I second Joan's recommendation for Fish Without a Doubt, and will also throw in Mark Bittman's FISH. Besides the techniques and tips, these books will provide more recipes than you can ever use, from the easiest to the most elegant.

                                            1. re: JoanN

                                              Thanks! I just put it in my Amazon cart for next time I order.

                                            2. Catfish, the fish-haters' delight since a) it doesn't taste fishy and b) it has no bones if you buy the filet and c) it has no disgusting scales. I pre-heat the oven to 425*. Cover cookie sheet with foil and squirt with PAM. Give the catfish filets a squirt with PAM also then roll them very well in commercial bread crumbs, which could be seasoned to taste. Lay filets on cookie sheet, tucking any thin parts under the thick parts so they won't dry out. Bake in pre-heated oven 20-30 minutes depending on size of fish---crumbs should be brown. Finished product should be crunchy around the edges sort of like fried fish. Because catfish is bland and sweet, this is very good with a sauce with pizazz, either a fresh salsa (in which case we have it with black beans and rice) or a sweet-and-sour pineapple sauce (saute onion and green pepper, add can of crushed pineapple including liquid, add vinegar and sugar and salt, taste everything, then thicken slightly with cornstarch dissolved in a little cold water) ---serve with rice. This is very, very good.

                                              1. With the cod I use lemongrass, red onions, and olive oil as a marinade and then broil after they have marinated for an hour. Of course salt and cracked black pepper.
                                                Catfish I love deep fried. I soak in buttermilk with hot sauce and then roll in cornmeal mixed with corn starch for a light batter.