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Feb 20, 2011 10:53 PM

Sitting fish outside at room temperature?

Does anybody leave their fish out at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before they cook it?

I do that for meat, but never thought about doing that for fish until I recently noticed that technique in some chef book where they did that to their fish. I don't know if this is something people have been doing all the time or something that started only with the popularity of cooking fish medium-rare, but I don't recall ever seeing this specified in any fish recipe before.

Instead, I always seemed to remember or, maybe, just assumed to keep the fish refrigerated all the time until just before you cooked it because of how quickly fish spoils outside the cold temperature of the fridge. Otherwise, why worry about keeping fish on ice for the short 7 minute trip from the market to home when I'm going to keep it outside for 30 minutes?

The chef book had a small sample size with only a few fishes and few cooking techniques so I'm curious if one should sit fish outside for all different types of fish and cooking techniques? Or, if one should only do this for certain types of fish or cooking techniques?

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  1. I have, but not for 30 minutes. Sometimes, when prepping, I get the seafood and other ingredients out, start chopping onions or whatnot and by the time the fish/shrimp is ready to go in the oven/pan, it's been 10 to 15 minutes. But I do that with beef, chicken and pork, too.

    The fishmarket I use always packs the seafood on ice when you purchase it, but I also live in south Tx.

    1. And I am interested in the technique - what is it supposed to do to the fish?

      1. I let it get to room temp. Or at least I try too. It take less time to cook, cooks more evenly and doesn't absorb too much grease when you put it the fryer or frying pan. They do this a lot in the fish shacks and restaurants of Colombia. And it's probably the best simple prepared fish you'll taste.

        2 Replies
        1. re: David11238

          I'll betcha the Colombian fish is extremely fresh. When a fish came out of the ocean that morning, it'll be fine for a few minutes at room temp. Lots of fish in America is flash frozen at sea and then thawed at the supermarket. It's called "fresh" but if you know fresh fish, you know that it is not by the taste. And, I'll bet you are spot-on about the wonderful fish in Colombia, because some of the best fish I've ever had was prepared just as simply, in a shack-type restaurant on the beach in Isla Mujeres, 25 years ago - I still remember it often. Simply done and simply delicious. Wonder if the place is still there, since I hear the island is substantially changed.

          1. re: sancan

            You're preaching to the choir, brutha. I went to a shack on the beach in Cartagena called El Boxer. Fried whole and plopped in a coconut milk based fish stock. The only thing fresher was at island an hour off Cartagena (I forget the name). The guides literally plucked the crustaceans and fish out of the water and steamed them in sea water and put them on the grill, respectively.

        2. I usually let fish or seafood rest on the counter for 5-10 minutes but never 30. Room temp fish, or any meat, will cook according to recommended time. When it is ice cold it may get dry on the outside before the center is done. A big turkey should sit out for a bit longer.

          1. It would be worthwhile for applications when you want even, thorough cooking, as in, say, a halibut filet.

            That also means that it would be a bad idea for those restaurant-style seared tuna steaks, which are to be raw in the middle with only a thin band of seared outside. (In fact, some people actually put tuna steaks briefly in the freezer before cooking, to magnify the effect!)