5 Tips to Cooking Seafood at Home
We often think of seafood as a luxury, but there is no better option on a busy night than a seafood dinner. Fish and shellfish cook faster than most meat and require minimal prep time. If you want a healthy meal that’s quick ‘n easy to make, seafood’s a perfect choice.
What stops many home chefs from making seafood is that they don’t know how to prepare it. If that’s you, you can learn everything you need to know here! Follow these five top tips to master the art of cooking seafood. You will wow your family the next time you make fish tacos or shrimp scampi!
#1. Get the Best
When you buy seafood, trust your nose and your eyes! If it smells too fishy or looks slimy or mushy, don’t buy it! These are signs that it isn’t fresh.
How fresh seafood is has a big impact on the taste. If you are buying seafood from behind a counter, make sure it looks and smells right. (It should smell salty, like the ocean. It should look firm and a little moist.) If you don’t like what you see behind the counter, don’t be afraid to go to the frozen section. Most fish is flash-frozen at sea. You can find high-quality seafood in the frozen aisle. Just be sure it hasn’t passed the expiration date. You will find the best fresh selection and top quality at a seafood market, like City Fish Market, with a good reputation.
#2. Always Pat it Dry
Any chef will tell you that meat should have a nice sear. It creates a crispy, golden crust that locks in moisture. To get a perfect sear, you need to remove water from the outside of the seafood. Before you toss shrimp into a pan or place a fillet in the oven, pat the outside dry with a paper towel. (Don’t worry; removing moisture from the outside won’t make the inside dry out.)
If you are worried about the fish drying out, removing it from the refrigerator 15 to 20 minutes before cooking it. When you cook fish that’s just left the fridge, the outside often dries out while the inside takes a long time to cook. Letting it warm to room temperature before cooking will help it cook uniformly.
#3. Preheat the Pan or Oil
If you plan to pan-fry or fry seafood, give the pan or oil time to heat up. Preheating the pan will help sear the meat. You’ll know the pan is ready when a splash of water immediately sizzles and beads when it
hits the pan.
If you plan to fry seafood, preheat the oil to 350 and 375 degrees F using a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can test the oil by tossing in a small piece of bread. You will know it’s ready when it browns in around 45 seconds.
#4. Give It Space & Let it Brown
Don’t overcrowd the pan when cooking seafood or turn it frequently. These two rules go together because they are vital to making perfectly seared meat.
Whether you are cooking shrimp or fish fillets, leave a little space between each one in the pan. This will help the seafood to cook evenly and brown nicely. If it’s too crowded, there will be too much juice in the pan that won’t be able to evaporate. The meat won’t get a nice, crispy skin. Also, if you have too much meat in the pan, each piece won’t cook evenly.
Another general rule when cooking meat is that you should only flip it once. This is especially true for fish. Fish can fall apart quickly. The more you turn it, the more likely it is to fall apart in the pan. Let the fish brown nicely on one side. Then flip it over. If it isn’t done in the middle, even though it’s perfectly browned on each side, place it in the oven to finish cooking. It’s a good idea to pick up a fish spatula. It’s thinner than a typical spatula so that it can easily slide under the fish and turn it without tearing it.
#5. Keep an Eye on It
Seafood cooks fast, especially shellfish. Shrimp and scallops can be done in less than 5 minutes, depending on the size. Fish fillets can take 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness. (Typically, fish require 4-5 minutes per ½ inch of thickness).
When you cook seafood, you need to keep your eye on it. If you are making other side dishes, it’s a good idea to make them first. Then cook the seafood so that you don’t accidentally overcook it. This is especially important when cooking shrimp or scallops. As soon as they are opaque, you should remove them from the heat. Otherwise, they can become tough and rubbery.
Your seafood dinner will be a success if you follow these five easy tips. The most important rule to follow is number one! If you have fresh-caught seafood, you don’t need a long list of ingredients. Fresh fish tastes delicious, pan-fried to perfection with just a dash of salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice. You’ll always find the best quality seafood at City Fish Market.