The Easiest Way to Cook Fish: Roast it Whole
Don’t be intimated by the thought of cooking a whole fish at home! Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned cooked, you can make perfectly roasted fish in under 30 minutes. Roasting a whole fish is simple and delicious. You can cross this culinary feat off your bucket list and add a new favorite to your menu by following this step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Buying fresh whole fish.
Judging the freshness of whole fish is much easier than judging fillets or steaks. Look for these signs when you are buying fresh whole fish from your local fish monger or seafood counter:
- Plump, clear eyes. They should not look flat or cloudy.
- Bright pink, red or orange gills that look wet not dry, slimy or dark brown.
- Shiny, firm flesh that bounces back when touched.
Be sure to also do the smell test. Fish should have a salty smell, like the sea. It should not smell funky.
Your first time making whole fish, we recommend choosing a white fish like sea bass, mahi mahi, amberjack or red snapper.
Step 2: Ask your fishmonger to prepare the fish.
If you are intimidated by the idea of gutting and scaling a whole fish, don’t worry! You don’t have to. Whether you pick up your fish from a local seafood market or your neighborhood grocery, ask the attendant at the seafood counter to gut, trim and scale the fish for you. They will happily take care of these tasks.
Step 3: Soak your fish in salt water.
Once you get home, soak the fish in a bath of salt water (4 cups of cold water, 1 tablespoon of salt) for 10 minutes. This will boost the flavor and moisture of your fish. It also helps fish not to fall apart as easily during cooking. When you remove it from the bath, pat it dry so that it will brown during cooking.
Step 4: Preheat the oven and score the fish.
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Use a knife to make shallow cuts about one inch apart across the top of the fish.
Step 5: Brush with oil, season and stuff with aromatics.
Brush the inside and outside of the fish with a high-heat tolerant oil (such as olive oil). Make sure the oil goes into the slits you’ve cut. Season the skin with salt, pepper and any other seasoning of your choice. Fill the inner cavity of the fish with aromatic herbs and seasonings like rosemary, thyme or garlic and slices of lemon.
Step 6: Roast in the oven.
Place the fish on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 18 – 20 minutes at 450°F or until the internal temperature reaches 145°F. (The cooking time can vary depending on the size and type of fish). Another sign that it is done is that the fins should easily slide off when you put pressure on them with a fork. The fish should also be flaky under the skin.
Step 7: Remove from heat and serve.
Once the fish is done, remove it from the oven, and serve. If you like, squeeze lemon juice on top before serving.
Now that you know the steps to follow, it’s time to roast your first whole fish! Stop by City Fish Market tonight to pick up fresh whole fish to make this recipe at home!