Tips for Preparing Seafood Like a 4 Star Chef
You don’t have to go to a 4-star restaurant to enjoy a delicious seafood dinner. You can master cooking fish like a chef with perfectly flaky fish & nice crispy skin at home. We’ve rounded up chef tips to help you master making seafood at home.
Prepping Your Fish
You can buy expertly cut fish fillets from your local fishmonger that are ready to cook. If you’ve picked up fish fillets, you can skip down to the bottom section for expert cooking tips. If you would like to prepare a whole round fish or fillet the fish yourself, be sure to follow these steps.
Before you begin preparing or marinating your fish, make sure to wash your hands and dip your fingers into salt to help you grip the fish.
How to Prepare a Whole, Round Fish
Step 1: Start by cleaning the fish if it hasn’t yet had the stomach removed. Laying the fish on its side, slice down the length of the belly with a sharp knife from the stomach to the head. Scrape out the intestines with a spoon or dull knife. Run the spoon down the backbone to remove blood clots. Then run cold water over the fish.
Step 2: Trimming off the fins is the next step. Use a small sharp knife or kitchen scissors to remove all of the fins. Then grab a cutting board and plastic bag to begin the scaling process.
Step 3: Set the fish on the cutting board with the tail towards you. Cover the head and majority of the body with the plastic bag. Using a medium or large cook’s knife, run it down the fish while holding the tail in your opposite hand. The scales should fall off into the plastic bag. You should not have to apply a large amount of pressure to the knife to remove the scales. You want to keep the skin intact during this process.
Step 4 (Optional): If the recipe calls for the skin to be removed, start around the head on one side. Use a sharp knife to loosen the skin around the head or gills. Once you’ve made enough space for the knife to slip in between the skin and meat, run the knife down the length of the fish towards the tail gently pulling the skin as you move the knife down. Repeat this same process on the other side.
How to Bone a Fish
Even when you are preparing a whole fish, it is best to remove the bones. Be sure to leave the head on to hold the fish together. If you want to cut the fish into fillets, remove the head and cut through the skin. This will give you two fillets.
Step 1: Slide a filleting knife, which has a flexible blade, into the open cavity in the stomach you made cleaning the fish. Slide it down the backbone separating the ribs being careful not to cut through the skin unless you want to separate the fillets.
Step 2: Cut through the backbone near the head with a pair of kitchen scissors or small sharp knife. Starting where you cut it, gently pull on the backbone to peel it away from the flesh using the knife as needed.
Step 3: After you’ve removed the backbone, run your fingers along the meat to feel if there are any small bones that were left behind. Pull out any remaining bones with a clean pair of tweezers.
Tips for Cooking Perfect Fish
To cook the perfect fish, there are just two tips that you should follow to make a restaurant quality dish.
Tip 1: Use Fresh Herb Leaves!
Fresh herbs have a fuller flavor profile than dried herbs. Using them will enhance the flavor of any dish especially seafood. When you use fresh herbs with tough, woody stems (like sage, rosemary and thyme), be sure to remove the leaves from the stems before cutting them. If you leave the stems on you’ll end up with some bitter bites of food. Trying to pick small pieces of stem out of a pile of cut leaves is much more difficult and time consuming than separating the leaves from the start.
Tip 2: Pan Sear It!
When you’re cooking fish, you want to expertly pan sear it so that the outside is golden and crispy. There is nothing less appetizing than soggy fish skin. The trick to get that perfect, crispy layer is coating the fish with a generous layer of spices or a dry rub and cooking it in a hot nonstick pan. Avoid using a cast-iron pan, unless it is extremely well seasoned, or stainless-steel pans. Fish tends to stick to those pans. Before putting your fish into the pan, make sure that it is hot. Heat up the pan with a little olive oil or vegetable oil in it. After a couple of minutes, flick water into the pan. The pan should spit when the drops of water hit it. That’s when you’ll know it is ready.
If you’re nervous about buying fish at a seafood counter, check out our blog post Tips for Buying and Storing Seafood or stop by our seafood counter and ask one of our friendly team members!