Savannah Valley District

Homemaker’s Column: Guidelines For Cooking Fish


GUIDELINES FOR COOKING FISH Cooked to perfection, fish is at its flavorful best and will be moist, tender, and have a delicate flavor. In general, fish is cooked when its meat just begins to flake easily when tested with a fork and it loses its translucent or raw appearance. Like most foods, fish should be thoroughly cooked. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggests cooking fish until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 °F. One helpful guideline is the 10-minute rule for cooking fish. Apply it when baking, broiling, grilling, steaming and poaching fillets, steaks, or whole fish. (Do not apply the 10-minute rule to microwave cooking or deep frying.) Practice makes perfect and cooking fish properly is all in the timing. Here’s how to use the 10-minute rule:
• Measure the seafood product at its thickest point. If the fish is stuffed or rolled, measure it after stuffing or rolling.
• At 450 °F bake for 10 minutes per inch thickness of the fish, turning the fish halfway through the cooking time. For example, a 1-inch fish steak should be cooked 5 minutes on each side for a total of 10 minutes. Pieces of fish less than half an inch thick do not have to be turned over.
• Add 5 minutes to the total cooking time if you are cooking the fish in foil or if the fish is cooked in a sauce.
• Double the cooking time (20 minutes per inch) for frozen fish that has not been
Fish is the original “fast food.” It cooks quickly, within minutes, because it lacks the connective tissue of red meats and poultry. Some of the best cooking methods for fish include poaching, broiling, grilling, baking, and microwaving because they bring out the flavor without adding fat.
Baking: Whole fish, whole stuffed fish, fillets, stuffed fillets, steaks, and chunks of fish may be baked. Use pieces of similar size for even cooking. It’s best to bake fish
in a preheated, 450 °F oven following the 10-minute rule; bake uncovered, basting if desired.
Broiling: Steaks, whole fish, split whole fish and fillets lend themselves well to broiling. Place fish, 1-inch thick or less, 2 to 4 inches from the heat source. Place thicker pieces 5 to 6 inches away. Baste frequently with an oil-based marinade. Using the 10-minute rule, cook on one side for half the total cooking time, basting once or twice, then turn the fish over to continue broiling and basting.
Grilling: This technique lends itself well to thick steak fish such as salmon, halibut, swordfish, tuna, and whole fish. Preheat an outdoor gas or electric grill. If using a barbecue grill, start the fire about 30 minutes before cooking. Let it burn until white-hot
then spread coals out in a single layer. Adjust the grill height to 4 to 6 inches above the heat. To grill fish, a moderately hot fire is best for cooking seafood. Always start with a well-oiled grid to prevent the delicate skin of the fish from sticking. Support more delicate pieces of fish in a hinged, fish-shaped wire basket for easier turning or handling.

Frequently baste steaks and fillets while grilling to prevent them from drying out. Marinating fish an hour before grilling also helps keep it moist. Apply the 10-minute rule for proper doneness. Use indirect heat for whole fish by banking hot coals on either side of the barbecue or preheat a gas or electric grill. Oil fish well and place in an oiled fish basket. Cook fish covered, 10 to 12 minutes per inch of thickness, turning halfway through cooking time.
Microwaving: Use a shallow dish to allow maximum exposure to the microwaves. Arrange fillets with the thicker parts pointing outward and the thinner parts, separated by pieces of plastic wrap, overlapping in the center of the dish. Cover dish with plastic wrap and vent by turning back one corner. Allow 3 minutes per pound of boneless fish cooked on high as a guide. Rotate the dish halfway through the cooking time. Rolled fillets microwave more evenly and are less likely to overcook than flat fillets, which may have thin edges.

For more information about cooking first, visit the Clemson Home and Garden Information Center website at

Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer

Leave a Reply