How to cook delicious lobster: the ultimate guide

How to Griddle up Any Fish Perfectly

Learn all you need about purchasing, cutting, and cooking fishes. Make sure you get the freshest catch, the best-cut fillets, and the most delicious flavor!

How to Pick the Best Fresh Fish

If you’re visiting the fishmonger or a fish market, remember some pointers before you buy. Some beginners end up buying fish that’s old and dried up by accident. If you’re uncertain, you can always ask the fishmonger when the fish was caught and where. The way he answers can show how trusty the food is. And give the catch a check with these tips below - remember if it sounds fishy, go elsewhere!

  • Check its appearance - fresh fish should be moist and shiny. There shouldn’t be any bruises
  • Look into its eyes - eyes should be clear, without any clouding. Sunken eyes show that the fish is aging
  • Touch it - the surface should bounce back and be firm. If the fish is mushy, it isn’t fresh
  • Smell the fish - fresh fish smells slightly like the sea or is odorless. Any strong odors means the fish isn’t fresh
  • Check the gills - gills should be bright red and not slimy or dry

Is It a Lean or Fatty Fish?

Cooking time changes depending on the amount of fat on the fish. Besides impacting the flavor, fat determines how much heat the fish can handle.

  • Lean Fishes: These fishes are gentle and quick to cook up. The main problem is the touch - one small slip of the spatula, and you might tear the whole fish apart. Steaming is great to keep these fishes moist and intensify flavor. Lean fishes have under 5% fat content in their weight. Includes: Bass, cod, haddock, tilapia, swordfish.
  • Fatty Fishes: the main difference of fatty fishes is the intense flavor. Rich in omega-3, every fatty fish is a healthy and hearty meal. They form a perfect seared crust and need to cook a little longer on the griddle until their core is fully cooked. Fatty fishes have over 5% fat content in their weight. Includes: Catfish, herring, sardines, trout, salmon, tuna.

So, next time you buy a fish at the market, check if it’s lean or fatty. This is important because it affects the cooking time, seasonings, and even side dishes. If you’re unsure about a fish we didn’t list here, ask your fishmonger.

How to Choose a Seasoning

When it comes to adding that spice, herb, or condiment to fish, you need to pay attention to the fat. Fatty fishes have intense flavor, which means they should be paired with strong-flavored seasonings. Lean fishes should have simpler seasonings - you have to be careful to not overpower the taste of the fish itself. Here are our seasoning tips for each fish group:

  • Lean fishes: Bay leaves, chives, olive oil, parsley, tarragon
  • Fatty fishes: Cumin, honey, marjoram, mint, oregano, paprika, rosemary, sage, soy sauce, thyme
  • Both: Dill, cilantro, garlic, ginger, jalapeño, lemon balm, salt & pepper, white pepper

Best Fish Sauces

Imagine cooking up fish on the griddle on top of a delicious sauce. The flat top makes sure no juices seep out and all the flavor from the fish infuses with the condiments of your sauce. To use the sauce, simply pour it on the flat top and put your fish immediately after. So, make these sauces to pack your fish some punch:

Lean Fishes

  • White wine sauce: ½ cup white wine, ½ cup heavy cream, 1 tbsp butter, lemon juice to taste
  • Mushroom sauce: 1 lb. sliced mushrooms, 4 sliced green onions, 2 tbsps flour, 1 tbsp parsley, ¼ cup butter, ⅛ tsp pepper
  • Parsley sauce: 1 cup shredded parsley leaves, 3 tbsps crème fraîche, ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, 3 tbsps fresh lemon juice, 4 tbsps butter, ½ minced onion

Fatty fishes

  • Mint sauce: ½ cup chopped mint, ½ cup white-wine vinegar, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • Red Wine sauce: 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, ½ cup red wine, 3 tbsps butter, salt, and ground black pepper to taste
  • Tomato and Ginger sauce: 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp grated ginger, 2 cups of diced tomatoes, ¼ cup of cilantro, salt and ground black pepper to taste

Fresh or Frozen Fish?

According to nutritionists, both frozen and fresh fish are healthy. Freezing technology has come a long way in the past decades - all fish are flash-frozen as soon as they are caught. This means no nutrients are lost, and flavor is as close to fresh as possible. The only fish you should avoid is refrozen fish. This means it was flash-frozen at sea, thawed, and refrozen. Look out for freezer burns or crystals. Refrozen fish has terrible flavor. Fresh fish does taste better though. The reason is because the freezing process affects the fat content, which can dry out lean fishes. Fatty fishes aren’t really affected since they already are denser in fats.

How to Prepare the Fish for Cooking

To make sure you bring out the most flavor from your fish, you should follow some procedures. Below are a few steps that can make sure your fish tastes fresh and delicious, instead of aged and flabby:

Unthaw and Pat down (Frozen Fish)

If you bought some fish from the supermarket that’s been frozen for a while, don’t just throw it on the griddle! You need to give it time to get from ice-chilled to ambient temperature. Thawed fish cooks irregularly since some parts get more frozen than others. That means you might be eating a meal that’s overcooked at some parts and sometimes almost raw on others! So, avoid this by letting it sit in the fridge for a day. Then, pat it down with some paper towels to avoid sticking on the flat top.

Should You Take the Skin Off?

Fish skin forms a delicious crust when seared on the griddle. It can enhance your meal, balancing out the tender meat. Keep in mind though that fish skin isn’t healthy. The US Food & Drug Administration recommends not eating the skin since it can collect toxins, such as mercury at higher levels than the rest of the fish. These toxins are especially dangerous for pregnant women, children, and the elderly.

How to Cut the Fish

Before you cook any fish, you need to cut it correctly. You can save time by asking the fishmonger to cut it into fillets or steaks. If you want to eat it whole, you still need to descale and prepare the fish.

How to Prepare a Whole Fish for Griddle Cooking

Even though it’s called whole fish, you can’t simply throw it on the griddle and cook. You need to descale and gut it before. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Get a cutting board. Cover it with a newspaper for easy clean up
  2. Use a cutting knife best-suited for fishes. That means a long, thin blade. Avoid serrated knives, especially with lean fishes - they can tear apart the meat
  3. Wear a pair of gloves and scrape off the scales with your knife from the tail toward the head. Use small, quick strokes - don’t press hard to avoid cutting into the flesh. The scales should fly off easily
  4. Once you’ve removed the scales, turn the fish belly face up and make a cut from the gills to the stomach
  5. Open up the belly and cut the bone near the gills with a pair of fish shears
  6. Remove the entrails
  7. Put your fish in the sink and rinse out any residue. Open the tap halfway - don’t use a strong stream
  8. Pat it dry and your fish is now ready for cooking!

How to Cut a Whole Fish into Fillets

In case you went fishing and caught a whole fish, you’ll need to be careful to fillet it correctly. If you’re going to purchase your fish at a market, you can ask the fishmonger to cut it up - you’ll spend less time with prep and more cooking. Even so, if you need to cut up a whole fish follow these steps:

  1. Get a cutting board. Cover it with a newspaper for easy cleanup
  2. Use a cutting knife best-suited for fishes. That means a long, thin blade. Avoid serrated knives, especially with lean fishes - they can tear apart the meat
  3. Put the fish on the cutting board. Wear a pair of gloves and scrape off the scales with your knife from the tail toward the head. Use small, quick strokes - don’t press hard to avoid cutting into the flesh. The scales should fly off easily
  4. Remove the fish head by cutting behind the gills - hold the blade at an angle and cut through the bone. Flip it over and repeat until the head comes off
  5. Cut off the tail by cutting down where it meets the body
  6. Now, place the knife behind the gill cover. Pull the gill cover away from the body and cut down until you hit the backbone. Then, align the blade with the ribcage and cut down to separate the meat from the ribs
  7. Cut through the vent (small hole on the belly) and cut along the bones until you reach the tail - this is a fillet
  8. Pull the fillet outward to remove it from the rib cage. Use your knife to cut it loose if needed - set your fillet on a clean plate
  9. Turn the fish over and insert the knife behind the gill cover. This is the same process from step 5 onward - you’re cutting out more fillets. Remember to cut along the rib cage to separate the meat from the ribs, and then push the knife through the vent. Keep cutting until you hit the tail, then pull the fillet out
  10. Once you’ve cut out all your fillets, you can remove the pin bones. It’s best to use a fish plier, but be careful - you might tear apart the meat
  11. You can trim out the belly if you want, by simply cutting it off.
  12. You can also remove the skin if you want. Slide your knife between the skin and meat at one end of the fillet. Then, at an angle, slide the knife gently until the other side. Use your other hand to hold the fillet in place.

How to Cut a Whole Fish into Steaks

If you want to serve your fish in neat and thick steaks, keep reading. You can make your life a whole lot easier if you ask the fishmonger to do this for you - or at least remove the guts. But, if you need to prep your fish from start to finish, follow these steps:

  1. Get a cutting board. Cover it with a newspaper for easy cleanup
  2. Use a cutting knife best-suited for fishes. That means a long, thin blade. Avoid serrated knives, especially with lean fishes - they can tear apart the meat
  3. Put the fish on the cutting board. Wear a pair of gloves and scrape off the scales with your knife from the tail toward the head. Use small, quick strokes - don’t press hard to avoid cutting into the flesh. The scales should fly off easily
  4. Remove its head by cutting behind the gills - hold the blade at an angle and cut through the bone. Flip it over and repeat until the head comes off
  5. Cut off the tail by cutting down where it meets the body
  6. Put the fish with its belly upward and cut a line from the gills until the stomach.
  7. Open up the belly and cut the bone near the gills with a pair of fish shears
  8. Remove the entrails
  9. Put your fish in the sink and rinse out any residue. Open the tap halfway - don’t use a strong stream
  10. Now, put your fish back on the cutting board. With you fish laid down, cut out steaks with 0,5 to 1 inch of thickness.
  11. Keep cutting until the fish is split entirely into steaks

How to Season and Cook the Fish

Now it’s almost time for the best part - the cooking! Season it up with the right herbs, get the griddle oiled up, and then drop it when it’s hot! Fish cooking is gentle and rewarding. Unlike meat seasoning, you need to be more careful with the balance of flavors. And while you cook you need to be gentle to not tear the fish apart. Here are some pointers:

  • Spread out your seasoning evenly on the fish. If you are cooking lean fish, use a gentle seasoning we mentioned above. You can use two seasonings at once, but don’t overdo it - you’ll mask the flavor of the fish
  • If you’re seasoning a fatty fish, pick only one option. Don’t use mint and honey. Or paprika and soy sauce. Stick to one, and that’s it
  • Oil up your griddle with olive oil. It goes well with any fish and infuses a Mediterranean flavor. If you don’t want the flavor of the oil to affect the fish, use canola oil - it’s more neutral.
  • As soon as you put your fish on the griddle, it’ll contract. It’s the proteins reacting with the heat, causing the fish to bend upwards - press down the edges with your spatula to straighten it out.
  • Cook each side until it gets golden brown. This can take between 2 - 8 minutes depending on the fish. Lean fish cooks quick, fatty fish takes longer
  • When it gets a seared crust, flip it over gently with a spatula and cook for the same amount of time. Be careful not to tear the fish apart
  • Take the fish off the griddle and set it aside on a plate
  • Once it cools down a little, eat up!

How to Measure Fish Doneness

Fish only has one level of doneness: done. It’s not like steak doneness, which can be rare, medium all the way to well done. Fish is either cooked or raw - undercooked tastes terrible. Unless you are preparing fresh tuna steaks. In some cases, people simply toast the fish and keep the middle raw. This isn’t considered safe though by health standards. So, cook it nicely and find out the doneness with these tips:

  • Knife method: Insert a knife all the way through the thickest part of the fish. Keep it there for 5 seconds, then pull it out and hold the blade on your lower lip. Feels cold = undercooked. Feels warm = ready to eat
  • Look method: done fish has a golden-brown sear and is full-white inside. Cut a small section and check the color and texture - done fish is flaky and has no differences in color
  • Poke method: feel the surface of the fish. Done fish feels just like the tip of your nose
  • Thermometer method: insert a thermometer on the thickest part of the fish. It should read between 125°F to 140°F

Why Griddle Cooking Fish is Best

Griddles have a range of benefits for cooking fish. Many seafood venues use griddles because they are considered more reliable to maintain moisture and flavor in the recipe - and no flare-ups, which can ruin the meal. Here’s a list of the full perks of griddle cooking some fishes:

  • Seared crust for crispy flavor
  • Consistent heat - no flare-ups, undercooked or overcooked parts
  • Locked-in juices for a tender meal - fish doesn’t dry up
  • Seasoning with oils - the fish soaks in all the flavor of the cooking oil, which mixes up with the other condiments you use
  • Quick cooking time - most fishes cook in under 10 minutes