Cooking Recipes for Common Fish

A good fish recipe can be the perfect end to a day of fishing. There’s nothing more satisfying than transforming the day’s catch of catfish, snapper or trout into a delicious home-cooked meal. Different kinds of fish have different textures and flavor profiles, which means that the best cooking method varies by species. For example, you wouldn’t necessarily grill a soft-fleshed fish like bass if you have access to something meaty, like mahi-mahi.

On the other hand, it all comes down to preference — no one will rip the walleye out of your hands if you think about blackening it. The best way to figure out how you like fish to be cooked is to experiment. When it comes to finding recipes for fresh fish, you have plenty of options below. 

Methods for Cooking Fresh Fish

There are a variety of ways you can cook a fish. The best fish recipes lean into the characteristics of the type of fish you’re using. For example, you wouldn’t necessarily want to deep fry a thick fish like tuna, since it is unlikely to cook all the way through. Research the characteristics of the fish you’ve caught before preparing to cook them.

Blackening

If you’re interested in Cajun fish recipes, consider blackening your fish. This technique is usually reserved for redfish like the red snapper. However, you can do it to any fish capable of standing up to high heat and heavy spices. When blackening fish, use thin-cut fillets. Thick cuts of fish won’t cook all the way through before burning, and may dry out as well.

Most blackened fish fillet recipes use a combination of spices including paprika, mustard, cayenne pepper, onion, garlic, cumin, black pepper and thyme. You can add or remove spices based on your preference, but blackened fish traditionally has a kick.

The best way to blacken fish is to use a searing hot cast-iron skillet, and make sure it’s thoroughly preheated before using. Then, coat your skillet with some cooking oil. Make sure your fish is thoroughly coated in the spice rub before dropping it in the skillet. Flip it when the rub turns black, then take it off the heat as soon as it’s done. Voila — blackened fish!

Frying

Learning how to fry fish can open up a world of possibilities for you. You can pan fry fish or deep fry it, depending on your preference. To do so, you may cover it with a tempura batter or cook it directly on the pan. Either way, fried fish makes for good eats.

Like blackening, not all fish take well to frying. As such, avoid thick, oily fish like tuna or salmon, which can dry out and remain undercooked in the middle. Instead, choose a fish with a firm white flesh. You can find plenty of fried catfish and walleye recipes, but make sure to remove any bones before cooking.

The secret for how to fry fish properly is to get your cooking oil up to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. You may use a cooking thermometer to monitor the temperature. When you add fish into the oil, it will lower the temperature at first, then rise back up. Avoid adding too many fillets at once, as it can take a long time to bring the oil temperature up to 375 degrees again. If it cooks below 375 degrees, the fish may absorb excess oil before it is cooked through, leaving it greasy and unpleasant.

Grilling

Some of the tastiest fish cooking recipes involve grilling a fillet or a whole fish on an open flame. Unlike the blackening or frying methods, grilling is well suited for thick and oily fish. The oils prevent the fish from sticking to the grill, while a thick cut ensures that it won’t burn through before it gets a nice char. Use a good mahi-mahi, tuna or even amberjack when grilling. These thick cuts won’t fall apart on the grill, unlike softer flaky white fish that may fall through the grate.

Most grilled fish recipes advise you to glaze your fish after cooking it. Marinating fish can make it overly delicate, increasing the chances that it will break apart while on the grill. You can wrap fish up in foil before placing it on the grill to ensure it does not fall apart. However, if you are using wood or charcoal, the foil will keep the fragrant smoke away from the fish. As a result, it may have less flavor than if you were to cook it directly on the grill.

Baking

With baked fish recipes, you can get a fillet that is thoroughly and evenly cooked without breaking apart. Red snapper is delicious when baked whole, as the natural fattiness of the fish keeps it from drying out in the oven. Any flaky white fish will also do for baking. If you’re using a more delicate type of fish, you can try baking en papillote — wrapping the fish in parchment paper. This helps retain moisture within the fish, minimizing the chances of it drying out. Because fish cooks relatively quickly, you can have your entree in and out of the oven in less than 20 minutes.

Broiling

Broiled fish recipes can produce a tasty, flavorful fish with a nice crust. If you plan on broiling a thick fatty fish like salmon or tuna, try leaving the skin on, as it can add a pleasant crunch. Additionally, make sure to coat the fish in seasonings and oil before putting it in the oven.

Apply the rub at least 20 minutes before putting your fish in the oven, ensuring that the seasoning will penetrate the meat. In general, a well-broiled fish will be crusty and flaky. However, a word of warning: if a steak is too thick, it won’t cook all the way through before burning at the top. Typically, you should cook it for five minutes per every half-inch of thickness.

Smoking

To preserve your fish as long as possible, you can try smoking it. Smoked fish recipes are worth the effort because they have a rich, woody flavor and a pleasant flakiness.

Begin by preparing a brining solution made up of equal parts salt and sugar dissolved in water. Place your boneless fish or fillets in the brine solution and leave it for at least six hours, up to 12 hours depending on the size. Once it’s brined, remove the fish, rinse it under cold water and pat it dry. Get your smoker ready and use your favorite kind of wood chips to flavor it. After about two to three hours, your fish is ready.