Before we cruised, I had never cooked fish. Heck, I didn’t really even like fish. I remember being in a somewhat remote spot on one trip we took, where the only restaurant only served fish. Reluctantly, I ordered the “catch of the day.” As I took the first bite, it hit me that if all fish were this good, I’d love fish.
As we began cruising, fish became part of our life. But it still took me a couple of years to learn the “secret” of cooking fish well.
You see, virtually every recipe I had said to “cook until flaky.” And since I was always worried about the fish being raw, I’d cook it until it was definitely flaky. It was not only flaky, it was dry and kind of tasteless.
When we had great fish at a beach barbecue with friends, I asked for tips. And I learned two things that apply pretty much no matter how you’re cooking the fish.
First is don’t overcook it. Instead of “flaky,” you’re aiming for “just opaque” if you’re eyeballing it.But the second tip was what really helped me: use an instant-read meat thermometer stuck in the middle of the thickest part of the fish. Most fish should be 135° F., although tuna, marlin and swordfish only need to reach 125° F. Cooking to a higher temperature just dries the fish out.
Suddenly, I consistently cooked delicious fish. After fish, I began using the thermometer for chicken, then for pork and beef, then even for baking. I took all my cooking up a notch and I no longer wonder if something is really done.
I now have a whole downloadable PDF of thermometer temperatures — you can get a copy here. If you need a good instant-read thermometer, here’s the current version of one I have. If you prefer one that doesn’t require batteries (say if you’re heading to remote places), here’s my other favorite.