Cooking

Seafood is easy to cook rather than a daunting task as perceived by many. The golden rule is to not overcook your seafood as it quickly becomes tough and dry. Err on the side of caution and slightly undercook your seafood as it will continue to cook once removed from the heat. Raw seafood is translucent (clear) and is cooked when the flesh turns opaque (cloudy). Aim to remove the fish fillet when the flesh in the thickest part of the fillet has just turned opaque, it should flake easily with a folk. The main cooking techniques employed for seafood are: shallow frying (pan-fry, stir-fry), grilling, baking, steaming, poaching and deep frying. Dry fleshed fish are best steamed, poached or fried in oil, Medium fleshed and moist fish like snapper, groper and barramundi can be cooked by all methods where as oily fish (swordfish, mackerel, cod) are best suited to grilling, baking and smoking. The herbs tarragon and rosemary complement oily fish well. Some useful tips for each method are outlined below;

Shallow Fry

Heat the pan first and then heat the oil to a medium – high heat before adding the fish. Use light or pure olive oil in preference to virgin or extra virgin olive oil as they have a higher smoke point. (When oil smokes/burns it has a bad flavour which will affect the taste of your seafood). Butter has a low smoking temperature so is often mixed with oil. Dusting fish fillets in plain flour , a fish coating or breadcrumbs helps hold fish together and produces a protective barrier and a nice contrast in texture.

Grilling

Perfect for skin-on fish fillets and small whole fish. Grilling is a dry cooking method and requires your seafood to be basted with oil or marinade before and during cooking as to prevent the fish from drying out. The flesh of whole fish should be scored to help heat penetration and even cooking. I use the middle shelf on the grill, ensure it is pre heated and place my seafood on some aluminium foil to catch the juices. Whole NZ flounder and swordfish are two of my favourite fish to grill.

Baking

Whole fish are most commonly baked, however fish pies and fillets wrapped in foil also produce excellent results. Oven temperature should be moderate-hot (180-200C). I regularly turn whole fish when baking on the barbeque to ‘keep the juices flowing from side to side’ and the flesh moist. Baking time’s average about 20 minutes per kilogram of whole fish, i.e. a 1.5kg snapper will take approximately half an hour to cook. Always monitor the cooking process and test by inserting a knife through the thickest part (usually just behind the head), it should slide in easily. Try opening the foil for the last few minutes of cooking to allow the fish to brown a little. I often bake fish with slices of lemon, orange, onion, and tomato on the skin and lots of fresh herbs stuffed in the gut cavity.

Steaming/Poaching

Moist fish fillets and crustaceans are popular to be cooked this way. Dry and firm fleshed fish are great for poaching but avoid using flaky fish such as Hoki. Fish should be steamed over a high simmer rather than a rapid boil. Poaching seafood is performed at a lower temperature, usually a light simmer. Enhance the flavour of your seafood by adding tasty ingredients such as garlic, lemon peel, bay leaves, herbs or chilli to the steaming liquid. Seafood can be poached in water, wine, stock or milk but try not to add too much flavour as it might mask the delicious, subtle taste of your fish.

Deep Fry

A quick and popular cooking method for battered, crumbed or coated seafood. Use oil with a high smoke point (canola, sunflower) and preheat to 170-190C. Cook seafood in batches and keep warm in the oven on absorbent paper towel to drain the excess fat. Overcrowding with too much seafood will cause items to clump together and cook unevenly.

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