Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Testing Fish for Doneness (Video)

If your fish comes out tough and dry, let me assure you that it's not your fault.  It's all those recipes that tell you to cook fish until it flakes and is opaque.  First of all, some fish don't flake.  Have you ever seen a flaking swordfish?  And if the fish is opaque all the way through when you check it, then I have bad news for you, my friends -- it's overcooked.  Here is how it's really done.


YouTube link: Testing Fish for Doneness

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8 comments:

Suzanne said...

Excellent video, Helen! The visuals really helped. Thank you. Does this advice apply for fish like catfish and tilapia or should they be cooked longer?

Helen said...

the timing applies to catfish and tilapia (and any other fin fish). They need to be opaque by the time you serve them, but should definitely have a translucent center when taken off the heat.

Anonymous said...

Question: what oven temperature should I could the salmon at??

Helen Rennie said...

You can cook it at any temperature from 250F to 500F. Depends on which effect you are trying to create. For the 8 minutes per inch +/- 2 min timing, use high temperature (425F).

Cheers,
-Helen

Diana said...

My favorite salmon recipe calls for a thick coating of a mixture of mayonnaise and coarse-grain mustard, so testing for flaking is difficult. I do have a reliable instant temperature probe, however, so is there an internal temperature I can test for instead of trying to flake the fish? Thanks! (great video, BTW, very helpful, esp. for those of us intimidated by fish cookery.)

Helen Rennie said...

Hi Diana,

A thermometer is definitely an option, but different fish are best at different temperatures. For salmon, I'd usually go with 115F final temp, which means pulling it out earlier. How much earlier depends on how thick it is and how high a temp you are cooking it at. Try taking it out at 110F and see what happens. Keep in mind that those are tasty, but not particularly safe temperatures, so using them for wild salmon would be dangerous because of parasites unless salmon was previously frozen. The most difficult part is sticking a thermometer into the correct place. You need a piece that's at least 1 inch thick for thermometer to be at all reliable and I suggest trying to approach the center for 3 different places. The lowest temp of those 3 is your reading.

Cheers,
-Helen

Diana said...

This salmon was previously frozen; I take it from your comment that freezing would eliminate the parasites?

I did bake it last night with the coating and an inch of white wine in the dish, aiming for 140, which I'd read somewhere else was the safe zone. I took it out before it got to that temp and it was perfect!

Thanks for demystifying this for me - I'd love to cook fish more, but just haven't felt confident about it.

Helen Rennie said...

Freezing would kill parasites, which would make them harmless even if you ate one. 140F is an arbitrary number that FDA gives out. It doesn't guarantee that the parasites would die, though most of them would at that temperature. As far as bacteria goes, it can only be on the outside of the fish. Bacteria dies instantly at 160F. Even if your center was still cold, as long as the outside is cooked to 160F which happens extremely quickly, bacteria is not an issue.

Glad you enjoyed your salmon.

Cheers,
-Helen