In this week’s Mad Genius Tips video, F&W’s Justin Chapple reveals the easiest way to score and season fish for ultra-flavorful, restaurant-worthy results. After mastering that skill, move on to these brilliant tips from chefs.
Be gentle. “Basically, I’d suggest using the gentlest heat that you can possibly apply,” says chef Michael Cimarusti. “So if you’re grilling, grill over a gentle fire, not a raging fire. If you’re steaming or poaching, do it at a bare simmer.”
Let it rest. “You can actually cook a salmon to the point where it flakes beautifully in a 118- or 119-degree oven, provided you let it rest,” says Cimarusti. “Rest the fish for a good 10 to 15 minutes, for a good long period of time, in a fairly warm, ambient spot, and the fish will reveal textures you never knew it had.”
Get hands on. “There’s no exact timing,” chef Tom Valenti says about cooking fish. “Even with four or five fillets of swordfish, every piece of fish is different. With every fillet, I always have to poke it and squeeze it to figure out what’s going on.”
Buy an extra fillet. “When I talk to home cooks at the restaurant, they often tell me they don’t even bother to cook fish at home because they don’t know how to do it,” Valenti says. “The first thing I suggest is, if you’re going to cook four fillets of halibut or salmon or swordfish or whatever you want to try, buy a fifth fillet to crack open to see if it’s done.”
Steam it. “Steaming is a powerful way to create pristine flavors,” says chef Mourad Lahlou. “When you take a piece of fish and steam it over water, or water with aromatics like spices or citrus peel, you actually taste the ingredients. Unlike, say, a curry, which is so heavily spiced you can’t taste the individual ingredients. There’s nothing wrong with a curry, but when you want to appreciate the clean flavors of a single piece of fish, you need to treat it with respect, and steaming is one of the most respectful ways to cook something.”
Start skin side down. “To ensure crispness, start the fish skin side down, pressing the fillet with a spatula,” says chef Rocco DiSpirito. “The skin will stick at first; when it releases, flip the fish over.”