10 Essential Tools You Need for Cooking Fish at Home
Take care of your best salmon, swordfish, and flounder fillets.
Fish is such a versatile protein, but cooking it always seems like a special occasion. It’s fridge life isn’t as long as meats like chicken or beef and it never comes out quite as perfectly as it does when you order it at a restaurant. If you’re looking to work fish into your dinner rotation a little more, then you will need some recipe inspiration - and the right tools to pull them off. From a fail-proof spatula to the best skillet for super-crispy skin, these are the tools and equipment we turn to when preparing fish at home.
1. Fish Spatula
This thin, flexible metal spatula comes in handy for so much more than cooking fish, but no other tool slides under the delicate skin of a sizzling fillet quite so effortlessly. Use it on the grill, baking sheets or a skillet - just use a little extra care when you’re cooking in a nonstick pan.
9-inch Stainless Steel Fish Spatula, $11 (Usually $16) from surlatable.com
2. Parchment Paper
Parchment paper is essential when cooking fish en papillote, a simple technique that involves wrapping a piece of fish, aromatics and usually a touch of wine and butter up in a paper packet and baking in the oven. It’s a healthy, foolproof way to prepare fish at home and one of our go-to entertaining dishes. Plus, it avoids the stinky fish problem if you’re cooking in a smaller space with so-so ventilation. To make a simple dish like this even easier, we love pre-cut parchment paper sheets. Try it out yourself and follow Mad Genius Justin Chapple’s tips for the best fish en papillote here.
Pre-Cut Parchment Paper (24 sheets), $6 at surlatable.com
3. Fillet Knife
Whether you’re breaking down your own fish at home, or need to separate a fillet from the skin, you’ll need the best knife for the job. This beautiful boning and fillet knife from Shun has an extra-sharp, arcing blade so you can make smooth cuts without tearing the fish.
Shun Classic Gokujo Boning and Fillet Knife, $95 (originally $15) from williams-sonoma.com
4. Plastic Cutting Board
When prepping fish, you should forgo the wood cutting board and use a more sanitary plastic one instead. This OXO board has no-slip rubber pads to help it stay in place and is small enough to fit in your dishwasher.
5. Rimmed Baking Sheet
A rimmed baking sheet is one of our most-used kitchen tools, but it’s especially handy when preparing fish. Use it to roast a whole side of fish for a big crowd, like this Citrus-Roasted Halibut with Braised Radishes, roast smaller fillets with your vegetables of choice for a weeknight sheet pan dinner, or do something truly show-stopping and prepare a whole salt-baked fish and present it tableside. Nordic Ware’s thick aluminum half-sheets are our usual go-to because they don’t warp and last forever.
Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Half Sheet, $11 from target.com
6. Nonstick Skillet
Whether you’re crisping up the skin on a piece of salmon or pan-frying breaded fillets, you’ll need a reliable nonstick skillet. These chic nonstick GreenPan skillets are both highly functional and good looking enough to bring to the table. Test it out with this super-crispy Pan-Fried Flounder with Lemon Butter Sauce from Jonathan Waxman.
Food52 x GreenPan Nonstick Skillet (Set of 2), Starting at $92 from food52.com
7. Cedar Plank
Cedar planks are a fun way to mix up your usual fish routine during grill season. They provide gentler, indirect cooking, and give off a fragrant smoke that flavors the fish while it cooks. Be sure to soak them beforehand so they don’t burn to a crisp on your grill. While you can use a plank more than once, you will only get that fresh wood aroma on the first use. Luckily they come with a friendly price tag and aren’t a burden to replace. Make this Cedar Planked Salmon with Lemon and Dill and try it out for yourself.
Cedar Grilling Planks (2 Pack), $10 from target.com
8. Grill Pan
Grill pans are great for more delicate foods like fish that can easily fall between the grates on a grill. This one from Le Creuset can be used inside or outside, making it easy to whip up these Fish Tacos with Tomatillo-Jalapeño Salsa without a grill. Also, the long, narrow shape of the pan fits perfectly over a single burner on your stovetop.
Le Creuset Cast-Iron Grill Pan, $80 from williams-Sonoma.com
9. Steamer Basket
We’ve recently come back around to steaming and it’s now our go-to method, especially when we’re preparing a whole fish. You get delicately-cooked, flaky, tender and moist fish every time. All you need is a pot of simmering water and a bamboo or metal steamer basket. Both options will give you similar results, with a bamboo basket absorbing a little more of the moisture and a metal one getting a little hotter on the bottom. Use your steamer basket to tackle this whole steamed bass with ginger and scallions or try these weeknight-friendly steamed red snapper fillets with spicy butter.
10-inch Bamboo Steamer Basket, $19 from williams-sonoma.com
Staub 5.5QT Cocotte Steamer Insert, $69 from food52.com
10. Sous Vide Immersion Circulator
If you’re looking to get a little techy, then try cooking your next fish sous vide. The technique can be a little intimidating, but it’s actually quite easy to execute at home. You’ll need a pot of water, BPA-free resealable plastic bags and an immersion circulator. The immersion circulator controls the temperature of your water bath, so you don’t run the risk of overcooking your fish. Plus, many models, like this one from Anova, can connect to your phone via WiFi, so it will alert you when your fish is finished cooking. You can flavor the fish by adding olive oil, butter, or aromatics like garlic, ginger and fresh herbs to the bag with the fish. Want crispy skin? Just give it a quick sear in a hot pan with oil after it has been sous vide. This salmon with charred cucumbers is a good jumping off point if you’re trying this technique for the first time.
Anova Precision Cooker with WiFi, $150 (originally $200) from williams-sonoma.com