How to prepare fresh fish

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fish counter
Lots of prep work goes into delivering fish to the counter
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Learning how to prepare fresh fish is an important culinary skill for cooks

If you like to fish, chances are you also enjoy eating it. Hobbyist fishermen and chefs alike believe the best-tasting fish is also the freshest. You can buy fresh fish at your local grocery store, too, but unless you go to a neighborhood fish monger, you donít often know how long ago your catch was caught!

Here is a quick tutorial on how to prepare fresh fish, from catching it to cooking it.

Whole fish preparation

Fishing is definitely not a spectator sport. With that said, make sure you have someone photographing your catch when you haul that big one out of the water. You donít want to miss the chance to brag around the office when you get back to work.

Now the real work begins. According to the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance it is best to start with a very sharp knife. Cut straight through the cavity back to the tail. Next, travel along each side of the backbone, from head to tail, and sever the ribs before removing the spine by going underneath the backbone. This will result in two pieces of fish.

You can then trim ribs and fins from each piece and remove pin bones if desired.

Grill or saute

Different cooks have different ideas about how to cook fresh fish because there are many good recipes and methods. I enjoy fish sauted in a little butter, salt and pepper with a shot of fresh lemon over it when it comes out of the pan.

An open fire or a grill also does the trick and for many people it is the best way to enjoy its fresh flavor. The only problem with the grill is that the moisture from fish drips away and gets dispersed by the hot coals. A good way to keep your fish moist while cooking is to lightly coat the skin with oil and cook it on the skin side with a short amount of time on the flesh side. Make sure to take it off the grill as soon as the flesh is cooked through.

Bake it

Another idea is to create individual foil packets. Use various culinary oils such as grapeseed oil or olive oil until you figure out what tastes best to you. Toss on some fresh herbs, a wedge of lemon or lime in each packet, sliced thin, and then close them up lightly so that there is room in the packet for the heat to circulate. Pop them in the oven on a medium heat for about twenty minutes until they are cooked through. The fish will cook in its own juice and come out moist and flaky.


Poaching is simply cooking in liquid. You can use water flavored with the herbs you would use to bake the fish above, or you can use wine or broth. Put enough liquid in the pan until it just covers the fish. Bring the liquid to a boil and then carefully add the fish to the boiling liquid and simmer until done. This results in a moist fish that has absorbed the flavors of the cooking liquid.


The last recipe idea for is the least healthy, but great tasting, option. Dip your fish in a simple flour and egg batter, then toss it in hot oil until cooked. This is a favorite in my hometown with the plethora of fish stands and restaurants all along the shoreline. Add tartar sauce or cocktail sauce and it will be worth blowing your diet for!

For more ideas on how to prepare fresh fish, go to your local fish store or even the fish counter of the grocery store. They often have recipe cards with ideas and recipes. Fishing is a fun way to spend time. If you are lucky, you may also get dinner from your efforts!get dinner from your efforts!

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