How to Choose the Right Fish and Cook it with Confidence

We’ve all heard how important it is to add fish to our diet. It can be rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, it has the “good” kind of fat to lower your risk of heart attack or stroke, and studies have shown those who eat fish regularly have more grey matter in their brains (grey matter is the stuff that helps with memory and overall brain function – goodbye, Alzheimer’s!).

However, the idea of consuming fish one to two times per week and actually doing it are two very different things.

First: What type of fish do you buy?

Everyone knows salmon and canned tuna, but in today’s world of choices, what’s the difference between mahi mahi or ahi tuna or halibut?

Second: Once you’ve decided on the type of fish you want, how in the world are you supposed to know how to cook it?

Thankfully, that’s what we’re here for.  We’re going to tell you exactly how to choose the right type of fish, select a recipe that fits your lifestyle, and cook it with confidence!

What type of fish should I buy?

As we mentioned, in today’s world of choices for consumers, it’s hard to know what type of product to buy. Fish is no exception.

There are recipes with “exotic and new” types of fish popping up online every day. In addition, there are different ways of cooking and eating some of the fish we’ve been used to for years (salmon, cod, tuna, etc.).

So, how is one supposed to know what to do with all this fish?

Choosing your fish comes down to 3 basic categories: taste, recipe/cooking style, and nutrients.

Taste: Different types of fish have different flavors and textures. Which type of fish you choose will largely depend on your personal taste and preferences.

Fish is typically separated into two categories: “white fish” or “oily fish.”

White fish is your cod, halibut, flounder, etc. These types of fish are typically white in color (hence their name grouping) and are light and flaky. White fish also has a pretty high shelf life because of where the oil and fat are stored in the fish (more on this later).

Oily fish is your tuna, sardines, salmon, anchovies, etc. These types of fish vary in color and have a smoother texture to the meat. This type of fish is not light and flaky and should be used within a few days, as the oil and fat make it more susceptible to spoiling.

Recipe/Cooking Style: What you are using the fish for/how you are cooking the fish will also affect the type of fish you choose.

For example, if you are looking to make a perfectly fried, beer battered fish stick, an oily fish such as salmon or tuna is not going to bring you a good result. You’ll be left with a heavy, oil-soaked mess.

The same goes for a succulent sushi roll. While you can use white fish in sushi, oily fish is typically used because of its structure and moisture. If you’re trying to build sushi with a white fish, it will typically fall apart and be rather dry.

When choosing a type of fish, consider the recipe you’re making and the end result you are looking for. This will help you choose the right fish every time.

Nutrients: It goes without saying that not all fish are created equal. While there are no fish that are “bad” for you (when considering what’s available to consumers – obviously, not every fish in the world is made for human consumption), different types of fish pack different nutrients and risk factors.

White fish typically spend their lives in shallower waters than their oily fish counterparts. This means the oil/fat in their body is contained in the liver, making the “meat” less oily and a “healthier” alternative if that’s something you’re considering.

Oily fish typically spend the majority of their lives in deep waters, away from the sea floor. This causes the oil in their bodies to be spread out and contained in the “meat” we consume.

Before you instantly think this means oily fish is bad and white fish is good, the oil in the oily fish is what houses the omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, and vitamin D (which are the whole reason we’ve been told to eat more fish). This makes oily fish a powerhouse of nutrients for your body, especially your heart.

Looking for more Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet? Add a little extra oily fish to your dinner plate! Looking to cut down on fat? Add a little more white fish to your weekly meal rotation.  There is no right or wrong choice – it all depends on what you decide is most important.

I chose a fish – now what?

Now that you’ve chosen the type of fish you want, how do you prepare it?

Both white and oily fish are great options if you want a sauted or baked piece of fish. For this situation, you can follow the general rule of cooking your piece of fish 10 minutes for every inch of thickness. That means if I have a one inch thick piece of fish, I am going to cook it for a total of 10 minutes (2 inches = 20 minutes, etc.).

Gilling is a great option for cooking fish as well. However, it should be stated that because white fish’s light and flaky texture causes it to fall apart easily, grilling fish should probably only be done with an oily fish. (But we’re not here to tell you how to run your life – you do you.)

Broiling is another good option that is similar to grilling but can be done year-round (and you can broil white fish – you’re welcome). Because the intense heat of broiling comes from above, no added oil or fat is needed for cooking, which makes it a light option for anyone trying to watch their added fat and oil. Broiling typically takes less than the 10 minute rule, so make sure you’re watching your fish to check for doneness.

Try it yourself!

You know we wouldn’t give you all this information and then leave you without a way to try it! We have some perfect recipes developed for trying out different types of fish and different cooking methods.

If you are looking to try your hand at grilling, our Citrus Grilled Tuna is the perfect choice.

If you want a quick and easy weeknight meal, our Healthy Sheet Pan Tilapia and Vegetables is a great way to introduce fish into your weekly rotation.

And here’s a little something fun for the weekend as the weather gets warmer and we can start to feel summer slowly making its way: Roasted Garlic Asiago Salmon Sandwiches.

Go ahead and try some! Build your confidence when it comes to choosing and cooking fish. You never know, maybe fish will become a new staple on your dinner plate!

As always, tell us your thoughts! Do you have any tips for cooking fish that have worked well for you? Do you use white fish for sushi? What are your hesitations about adding more fish to your weekly meals?

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