Don’t Overcook the Fish!


How often do you eat fish that is cooked just right, with great flavor and not dried out?  I rarely come across fish like this when eating out!  How about you?

3 Tricks for How to Cook Fish without Overcooking

There are three rules of thumb when cooking fish.  They are not set in stone but give you a good indication of how long to cook fish because, honestly, the majority of people overcook it for fear of under cooking it.

The first rule for how to cook fish I call the 10-minute rule.  Generally, you should cook fish ten minutes per inch of thickness, i.e., an inch-thick shark steak would take approximately ten minutes on the grill or in the oven to cook.

The second rule is called the “Make it Flake” Rule, which means near the end of the cooking time, if you press on the piece of fish with your finger or a fork and apply gentle pressure, the fish will flake.  But it will only flake if it is pressed.  On overcooked piece of fish, when picked up with a spatula or tongs, will fall apart and flake on its own.

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The third key to properly cooking fish is a milky white substance, called albumin.  If memory serves me, this is a protein that is released from fish during the cooking process, generally more prevalent in fattier fish such as salmon.  It will leach out of the fish in a liquid that looks similar to glue.  It can be a good indication of proper cooking time for a select piece of fish.

The best method is to utilize all three of the tricks.  Set your cooking time based on the thickness of your piece of fish.  Watch for the albumin to appear and once you see it, utilize the “Make It Flake” Rule.  If the fish does not flake, continue to cook in small time increments and re-check often.

If you do not like the appearance of the albumin once fish is done, you can remove by blotting with a damp paper towel.  If you have any questions about cooking fish, you can send them to me through our Ask The Chef forum, and I will be glad to try to answer them for you.

The image above was taken when I made Pine Nut and Herb-Encrusted Salmon.  You will find that delicious salmon recipe on our food blog.

It was such a good recipe, Anne decided it was her second favorite salmon recipe, even though she had doubts as I was making it that it could compete with her top choice!  So definitely, if you like salmon, give it a try and let us know what you think.

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24 Responses to “Don’t Overcook the Fish!”

  1. Areeba Says:

    Wow, these tips are really useful! Thanks for sharing! My mum would love to see this post ;))

  2. Sarah Bailey Says:

    I am awful at cooking so all tips are greatly appreciated by me I have admit :) Thank you x

  3. Terry (My Journey With Candida) Says:

    Thank you for the fish cooking tips. I am horrible when it comes to cooking fish!!

  4. Anne Says:

    Awesome… I hope you share it with her! Thanks so much. :)

  5. Tough Cookie Mommy Says:

    I grew up in a fishing town about three hours from the Portuguese border in Spain and we ate fish constantly. It definitely makes a difference how you cook the fish with regards to taste and maintaining flavor.

  6. Annemarie Says:

    Great tips I cook a lot of fish coming from the East Coast. Thanks for posting!

  7. Anne Says:

    Wow, then you definitely can tell a difference… that sounds like an interesting place to live and you must have never been without fresh seafood!

  8. Courtney Pies Says:

    I have to say I’m really intimidated by cooking fish because I’m always afraid of overcooking it. Thank you so much for these tips, though! I’m going to save this page so I can reference it later!

  9. Pam Says:

    Thank you for sharing. I am bad about overcooking my fish. It seems they always get a little too dry for my taste.

  10. Growing Up Madison Says:

    I learned how to cook fish from my parents growing up in the Caribbean and I love it. I cook it at least once a week. It’s the only thing I can really cook really well because it doesn’t take a long time to do. Thanks for the extra tips.

  11. Dawn ~ Spatulas On Parade Says:

    Great tips for those who do not know how to cook fish. I grew up on the coast and ate a lot of fish. So it kind of comes naturally. Your instructions were concise and easy to understand.

  12. Akhil Says:

    Really nice tips though i am a vegan but i will share these with my friends :)

  13. Anne Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing! :)

  14. Corinne Says:

    All these years of cooking and I was never taught these very simple rules. Every time I cook fish it’s an experiment and I just keep my fingers crossed hoping it turns out okay. Thank you so much for these VERY helpful tips!

  15. Michelle H Says:

    I have salmon in my refrigerator right now and I know all those tips, but had never actually heard them explained in a specific order. This is great!

  16. Chavonne H Says:

    I didn’t know any of this. We’ve fried fish or had the frozen kind. I also didn’t know where the white stuff came from either, very interesting.

  17. Pam Says:

    I am not a lover of fish so therefore I don’t cook it, LOL. These are great tips and all of the rest of my siblings love fish and cook it often so I will share it with them.

  18. sarah clegg Says:

    im awful at cooking so any tips r greatly appreciated xx

  19. Ondria Witt Says:

    These are wonderful tips! I know zilch about cooking fish, so I found this very helpful, My husband likes some fish, and now I feel like I’d like to try to make some for him.

  20. Noor Unnahar Says:

    Great tips . I always make a blend while cooking fish.

  21. Robyn Says:

    I hate overcooked fish. Great tips!

  22. Mel Cole Says:

    I love fish! My favorite and comfort food :)

  23. Healy Harpster Says:

    Great tips and I can really use and apply those tips. I liked to eat fish.

  24. Aida Ingram Says:

    I cannot tell you how much I want to thank you for writing this, we always ask this question in our house. now that my daughter is cooking I didn’t have anything to point her to, this is a great piece of information. Thank you for sharing, some things you do out of habit, which is not a great way to explain or show to someone else.

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