Filled with healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins like D and B2, fish is a welcome addition to any healthy diet. Like any food, fish requires a certain preparation to get it to its most delicious state. Plus, with dozens of different options to choose from in the grocery store, it can be tough to decide between frozen fish tenders, farm raised salmon and wild caught tuna—especially if you don’t know a lot of ways to cook fish. 

Before you know it, you’ll know exactly how to shop for the right fish for you, and soon after have a beautiful piece of fish on your plate just waiting to be enjoyed. 

Enjoying Fish on Friday

Depending on where you’re from, Fridays might mean the smell of fresh fish on the griddle or a trip to your local seafood joint. Fish Friday is a tradition in anglophone cultures around the world and whether you’ve experienced a fish Friday or not, you might be surprised by its interesting history. 

The History behind Fish Friday

Eating fish on Friday has a long history that will take you all the way back to about the first century A.D. where Catholics fasted from meat on Friday in memory of Jesus’ death. This was an ongoing tradition until Henry VIII broke off from the Catholic church to form the Church of England and fish eating on Fridays quickly became out of style. 

Not having fish Fridays ended up affecting the fishing industry so much that Henry VIII’s son, Edward VI, made fasting on Fridays mandatory by law when he took power in 1547. This tradition influenced populations around the world and U.S. fish prices even took a hit when Pope Paul VI finally loosened fasting rules in the 1960s.

Today, many Catholics continue to respect fish Friday during the lenten period. This tradition still remains visible with Friday fish frys in midwestern and northeastern American culture, and a fish and chip culture in England, Scotland, and Ireland. 

Deliciously Different Ways to Cook Fish

If you’ve been inspired to whip up some fish in your kitchen recently, you might’ve discovered all of the different ways to do so. It can feel a little overwhelming when trying to decide if a fish should be fried, grilled, baked, or even enjoyed raw. Luckily, it’s your taste buds that matter, so picking the right fish preparation for you might mean trying a few different types and seeing what speaks most to you.  

Grilling Fish

Ten small, whole fish lay side by side on a grill.
Photo by Elle Hughes on Unsplash
Grilling whole fish will help the fish keep more of its flavor and moisture.

The comforting sound of wood crackling in a fire and the salty smell of a nearby ocean are two things that go well with a delicious plate of grilled fish. While you might not be able to hop on a plane to Jamaica and enjoy some grilled jerk fish, there are easy ways to bring the fish grilling experience into your own home. 

When grilling fish, an outdoor grill always works best. The high heat helps get that perfect crisp exterior and tender interior while the fire adds a smoky, umami flavor you won’t get as easily in the kitchen. If you don’t have access to a grill, a very hot pan can also do the job. 

When grilling fish, it’s key to cook skin side down and diagonally across the grates. Also, make sure you are using a big enough piece so it doesn’t fall through the bars. If you’re choosing to grill a more delicate fish like flounder or a fish filet, you can also grill your fish within aluminum foil to keep it from breaking apart when you flip it. 

Preparing Fish in the Oven

Four salmon filets sit in a pan surrounded by smashed garlic, olive oil, and lemon slices.
Photo by Melanie Andersen on Unsplash
Fresh flavors like dill, citrus, garlic, and chives add a delectable kick to fish dishes.

If you’re someone who doesn’t mind a little kitchen prep so you can be hands off for the rest of the cooking experience, cooking fish in the oven will be your best bet. Oven-baked fish cooks slowly and evenly making it especially tender and packed with flavor. 

Plus, it usually only requires throwing a few things in a pan. A scrumptious oven-baked salmon can be prepared by just whisking together soy sauce, honey, garlic, and ginger to taste and then pouring it over your salmon and baking it. Or you can try making a beautiful oven-baked cod, by adding lemon slices, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, garlic cloves and herbs of your choice together in a pan. 

There are so many incredible fish dinner recipes out there to enjoy. This week, try adding at least one to your dinner schedule and taking note of what you loved and what you didn’t.

Making Fried Fish

Two fried fish tenders sit in a red plastic basket accompanied by french fries, tartar sauce, and a lemon slice.
Photo by Davey Gravy on Unsplash
There’s nothing quite like a well-made fish and chips while sitting by the sea.

You’re back to the classic fish fry. This beloved end of the week meal is a classic for a reason. Besides its long history, fried fish has a lot of the same qualities as other fried foods you likely already know and love. While not the healthiest preparation option, frying fish adds an extra crispy outer layer and it enhances its overall flavor and juiciness. 

If you’re looking for a way to still enjoy that fried fish flavor without all of the oil, you can also cook fish in an air fryer. Beer-battered cod, pan-fried tilapia, and southern fried catfish are just some of the mouth-watering ways to make fried fish in an air fryer or on your stovetop. Flavors like lemon, parmesan cheese and malt vinegar all pair well with any air fryer fish recipes

Preparing Raw Fish

In a white dish with a blue rim, a serving of ceviche lays on top of a few chunks of avocado. Its citrusy sauce is being poured over the onion, tomato, raw fish, and herb combination.
Still from Skillshare Class Simplifying Raw Fish: Ceviche, Crudo, and Sashimi by Chef Ken Oringer
Ceviche has all of the flavors that pair perfectly with raw fix included sea salt, fresh lemon, and crunchy, flavorful additions like red onion.

Perhaps one of the most intimidating fish preparations, serving raw fish is an instant way to enhance any meal. When preparing raw fish, the most important thing to remember is that it needs to be very fresh. This means you should head to your local fish market to get your ingredients and always verify its freshness. 

Usually requiring little preparation, raw fish dishes make high-quality and fresh appetizers. Experiment with a citrusy ceviche or crudo sprinkled with capers and see which recipe has you coming back for more. 

Fantastic Fish Dishes

Of course, fish doesn’t always need to play the leading role in your fish dinners. While a piece of fried fish and a side of fries makes for a meal in itself, there are also fish dishes where the fish supports a whole cast of different flavors and ingredients.

Fish Tacos

The taco is a dish that has absolutely taken the world by storm. These days you can find soft and chewy tortillas filled with chicken, steak, shrimp and even ice cream. 

Usually either fried or grilled, fish tacos are often flavored with citrus, paprika, cumin and cayenne pepper. You can also add toppings like red cabbage slaw, roasted corn, pico de gallo and avocado, which complement the savory fish flavor. 

Fish Sandwiches

Another fish-based classic is the fish sandwich. Did you know that the filet-o-fish got its start when a McDonald’s franchise owner had less burger sales on Fridays and was looking for a solution for his Catholic customers? Whether you’re Catholic or not, there is no denying the deliciousness of a fish sandwich.

Flounder, cod and salmon filets all make a tasty base for a fish sandwich. Over the next few weeks try your hand at a few restaurant kitchen basics, like a pesto salmon sandwich or a classic fried fish sandwich with pickles and cabbage. 

You’ve Got Bigger Fish to Fry

Now that you’ve become an expert in fish preparation, you have a mission on your hands. Try searching for a few different fish recipes and tweaking them to your liking. Experiment with flavors you discovered today or flavors from your culture that you already know and love. 

The fish is a very versatile piece of protein that pairs well with so many dishes. Just remember to have fun and play to your crowd’s favorite flavors so your guests will be raving about your fish in no time. 

Written by:

Calli Zarpas