3 Simple Ways to Cook Fish in the Oven

baked salmon

Food Faith Fitness 

Before I ever learned how it was done, the idea of cooking fish at home always seemed daunting. How can I tell when it’s perfectly cooked? How can I keep a delicate and expensive fillet from getting dry? Do I have to worry about picking out bones or removing skin and how am I supposed to do those things anyway? Suffice it to say cooking fish at home can be intimidating but with these three easy techniques up your sleeve, you’ll feel confident and comfortable that that fancy fillet you splurged on will come out just right—no sweat.

General Tips and Tricks for Cooking Fish at Home 

If you’ve never worked with fish in your home kitchen but are curious and want to start to experiment with this lean protein, here are just a few tips and tricks to keep in mind before getting started:

  1. Skin: Depending on how you’ll prepare the fish, you may choose to leave the skin on (pan fried or grilled skin is exceptionally tasty) or remove it (slow roasted or poached skin stays slippery and gummy). If you’re slow-roasting or poaching, you can leave the skin on and simply remove it before serving or slide the meat off the skin as you eat.
  2. Pin bones: In order to avoid any potentially uncomfortable pin bones as you dine on your fish, give your fillets a quick double check by running your fingers both ways across the fillet. The pin bones will usually prick you a bit if they’re there and you can use specialized fish bone tweezers to remove them or simple grasp them with kitchen-only tweezers or pliers. I've also had luck pulling out small ones just with my fingers, so don’t worry if you don’t have special tools for this.
  3. Even and proper cooking: Fish fillets can come in all shapes and sizes, but it’s important to try your best to keep the fish even in thickness as much as possible to ensure even cooking. You can tuck thinner edges under the fillet to fake an even thickness for instance. The rule of thumb for how long it takes to bake a fillet of fish depends on the thickness of your fillet: Aim for about 5 minutes per 1/2-inch thickness.

To tell if your fish is done, use a fork or your finger to gently press in the center of the fillet. The meat should easily flake and separate and any juices running from the fish should be white.

How to Make “Fast” Baked Fish

Use this technique when you have everything else prepared and just want to make an easy, fast, hands-off fish fillet to round out your meal. This fillet is by now means “dressed to impress” but it’s sure to be satisfyingly tasty.

  • 1 boneless, skinless fish fillet of your choice (approximately 1-inch thick; halibut, haddock, salmon, orange roughy, trout, salmon, cod all work well)
  • olive oil or melted butter
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Brush a baking sheet or baking dish with some olive oil or melted butter. Place the fish fillet on the greased sheet or dish, brush with more olive oil or butter, and season with salt and pepper. You could also sprinkle with a seasoned salt, smoked paprika, or your favorite fish seasoning.
  3. Bake for approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

How to Make “Slow” Roasted Fish

This technique is great to use when you have guests coming over, or just want to impress yourself with a tender and juicy fish fillet with tons of flavor. Serve with a simple side salad, roasted potatoes, and hunks of crusty bread.

  • 4 boneless, skinless fish fillets of your choice (approximately 1-inch thick; halibut, haddock, salmon, orange roughy, trout, salmon, cod all work well)
  • 1 lemon (thinly sliced and deseeded; you could also use a mix of lemon and orange)
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • delicate herbs for serving (chives, parsley, dill)
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. Transfer fish fillets to a small baking dish and cover with enough olive oil to reach about 1/4 to 1/2 way up the sides of the fish fillets. Season with salt and pepper and add lemon slices into the oil and on top of the fish fillets.
  3. Bake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and let rest for another 10 minutes before serving with plenty of herbs.

How to Make Parchment or Foil Baked Fish

Wrapping up fish fillets in parchment paper or aluminum packets is a great way to gently steam the fish and infuse the flesh with aromatic flavor. It’s easy to do and the results are consistent.

  • 1 boneless, skinless fish fillet of your choice (approximately 1-inch thick; halibut, haddock, salmon, orange roughy, trout, salmon, cod all work well)
  • 3 thin slices of lemon (seed removed)
  • 1 sprig thyme or rosemary
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine
  • salt
  1. Preheat oven to 200°F.
  2. Place a piece of parchment paper (at least 12 inches by 12 inches) on a flat work surface and fold into thirds. Unfold and fold into thirds in the other direction. Unfold and transfer to a baking sheet.
  3. Place your fish fillet in the center square of the parchment or foil. Drizzle with olive oil and white wine and season with salt. Top with lemon slices and thyme or rosemary sprig.
  4. Wrap the fish by bringing the insides of the top and bottom edges of the parchment of foil together to meet. Gently wrap and fold until they reach the top of the fish. Roll up the left and right edges inward towards the fish until they meet the the sides of the fillet.
  5. Bake for approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

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