Seafood is delicious – there’s no doubt in that. Whether it’s grilled, pan-fried, deep-fried, steamed, drenched in butter, or consumed raw, the umami taste in our favorite seafood dishes never fails to satisfy our palette. However, many folks find cooking and preparing seafood a bit tricky.
There are many cooking challenges associated with seafood, from sticking and ruining such fragile meat on the pan or grill to getting rid of the overly fishy smell and taste.
Chefs and seafood lovers all over the world share some lifehacks on how to make the most out of your seafood dishes. Here are some of them.
Problem #1: You don’t want the overly fishy taste
Good news: Fatty or oily fishes like salmon, tuna, herring, and anchovies are rich in omega-3s. Bad news: They tend to be “fishier” in terms of taste and smell.
- Give it a milk bath
Soaking the fish in milk helps leave it smelling fresh as ever. Thanks to Casein, a protein found in milk, which, effectively binds with trimethylamine (TMA), the reason why your fish is pungent. If you’re cooking fillet, for example, let it soak for 10-20 minutes prior to cooking.
Seafood dishes with milky sauces, like coconut milk and heavy cream, tend to have a less fishy taste too.
- Brine it
Aside from using milk, soaking your fish and shellfish in a salt solution can also eliminate their odor and fishy taste.
- Rinse it with cold water
Use cold water when washing your seafood. A quick rinse in chilly water helps reduce the odor and remove most of the bacteria and trimethylamine (TMA).
- Cover up the fishy taste with acidic marinate
Lemon and lime juices and vinegar help cure and de-stink your seafood. You can even use them to make raw seafood, like fresh oysters, sashimi, and ceviche, more tolerable.
You can squirt citrus juices over them, soak them in vinegar-based sauces, and acid-infused dips.
Problem #2: It sticks to the pan/grill and breaks
Unlike red and white meats, fish can be cooked quicker and easier. The problem is they can be fragile that they tend to overcook, stick to the pan/grill, and break.
- The secret to perfectly grilled fish: Mayonnaise
Fish fillets have a bad reputation on the grill. They’re likely to stick to the grill grate and break apart. Little did we know that the simple act of brushing it with mayo prior to grilling can solve our dilemma.
You can use vegetable oil too, but mayo sticks to the fish better than other fats. Mayo also keeps the fish moist and tender. If you’re frying your fish, you can also use mayo to help breadcrumbs stick better for a crispier finish.
- Thaw your seafood prior to cooking
Ever wondered why your seafood, whether it’s fish or shellfish, cook too quickly, dry out, and burn? The shock from cold to hot is the culprit. To avoid this situation, make sure to thaw your frozen seafood first prior to cooking. Place it out for 30 minutes before cooking for the best results.
- Use lemon slices
You know that lemon slices and seafood often come hand in hand to disguise the fishy taste. But what you might not know is, lemon also helps prevent fish from sticking on the grill or pan.
Instead of soaking fish in a pool of oil to prevent sticking, grab some slices of lemon and place them on the rack first. Cook the fish on top of it. Next to keep it from sticking, lemon also infuses it with flavor and aroma.
Problem #3: Shellfish is selfish
Clams, mussels, crab, lobster, and shrimp are all good sources of healthy protein. However, they’re also a good source of wounded fingers if you’re not careful. They tend to be sharp and challenging to crack open, making your waste their meat.
- Smash the shell with a wine bottle
Want to get every precious bite of your lobster’s sweetmeat? Take a wine bottle then roll it over the parts of the lobster to break the shell. You can also unleash your inner caveman by using a rock to break open the shells.
- Cool the shellfish before shucking
Ever wondered by fresh oysters are always served over ice? It’s not only meant to retain the cold temperature. The cold also makes shucking oysters get the good stuff inside quicker and easier.
If they’re fresh from the seafood market, put oysters, clams, mussels in a shallow bowl first, then put in the freezer for 5-10 minutes. This allows the meat to loosen a bit from the shell and get the most out of your shellfish.
Problem #4: You want it to be crispy (but it’s not)
Who needs fried chicken if you fry your fish right?
- Use a cooling rack
Absorbent papers are an old-fashioned way, but they tend to make your fried fish mushier and soggier than you’d prefer them to be. If you want to keep your fried fish crispy yet oil-free, skip the paper towels and brown paper bags. Instead, drain it on a cooling rack to seal the crispiness.
- Use medium-low heat for crispy skin
If you’re cooking fish fillet and you’re opting for crispy skin, stick to medium-low heat. Another thing to keep in mind is when placing the fish skin-side down in the pan, press it down so the skin starts to cook evenly. If you don’t do this, it will begin to curl out of shape.
- Let it cook
Stop flipping your fish and shellfish over and over again. The rule of thumb is to leave it to cook 70% on one side and then flip once for optimum results. Do this the next time you fry your favorite fish fillet.