Some helpful hints and tips to assist in selecting, storing, preparing and cooking fish.
How do I Select Good Quality Frozen Fish?
- Always ensure that the product is completey frozen; never purchase any opened or damaged packaging.
- The packaging should be free from moisture; any soft packaging indicates that it has defrosted.
- Packages should be tightly-wrapped with little or no air space between the fish and the package.
- There should be no signs of discoloration on the fish. Fish should smell clean and mild and not strongly "fishy" or rancid.
- There should be no evidence of drying out on the fish.
- There should be no parched white areas indicating freezer burn.
- Too many ice crystals on either the outer pack or the product show that the package has been allowed to defrost at some stage, and the fish has therefore lost its moisture and then been refrozen. The flavour and eating quality will be affected.
- When shopping purchase your frozen fish last, to ensure that it does not defrost or damage whilst shopping.
What different methods are used to freeze fresh fish commercially?
This method of freezing can be done on the fishing vessel or in the shore based factory. The gutted, filleted, and skinned fish are packed in the final product carton either in plastic pouches or between layers of plastic and then frozen with direct contact between the carton and refrigerated iron plates.
This method is also used both on fishing vessels and ashore. The prepared fish, wrapped in plastic, are placed in cartons. The cartons are placed within a freezing chamber in which cooled air is circulated rapidly.
Individually Quick Frozen (IQF):
This method is done in the same manner as blast freezing. However each individual fish / portion / fillet is frozen separately.
Commercial freezing happens very quickly. This is done to minimize the formation of ice crystals, which will damage the texture of the fish. It also "locks in" the flavour and moisture. This is the reason why frozen fish is often "fresher" than "so-called" fresh fish.
Fish should be gutted before freezing, and wrapped well, as freezer burn will occur if any part of the fish is exposed. The cold air within a freezer will dehydrate the exposed fish and cause a taint in the flavour. Home freezing happens far more slowly that commercial freezing, and some ice crystal formation will occur within the fish. It is always preferable to cook fish from frozen, as moisture will be lost during the defrost process, more so in home frozen fish.
How do I defrost fish /shellfish?
- The safest way to defrost fish in order to keep its flavour and texture is to defrost it in the refrigerator for 12 - 24 hours depending on its size.
- Defrosting at room temperature will deteriorate the quality of the fish and plunging in cold water will result in the further loss of moisture and flavour.
- As with many defrosted food products, refreezing fish is not recommended.
How do I Know it’s Fresh?
- Your eyes and sense of smell are very important when selecting fresh fish.
- Fresh fish should have a mild, salty aroma; if it is 'fishy' it may very well be stale, so steer clear.
- Scaly fish should have a good covering of scales, if they have bald patches and the scales are coming loose it has passed its best before date.
- The gills should be bright red and not pale in colour.
- The tail must be pliable, not dry.
- The eyes should be clear and bright not dull and sunken.
- The flesh should be firm, not soft.
- When buying pre packed and cut portions, e.g. cutlets or steaks, it is very difficult to judge its freshness and the “sell by' or 'best before' date should be checked. Do however ensure that the fish has not discoloured, that there is very little air space between the wrapping and the fish and that there are no pools of liquid at the bottom of the package.
How do I store frozen fish and seafood
- Once at home place the Frozen Fish products in your freezer immediately, (-18ºC is the ideal temperature for your home freezer).
- Ensure that the freezer door closes properly, and limit opening and closing thereof, as this causes temperature fluctuations.
- Never defrost and refreeze any frozen fish.
How do I FRY fish?
Shallow (Pan) Fry
Use hot oil for best results. This will ensure a crispy outside with a moist inside. Do not fry too slowly, as the fish will be limp and pale and might fall apart. Cover base of pan with oil. Butter adds flavour, but because it can burn, add a little oil. The frying time can vary from 6 - 8 minutes depending on thickness of the portion. To establish when the oil is ready for frying, dip a cube of bread in the oil. It should turn light brown in 90 seconds.
Dip fish in seasoned flour, dip floured fish in beaten egg, and then crumb or batter the fish to protect the flesh and seal in the flavours and juices. Fry quickly in hot (180°), deep oil for about 4 - 6 minutes.
How do I BAKE fish?
Dollops of flavoured butter or a little olive oil on fish portions are ideal for baking. Wrap fish portions in foil to keep moisture in - as fish forms its own juices. Open just before end of baking to allow for browning. Fish can also be placed in a suitable oven dish and covered. Baking takes around 20 minutes depending on the portion size.
How do I GRILL fish?
Domestic grills vary so much. Always line the grill pan with foil and brush fish with oil to prevent sticking. For an outside braai, a wire fish grid is ideal. Slash skin of fish and brush well with oil. When marinating fish for grilling, leave to marinate for half an hour to give extra flavour. If marinated for too long the flesh may break up. Grilling time should be about 8 - 10 minutes.
All cooking times given are a guideline only as size and thickness of fish portions and cooking appliances vary.
How do I POACH fish?
Pour some water (milk or fish stock can also be used) into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Place the fish, skin-side down into liquid and simmer very gently, to avoid breaking up the flesh, until the fish turns opaque and flakes easily. Other ways to flavour the poaching liquid is to make a court bouillon (or use a prepared court bouillon cube) or add two tablespoons vinegar, a few peppercorns and some bay leaves to the basic cooking liquid.
How do I BRAAI fish?
Place fish in a large piece of foil, shiny side facing inwards. Season fish very well and close foil. Place on braai grid over medium heat coals and turn over at regular intervals. Braai until fish turns opaque and flakes easily. Fennel, dill or thyme adds an aromatic flavour to braaied fish.
How does MICROWAVE cooking differ to other methods of cooking fish?
Texture: Microwave cooking is so quick and great care should be taken not to overcook the fish as it will become “rubbery”.
Starting temperature: Differences in the temperature of the food when placed into the microwave will affect the length of the cooking time required. The colder the food, the longer it will take to cook, so allowances must be made when using food straight from the refrigerator or freezer.
Quantity: The greater the quantity of food placed in the microwave, the greater the length of cooking time required. Similarly, if you use less than the quantities given in the recipes, the cooking times should be adjusted /reduced.
Stirring and turning: Stirring during a heating or cooking process is recommended in some dishes. All foods continue cooking to a degree when removed from the microwave and some dishes will require a standing or resting period to assist with finishing the heating or cooking process.
Salmon Cooking Methods:
For each 2.5cm thickness of steak or fillet cook at 220°C for 10 minutes from fresh or fully thawed, or 12 - 15 minutes if partially thawed, if frozen cook for 20 minutes.
- Place salmon in a baking dish (or wrap in oiled foil and place on a baking sheet).
- Brush fish with melted butter or olive oil and season with salt and pepper or any other seasoning of your choice.
- Defrost fully and marinade salmon in your preferred marinate.
- Cook Salmon over hot coals on a well-oiled grill, to prevent sticking.
- Taste frequently to ensure that the salmon remains moist and flavourful.
- Turn once halfway through the cooking period.
- Do Not Overcook
- Thaw the salmon slightly and then sear on both sides in a hot pan on a high heat for 30 seconds per side.
- Turn the heat down to a medium low heat and fry gently for ± 4 minutes on each side or until cooked.
- Slightly thaw the salmon and brush with melted butter. Place on a baking tray.
- Grill under a pre-heated moderately hot grill, ensuring that the baking tray is placed 15cm away from the grill (this ensures that the salmon does not brown too much before it cooks through).
- Grill for ± 8 - 10 minutes.
- Poaching liquid can consist of the following: 1litre water flavoured with vegetable/ fish stock and the juice of one lemon or lime. Any herb of your choice can be added to the liquid (parsley/rosemary/ lemongrass/ ginger)
- Bring the poaching liquid to a gentle simmer and place 2 frozen salmon portions in the liquid, cover with a lid and simmer over a medium heat for 8 - 10 minutes.
- Once the fish is poached, reduce the liquid to a ¼ of the original amount and add a tablespoon of cream before serving, serve warm with the poached fish.
- Fill a large saucepan 1/3 full with water.
- Simmer gently and place a colander, which fits snugly, into the saucepan, ensure that the colander is well out of the water.
- Place some frozen vegetables at the bottom of the colander, place 2 frozen salmon portions on top of the vegetables and scatter some fresh parsley over the contents.
- Cover with a lid and simmer gently for 10 - 12 minutes, or until cooked.
- Cut frozen salmon steaks into strips or medium sized cubes.
- Heat butter or oil in a wok or frying pan.
- Stir Fry for 3 - 4 minutes on high.
- Cream can be added during the last 30 seconds of cooking for a creamy sauce, or use flavoured butter and add fresh herbs just before serving.