A Beginner's Guide to Cooking Great Fish and Seafood

Take the mystery out of cooking

Baked whole fish in garlic-chili sauce

​The Spruce / Victoria Heydt

If you're new to cooking fish and seafood, you're in for a real treat. The great thing about fish and seafood is that they're often prepared in the simplest of ways. This makes a great meal very quick and pretty soon you'll be eating it more often than you originally thought.

Before you get cooking, let's look at the basic elements that go into selecting, storing, and cooking fish and seafood.

  • 01 of 05

    Choosing the Best Fish and Seafood

    Seafood smorgasborg

    Lisa Romerein / Getty Images

    As a cook, you can't do much with poor quality fish or seafood, so knowing how to choose the best is vital to your success.

    One of the biggest misconceptions is that buying fresh fish better than frozen. This is not necessarily true. Why? Quite often, your 'fresh fish' was previously frozen because most fish are frozen right on the boat.

    Also, some seafood, such as lobster, do not travel well, so you're actually getting higher-quality food if it's been frozen. This is particularly true if you do not live near the seafood's origin.

    Fish intended for sushi should also be carefully selected and not every type is suitable.

  • 02 of 05

    Avoid Endangered Fish

    School of red snapper

    Jens Kuhfs / Getty Images

    Some types of fish are not readily available for a good reason: they are endangered. Many fish and seafood are among the world's most threatened species and even if they are available, it's best not to promote their use.

    Within the list are Bluefin tuna and red snapper, two of the best-tasting fish. Yet, you can find substitutes like black sea bass or yellowfin or bigeye tuna (known as 'ahi' in Hawaii).

  • 03 of 05

    The Keys to Successfully Storing Fish

    Fish on ice

    Westend61 / Getty Images

    It is not difficult to store fish, but it is different than storing other meats. In order to preserve the freshness of your fish, skip the plastic freezer bags and opt for containers of ice instead. The bag method will be good for a few days, but not in the long term.

    Before your next fishing expedition, you might also want to brush up on a few tips for your catch. There are a few key steps that can ensure your fish stay as fresh as possible until they reach the table.

  • 04 of 05

    How to Successfully Cook Your Fish

    Chef working with fish

    Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

    Your store-bought fish may be ready to cook with no additional preparation needed. Quite often, you can simply season and sear the filet and your meal is ready.

    If you do need to clean the fish, then a few extra steps are required. Fresh-caught or whole fish need to be gutted and scaled. You will also need to filet the fish and if you're working with a flatfish like flounder, a little extra care needs to be taken.

    Want to try something other than grilled fish? Try our delicious beer batter on any firm fish.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    The Secrets to Seafood

    Basic boiled lobster

    ​The Spruce Eats / Katarina Zunic

    Seafood is actually very easy and quick to prepare, you just need to know a few tricks. Crustaceans like lobster and crab simply require boiling. You'll actually have a harder time picking the meat out than the actual cooking.

    Once you get over any fears of cooking seafood, you'll discover just how easy it is. If you're ever in doubt, simply follow a recipe, there are many tasty options out there just waiting to be discovered.