Fish: The Basics

Start With the Fish, Then You'll Be Ready for Grilling

Grilled trout


Electrography / Getty Images

We all know that fish are not only good to eat but also good for your health. The benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids alone make fish a good choice for any meal. But nutritionists say we are simply not eating enough fish. Maybe this is because people just don't know how to cook it right–which is very easy.

Fresh Versus Frozen Fish

If you catch your own, you should know how to clean and filet fish.

If you buy your fish, remember that there is a distinct difference between fresh and frozen. The process of freezing causes cells to crystallize and break. This will change the flavor. The longer something is frozen, the more the flavor will be changed.

Whenever possible, get fresh fish because it really does improve not only the flavor but also the texture of the fish. Ask your butcher what fish are in season and make sure that your definition of fresh is the one they are using.

Types of Fish

Technically, fish are divided into fish and shellfish. We're focusing on the non-shell kind here to keep things simple. This class of creatures is divided into fresh and saltwater fish. Generally, saltwater fish have larger bones and are therefore easier to debone. Freshwater fish can't be weighed down by heavy bones, so they have lots of little bones.

From here, fish are divided into flat and round fish. Flatfish swim on their sides, along the bottom of the ocean and have both eyes on one side of their heads. Round fish are more what we think of fish being like.

The third distinction is fat content. Fish are either lean, moderate, or high-fat fish. The table below gives you some examples. Lean fish are considered to have less than 2 1/2% fat, moderate have up to 6% fat and anything above that is in the high-fat category.

Selecting Fish

When it comes to selecting fish, fresh fish should fresh smell, have firm flesh, and a moist appearance. If the fish smells too fishy, ask for something else. To keep fish fresh, make sure it is tightly wrapped and kept cold. Do not plan on keeping fresh fish for more than a couple of days. If possible try to purchase it the same day you plan to cook it. If you can't cook the fish within about two days, freeze it. Frozen fish should be frozen solid and also, tightly wrapped.

Cooking Tips

Finally, here are a couple of tips for cooking fish. One problem with fish is the bones. Freshwater fish have lots of little bones that can be very hard to remove. First rule: Warn your guests/diners about bones if you're cooking this kind of fish.

Second, it might not be a guarantee, but if you are cooking whole fish, lay them out on the grill, skin side down with the bone still in place. Be careful not to disturb the bones. Once the fish starts to cook the bones should curl up and away from the fish. It's a cool trick and it works pretty well.

Once the fish is cooked, take a fork and gently run it over the surface of the inside of the fish. If you're careful and patient, you should get almost all of them.

Lean Moderate Fat High Fat

Black Sea Bass
Brook Trout

Ocean Perch
Red Snapper

Striped Bass