Sautéing, or shallow frying, is a method where food is cooked quickly in a flat, shallow pan over a high heat, in a little butter or oil (or a combination of the two). The food is usually turned at least once to cook both sides.
A quick guide to Sautéing:
When sautéing, if using large fish fillets, cut into portions which can be easily turned with a spatula. Make sure the fish is dry before sautéing to prevent spitting.
Use a heavy-bottomed frying pan over a medium heat. Add a little oil or butter, or a combination of the two. To use the minimum oil necessary, brush the fish with oil before frying, instead of adding it to the pan.
Fry the fish flesh side down first (the skin side is flat and often slightly different in colour). Be careful not to overcook fish and seafood, because they can quickly become dry. As a guide, a 2cm thick fish fillet or seafood requires 2-3 minutes searing each side. Thicker fillets need 1-2 minutes longer, and vice versa for thinner fillets.
Deep frying is a method where food is cooked by completely immersing it in hot oil. Always use a pan deep enough that it is no more than half-full of oil, and only use oil that is suitable for high temperatures. Dry wet fish before deep frying to prevent spitting over.
A quick guide to Deep Frying:
Before coating with batter, toss the fish fillets in flour. Shake off any excess and then place the fish into the batter. Turn the fish in the batter to coat, remove with tongs and allow excess batter to drip off briefly before placing into the preheated oil.
For frying, either a deep fryer or a chip pan is suitable. Always use a meat fork or tongs to carefully lower the fish into the hot oil. When the fish is done it will rise to the surface and should be golden brown in colour.
If you don't have a deep fryer with a basket, use a slotted spoon to remove the fish. Drain the fish on a double layer of kitchen paper to soak up the excess oil. This helps to keep the batter crunchy. You can keep deep fried fish warm in a preheated oven at 110°C/225°F/ Gas 1/2 for up to 20 minutes.
Steaming is a method of cooking where the fish is placed in a covered strainer or electric steamer and cooked in a vapour of boiling water. It is one of the healthiest methods of cooking fish, because it does not require any additional fat or oil to be added. It is suitable for most fish fillets and seafood.
A quick guide to Steaming:
Steaming in a bamboo steamer has long been the tradition in Asia. Place the bamboo steamer in a wok and add hot water until almost level with the bottom of the steamer. Line the steamer with baking parchment or cabbage leaves to prevent the fish sticking.
Universal stainless steel and collapsible steamer inserts are both easy to use and functional. Place the steamer onto a pan with hot water just under the base of the steamer. Line the steamer with baking parchment or cabbage leaves to prevent the fish sticking.
First, bring the water to the boil, then reduce the heat until the water is simmering and let the fish cook in the steam. Always cover the steaming insert or pan with a tight-fitting lid.
Baking refers to cooking fish in the oven, usually wrapped in foil. It's a wonderfully tidy method of cooking fish fillets or steaks, and it's also very healthy because of the minimal use of additional fat.
A quick guide to Oven Baking:
Brush sheets of foil with a little oil and place any vegetables or other ingredients in the centre of the sheet. Place the fish fillets on top and sprinkle with herbs, spices or seasonings.
Fold the foil into parcels so that the fish is tightly enclosed. Double fold the long side, then double fold each end. Use a rolling pin to press each end to ensure it is completely sealed.
Carefully place the parcels in the middle of the oven, directly onto the oven shelf. Place a tray below to catch any drips if necessary. Cook for approximately 15-18 minutes, depending on type of fish and size.
Grilling or Barbecuing
Grilling or barbecuing involves cooking with a direct source of radiant heat, such as hot coals or a grill element. You can also use a ridged griddle pan to match the same effect. This method is suitable for oily fish, or fish with firm flesh like salmon and monkfish.
A quick guide to Grilling or Barbecuing:
Use a marinade to add flavour to your fish and seafood before cooking. Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly, but never add salt to a marinade as it draws water out of the food. Add salt just before cooking instead.
Place the fish in a shallow, flat bowl with the marinade, turning the fish to ensuring the marinade coats it all over. Cover with foil and leave in the fridge for at least half an hour (up to 4 hours) and turn 1-2 times for evenly marinated fish.
Grill or barbecue the fish on a medium heat (or use a griddle pan), watching closely so as not to overcook, otherwise it will become dry. Timings will depend on the thickness of the steaks or fillets. To check, make a small incision in the flesh - cooked fish appears opaque inside.
Poaching is a gentle method of cooking in liquid such as water, stock, milk or wine. You can also add flavour to the liquid by adding vegetables, herbs or spices. To poach, the temperature needs to be quite low, so the liquid is just below simmering point, rather than boiling.
A quick guide to Poaching:
Sweat any vegetables in a pan first, then add the liquid and season lightly with salt and pepper.
Bring the liquid to the boil, reduce heat so that the liquid remains below simmering point (approx. 80°C),
Cover the pan with a lid and leave on the hob to poach until the fish is done. Timings can vary according to the thickness of the fillets.