Fish 101

Fish, get to know it better... and enjoy it even more. What fish is better for grilling? And for frying? How to store it? With these suggestions and a juicy recipe, fish will become your fresh ally.


Whether you buy it at a fish market or in the supermarket, watch that the fish counters are clean, and that there isn't a smell of ammonia. The fish should be on or in plenty of ice, should look and smell good. Other specific things to look for:

  • Whole fish: The eyes should be clear and shiny and the gills should be pink or red. The flesh should be firm and unmarked, with no browning. The fish should be buried in ice, or layered in it.
  • Fresh cut fillets or steaks: They should be bright and free of discolouration. Spots of pink, gray or brown may indicate the fish is not in good condition. The flesh should be firm. When sold in markets, it should sit on top of the ice, not buried beneath it, as this causes "burn".
  • Packaged Fish: Always check the "sell by" date. Do not buy the fish if it is expired, even if only by a day. Smell the package. If you can detect a "fishy" smell through the plastic, don't buy it.
  • Frozen Fish: Make sure frozen fish is free of ice crystals and white spots, which indicate freezer burn. All frozen fish should be well wrapped. In general, bags of frozen fish have little flavour because of freezer burn. You should thaw it slowly in the fridge, or prepared according to package directions.


  • Purchase fresh fish just before checking out of the supermarket.
  • Frozen fish should be placed in the freezer immediately.

Preparation / Cooking

Fish is cooked when it turns opaque and flakes easily with a fork. Never put cooked fish on the same platter used before it was cooked. Depending on the type of fish, there are some cooking techniques that work better than others:

  • Grilling and Broiling: Place fish 4 to 6 inches from heat source. Turn fish halfway through the cook time. Baste with an oil-based marinade for moistness and always coat the grill or broiling rack with non-stick cooking spray. Try: catfish, cod, grouper, halibut, mackerel, orange roughy, red snapper, salmon, sea bass, tilapia, shrimp, lobster tails, scallops.
  • Baking: Bake fish between 350oF to 425oF, skin side down. While you cook it, brush it with butter, oil or unused marinade. Add 5 minutes to the cooking time if the fish is still frozen. Try: red snapper, grouper, halibut, mackerel, sea bass, salmon, and tilapia.
  • Frying: Coat fish in seasoned breadcrumbs, flour or cornmeal, shake off excess and fry in oil that is hot but not smoking. Make sure there is enough room in the pan and turn once during the cooking time. Drain on a metal rack or paper towels. Try: catfish, cod, grouper, halibut, orange roughy, monkfish, red snapper.