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How Do You Make Fish Not Taste Like Fish?

Ask the Chef

Question:

Can you recommend a cookbook on how to cook fish NOT to taste like fish? Bury it in another taste? I am not a fish fan but I know that it is good for you and I am looking to expand our dinner menu.

Thank you,

Clint

Answer:

If you are seeking to create fish dishes that don’t taste like fish, we recommend you start with the fish before the recipe.

For starters, you should explore your options for purchasing fish. Seek out a knowledgeable fishmonger or supermarket that carries quality, fresh fish. You can get a good idea of the freshness of the fish by looking for the following characteristics:

  • The general appearance of the fish should be good- no cuts or bruises
  • Clear slime covering the fish is a good sign
  • The flesh of the fish should respond to slight pressure and not feel soft or squishy
  • The eyes should be clear and bulging, not cloudy and recessed
  • The scales should not easily flake off when rubbed
  • The gills should be brightly colored, be they pink or red or maroon
  • The fish should smell ‘sweet’ and like the sea; it should not smell ‘fishy’
  • If the fish has been gutted, it should not have discolored markings along its rib cage, a.k.a. ‘belly burn.’
  • The fish should be stored on ice. Some better fishmongers will pack your purchased fish with ice to ensure it remains properly chilled during the ride home.

Once you have found a good, trustworthy source for fish, you should consider the type of fish you purchase. Fish that spend most of their lives actively swimming are higher in oil content and therefore have a stronger fish flavor. Examples of high-activity fish include salmon and trout.

Fish that take it easy, such as sole, flounder or halibut, have the least ‘fishy’ flavors. We recommend paring these delicately-flavored fishes with a light, simple sauce to determine if the combination suits your needs. If not, consider pairing low-activity fish with a more strongly-flavored sauce or salsa.

There are a number of excellent fish cookbooks out there. One of our favorites is Fish: The Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking.