5 Easy Ways to Cook Fish

An excellent source of lean protein with a good dose of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, fish is a natural choice on the South Beach Diet. It’s not only delicious, it’s also versatile — there are a number of healthy ways to prepare it. Here are five cooking techniques that will inspire you to add more fish to your meals (and some tips for how to test for doneness too).

You can grill fish:
Grilling, indoors or out, cooks fish fast and keeps it tender, juicy, and flavorful. Season the fish with your choice of fresh or dried herbs or a mix of herbs and spices. With a basting brush, lightly oil the fish with extra-virgin olive or canola oil so it won’t stick to the grill or grill pan. Fish usually cooks on an outdoor grill in 8 to 15 minutes over medium heat, depending on the thickness (fillets cook more quickly than fish steaks or whole fish). If you preheat your grill pan to very hot before adding the fish, it may cook even quicker. Garnish before serving with a lemon wedge.

You can sauté fish:
Sautéing, or pan searing, works for any type of skinless fish fillet. First, season the fish as desired. Then, depending on the number of fillets you’re cooking, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the fish for 2 to 3 minutes per side per 3/4 inch of thickness, shaking the pan occasionally to keep it from sticking. Handle the fish as little as possible; moving the fillets around too much will break them up. So flip them only once, and don't poke them. (The thicker the fish, the longer the cooking time.)

You can poach fish:
This technique works best with firm-fleshed fish fillets or steaks like salmon or halibut. Place the fish in a saucepan or deep skillet and add enough fish stock, water, or white wine to barely cover the fish, along with seasonings of your choice, such as fresh herbs or onions. Bring to a simmer over medium heat (do not boil). Simmer the fish for 10 minutes or until the center is opaque. Remove the fish with a slotted spatula. If you like, use the fish stock or water poaching liquid to make a Phase 1 sauce; use the wine poaching liquid to make a Phase 2 sauce.

You can bake fish:
Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Season the fish fillets or steaks as desired, place on the baking sheet, and bake at 350ºF for 7 to 10 minutes per inch of thickness. It's not necessary to flip the fish.

You can broil fish:
Broiling is best for thicker fish steaks. Season the steaks and brush with a little extra-virgin olive oil. Place the steaks on a broiler-pan rack and broil 3 inches from the heat for 4 to 6 minutes on each side, or until just opaque in the center. Allow more cooking time for steaks thicker than an inch.

How do you know whether your fish is done?
To see if your fish is properly cooked, simply test with a fork at its thickest point. Perfectly cooked fish should be opaque and flake easily when tested with a fork. Undercooked fish looks raw. Avoid overcooking salmon and tuna steaks.

Note: To maintain freshness and taste, thaw frozen fish in the refrigerator — not by leaving out at room temperature, placing under warm water, or heating in the microwave.

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