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A fish spatula can be used for way more than just flipping fish. It's our cheap little kitchen workhorse!
Welcome to One Simply Terrific Thing, our ongoing series highlighting the small tools and kitchen goods that make life better!
Don’t let the name deceive you. A fish spatula can be used for way more than just flipping fish.
In fact, this fish spatula from Winco ($7) is my favorite spatula to use for almost everything!
The things that make a fish spatula so special – the slightly flexible head, the thin, angled edge, the hefty handle – make it the best tool not only for flipping delicate fish, but also for sliding under pancakes, cookies, fritters, omelets, basically anything you need to lift off a pan!
The triangular head is wide enough to hold a bunch of vegetables or a burger without some of it breaking off the side (unlike some of my other spatulas), and the slots mean excess oil gets left behind. This also means it’s a great spatula to use when frying foods. Is there anything it can’t do?
I’ve owned my single Winco fish spatula for years. The wood handle has faded but hasn’t cracked, and the blade is as sharp and effective as ever. It’s my cheap little kitchen workhorse!
Cheers to good tools!
How to Cook Crispy-Skin Salmon
A few weeks ago my co-worker Rhoda wrote about the "best salmon you've ever had." That salmon—slow-cooked, but still ready in 22 minutes—really is a brilliant way to cook the fish. But there's a downside: No crispy skin.
Luckily, there's more than one way to cook a salmon. So I developed a method for those nights when you want a little crunch.
Now, I know from experience that cooking fish can feel hard. It can even feel scary. It took making many sub-par salmon dinners with limp or torn skins over the years (and reading some helpful advice from our friends at Serious Eats) before I mastered perfectly-cooked fillets. But now I know that crunchy skin and tender, luscious fish is all about following a method.
Here's how to cook crispy-skin salmon in five simple steps:
Types of Spatulas
Brenda Anderson/Getty Images
Most spatulas fall into two categories: turners and non-turners. Let’s break it down:
These spatulas are for, well, turning. Use them to flip foods like pancakes and burgers so they are evenly cooked on both sides. Slotted turners, good for draining liquid and handling delicate foods, are probably what you imagine when you picture a spatula. You can also buy perforated turners with little holes in them (for draining grease and other liquid) or solid turners, which have no holes. Use solid turners for anything that doesn’t involve draining.
Non-turner spatulas aren’t used to turn foods over. Instead, they’re made for mixing, spreading, scooting, and scraping. Silicone or rubber spatulas are essential for bakers and scrambled egg makers. They’re more flexible than other spatula types, so you can easily scrape the sides and bottoms of mixing bowls and reach into nooks and crannies that you wouldn’t be able to access with spatulas made from other materials. An offset spatula, meanwhile, is smaller than other varieties. Use this for frosting and spreading.
The Mini Offset Spatula Is Every Professional Baker’s Secret Weapon
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The small offset spatula is one of those kitchen tools—like a cake tester, bench scraper, or fish spatula—that you may consider unnecessary. But use it once and you’ll love it forever. After you’ve shelled out the $5 for the 4.5-inch workhorse, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t bought one years ago, especially considering that you probably spend that amount on various caffeinated beverages every day.
The mini offset is well-known for creating dramatic whirls of frosting on cakes and cupcakes (and don’t even get me started on the wonders it can work on whipped cream), but it’s also the ideal tool for swooping hummus, smearing butter, jam, and cream cheese, and prying muffins out of their tin. Gentler than a butter knife and with a thin, flexible blade that’s a dream to maneuver, the mini offset has none of the sharp edges that threaten to scuff up a delicate crumb. Its bluntness makes it ideal for running along the sides of a pan quickly and smoothly, a sensation that’s as close to the thrill of driving a sports car through the Italian hills as I’m going to get.
Crepe Cake with Whipped Cream
I bought my own small offset spatula a few years ago, when I was working in a test kitchen where we only had one. (This was madness.) The recipe developers and food stylists would practically fight for it, running to be the first one to the office in the morning so that they could grab it, hold it hostage in their apron pocket, and be the only person who could make beautiful swooshes that day. When I realized I couldn’t bake (or cook!) without it, I got my own. I received my second as a holiday gift when I was working as a pastry cook at a restaurant: The head pastry chef gave each cook an engraved offset so that we’d never be without one (and so that no one could get away with pilfering). We used them to spread cake batter into all of the corners of a pan, to smooth brownies before they went in the oven, and to butter brioche.
At home, I use it as a flipper, turning small pieces of pan-frying tofu and wedges of roast squash, and a forklift, transporting delicate cookies from the baking sheet to a wire rack. (And that means I have yet to purchase a cookie spatula which, I’d argue, is much less useful.)
Now I have a roster of small offsets so that I can keep one by my side when I’m food styling and a few in my home kitchen for whenever the time comes (and it always comes).
Yesterday, I used one to pry the top off a small can of paint. Screwdriver? Who needs one!
Pescado Frito (Fried Red Snapper)
Christopher Simpson for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews. Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks.
Fishing is an extraordinarily complex issue in Puerto Rico. Much of the seafood eaten doesn’t come from the island’s own waters, in part because of arcane legislation that controls fishing rights. And yet, whole deep-fried fish is a staple on the island, particularly along the west and southwest coast. There, you’ll find red snapper, simply marinated in adobo, fried and served with tostones, avocado salad and white rice. It is, in my opinion, the absolute best way to enjoy a whole fish. The frying turns the head and the tail into a crunchy fish chicharrón, and the skin and flesh cook evenly, keeping the flesh moist and the skin crisp. While bones are often a concern for those uncomfortable eating whole fish, there’s a simple solution: Eat it with your hands. Your fingers will do a much better job of finding bones than your fork will, and the experience is more visceral, and delicious.
Perfect Fried Fish
Step 1: Choose the Right Fish
Over the years, I’ve heard several people comment that they don’t like the taste of striped bass. My first question is always, “How do you cook it?”
More often than not, the complainer replies, “I fry it.”
Not all fish is meant to be fried and striped bass is a fine example I believe it is much better suited to be grilled, broiled, or braised.
The best fried fish is made from mild flavored, white-fleshed fish like sea bass, flounder, cod, haddock, pollock, tautog or scup. (For freshwater fish, I use white perch, yellow perch, or walleye). I avoid frying oily fish like bluefish, trout, salmon, or tuna.
I also prefer thinner fillets when pan-frying. For most fish, I fry the tail-end section of the fillets and reserve the thicker shoulder cuts for other preparations.
Step 2: Season the Fillets
A lot of recipes out there call for seasoning the flour, the egg wash, and/or the breading with salt and other seasonings which, frankly, makes no sense.
I always dust the naked fillets (which should be thoroughly dried off using paper towels) with salt and pepper before coating them. This does a couple of things. First, it allows you to evenly season the fish. Second, the salt draws moisture out of the fillets, which will react with the flour to make a glue, which makes the breading adhere much better to the fish when it is fried.
Step 3: Dip the Fillets in Flour, Egg, and Breadcrumbs
Applying the breading is 3-step process. The first step is to dust both sides of the fillet in flour until evenly coated. Next, dip it into beaten egg and then coat it with your breading of choice (breadcrumbs, cracker crumbs, panko, etc.)
Pro Tip: If you use one of your hands for dipping into the dry ingredients, and your other hand for dipping into the wet ingredient, you won’t end up with big ol’ dough balls on your fingertips.
Dip the fillets in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs.
Step 4: Place the Fillets in the Fridge
This, I believe, is crucial. After breading the fillets, I always pop them in the refrigerator for at least a half hour. This accomplishes two things: First, it allows the egg to set with the flour and the breading, which makes everything adhere better to the fish when frying. Second, it makes the fish as cold as possible when hitting the pan, which helps prevent overcooking.
Step 5: Choosing the Right Frying Pan
Hands down, the best tool for pan-frying fish is an electric frying pan. It is equipped with a thermostat that allows pinpoint precision of the cooking temperature. Maintaining the proper temperature is the key to cooking fish that’s golden and crisp on the outside, and moist and perfectly flaky on the inside.
When you add fish to hot oil, the oil’s temperature drops. An electric frying pan automatically adjusts to raise the temperature back up to where it should be. I’ve found that 350 degrees is the ideal temperature for frying fish.
An electric skillet is ideal for pan-frying fish. The electric thermostat provides precise heat control, it cooks evenly throughout the pan, and its larger size allows you to work in large batches. I highly recommend the Presto 16-inch Electric Foldaway Skillet at $50.
Electric frying pans have a second benefit, which is that they eliminate cold spots and enable even browning throughout the pan. Since they get heat from a direct source, the entire cooking surface is heated evenly.
My second pick for pan-frying fish is a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. Contrary to popular belief, cast iron does not excel at even cooking stuff in the center of the pan cooks faster than stuff at the outer edge. Because of this, I have to rotate the fish while it’s cooking to get it evenly browned.
If you do opt for a cast-iron skillet, make sure it’s preheated before adding the oil. Heat it on medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes until the handle is hot to the touch. Add the oil, wait another 2 or 3 minutes, and then add the fish.
Step 6: Picking the Right Cooking Oil
You want one that has a high smoking point. Olive oil does not, and the same with butter. Stick with canola, vegetable, or peanut oil.
Step 7: Flip the Fried Fish
Did you know there is a kitchen tool designed specifically for flipping fried fish? A fish spatula should be your weapon of choice for this task. For the crispiest fried fish with the least amount of grease, I recommend buying two. The key is to lift the fillet after the first side is cooked and suspend it over the pan for a few seconds to allow excess oil to drip off. Then, carefully flip the fillet over onto the second fish spatula and lower it back into the pan to finish cooking the second side.
This reduces the amount of oil absorbed by the breading and helps produce the perfect, crispy exoskeleton.
A fish spatula is the best tool for flipping fish fillets – I recommend buying two.
Step 8: Place the Fried Fish on a Drying Rack
When your fried fish is ready to come out of the pan, it should be placed on a metal wire drying rack to rest, never on paper towels! Placing it atop paper towels (or any flat surface) steams the fish from below, resulting in a soggy bottom, increasing the odds of the breading pulling away from the fillet.
Crispy Pan-Fried Fish
- 4 fillets catch of the day
- 3/4 cup flour
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup plain breadcrumbs
- Salt & pepper
- Canola oil
Dry the fillets with paper towels and remove any pin bones. Lightly dust them on both sides with salt and black pepper.
Set up three dredging stations (shallow bowls, plates, or pie plates) for the coatings. Add the flour to the first. Add the beaten eggs to the second, then and add the breadcrumbs and Parmesan to the third. Dip the fillets into the flour, making sure they are well coated, and shake off any excess flour. Next, roll them around in the beaten eggs, once again allowing any excess to drip off. Now, press them into the breadcrumbs on both sides until they are evenly breaded. (I flip them over several times to make sure they are totally coated.)
Add a thin layer of breadcrumbs to a platter, place the breaded fillets on top, and then dust them with any remaining breadcrumbs. Refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.
Add about 1/8 to 1/4 inch of oil to an electric frying pan and preheat it to 350 degrees. Carefully add in the fillets, making sure to give them some elbow room – do not overload the pan! Cook for about 3 minutes per side until golden and crispy. Lift each one from the pan with a fish spatula and allow any excess oil to drip back into the pan before flipping it over. Cook for about 2 to 3 more minutes on the second side until they register 145-degrees, remove, and let them rest on a wire drying rack placed above paper towels. Let rest for a minute or two to allow excess oil to drip out. Dust with salt, if needed.
When I was a kid, I always ate my fried fish with ketchup. Sometimes I still do, but if you want a slightly more sophisticated dipping sauce, give this a try.
The Ultimate Fried Seafood Dipping Sauce
This is my go-to recipe for a dipping sauce. It goes great with fried or baked fish, and it’s also perfect for a fish sandwich.
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce – I like Frank’s
- 1 tablespoon capers
Mix all ingredients and refrigerate. Dip the fried fish in the dipping sauce and devour!
3 Easy and Tasty Ways to Cook Fish with Skin
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Here’s the thing about fish skin—it has to be ultra-crispy otherwise, it’s going to have a limp texture that could turn you off of it for a long time! It’s a cooking technique that, understandably, intimidates a lot of people. With a few tips and tricks, you’ll feel like a pro in the kitchen and confidently make tasty skin-on fish fillets. In this article, we’ll walk you through the most popular way to make this type of fish—pan-frying. We’ll also give you an alternative for broiling the fish if you don’t want to deal with a hot pan, and we’ll address a popular technique for making a whole fish on the grill in the warmer summer months.
Because this recipe has such simple, classic flavours, it’s easy to pair with any of your favourite sides. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Tossed green salad makes a delicious addition to this fish. or Roasted Butternut Squash Mash – This side dish is ready in 30 minutes, with almost no hands-on time. – We love this recipe. Cauliflower is so crispy and flavourful. This cod fish recipe also goes well with Roasted Sweet Potato. or green beans
First off, let’s talk grocery shopping. To make this baked salmon recipe, you will need:
- Salmon: When it comes to purchasing salmon, I recommend looking for filets that are:
- Good-quality: It’s important to me that any salmon I buy is wild-caught and sustainably harvested. I recommend looking for Pacific or Alaskan Salmon there are many varieties of salmon to choose from. In general, look for salmon whose skin is bright silvery, and whose flesh is shiny and moist and brightly-colored. Also avoid salmon that smells too fishy it should smell more like the saltwater of the ocean.
- Skin-on: Even if you’re not a fan of salmon skin, I highly recommend purchasing your filets skin-on — if nothing else because it will help prevent the salmon from drying out while cooking. You can always eat around the skin.
You will also need (affiliate links included):
- An instant-read thermometer: You guys know me and cooking thermometers. If you really want to ensure 100% accuracy with the doneness of your salmon, I highly, highly recommend investing in a cooking thermometer. It’s super-easy to use, and will help ensure that your salmon is not over- or under-cooked. I recommend either this:
- : which I also own and love because it can be used inside of a hot oven (especially helpful for baking pork, salmon, steak and chicken), and retails for about $24.99 on Amazon. : which I have owned and used for years, and retails for about $9.99 on Amazon. (Only downside is that it cannot be used inside the oven.)
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