You can cook fish any number of ways, but baking it is an excellent way to retain the subtle distinctions in the flavor and texture of the fish. Fresh fish still tastes fresh when baked, and that can't be said for all other cooking methods.
What Fish is Best to Bake?
Certain cuts of fish are better for baking than others. Whole fish, thicker fish fillets and fish steaks all take well to baking. Thinner fillets and medallions are better broiled. If you need more tips to help with your fish selection, check out our tips on how to buy fish to get the best catch.
How to Bake Fish
For best results, lightly grease the fish and place it in an oiled baking dish or on an oiled rack set inside the dish. Place the dish on an oven rack set slightly above the center line. To make cleanup easier, line the bottom of the dish with aluminum foil.
What to Watch Out For
It's easy to overcook fish, however you cook it, which is why it's important to keep a close eye on the cooking time. Overcooked fish becomes dry and tough. Stuffed fish and fish with a firmer flesh will take a bit longer to cook thoroughly.
Standard baking temperature is 350º, which works just fine for fish. But you can get away with setting the temperature even lower. This extends the cooking time, which may help if other ingredients in the dish need more time to cook. And it helps the fish to retain more of its moisture.
If you'd like to brown the surface or make a nice crust form, cooking it hotter and therefore faster, is the way to go.
Avoid turning the fish unless you absolutely feel you must, and if you do turn it plan ahead to turn it only once. Baked fish can easily fall apart (and if it doesn't, it might already be cooked too much). For easier flipping with less likelihood of the fish falling apart, use two spatulas instead of just one.
How to Know When It's Done
There are several ways to know if your fish is done baking. The most definitive is to use a cooking thermometer. Stick it at an angle into the center of the meat, at the thickest portion. If the temperature reads 145º, then you know your fish is done.
For lack of a thermometer you can use a clean, dry toothpick instead, sticking it into the same area and seeing if the meat gives a bit of resistance as you insert the toothpick and it comes out clean. Or you can just press on that portion of the fish lightly with your fingertip and see if it comes back to its original shape.
The flesh of thoroughly cooked fish will appear to firm up, become flaky and turn opaque. It's best to remove baked fish from the oven slightly before it's as done as you want it to be, as it will continue to cook a bit longer out of the oven, especially as long as it sits on a hot plate.
Interested in other methods of cooking fish? We’ve got the know-how on how to both fry and grill your seafood.