Cooking fish doesn’t have to be a strange diversion from cooking other types of meat, such as beef or poultry. Many of the safety guidelines are quite similar. The following guidelines will help you know when a fish is properly cooked and when it’s ready to eat.
You can tell when fish is cooked by its texture, how you cooked it, at what temperature it was cooked, how thick the fish is, and how long it has been cooking. Texture is important because you can tell easily when a fish is cooked this way. For example, it’s easy to tell when a flaky fish like salmon is done because you can see and feel its final texture. Once the meat is flaky, it is done. You can do this with many other fish, including trout, bass, catfish, walleye, etc.
Texture also goes hand-in-hand with how you cooked the fish. Baking, broiling, or steaming fish can result in flaky flesh. You can use a knife or a fork to peel back the skin (if it has been left on the fish) and check the meat underneath. If the meat pulls away from the center bones of a whole fish, or if the meat is firm and starting to pull apart, then the fish is done. Doing that simple check is easy when you are baking or steaming fish, but what if you are using it in soup? If you use fish in soup, you can tell that it’s cooked when the flesh is firm, when you no longer see blood, and when the fish is opaque.
If you are frying fish, the high temperature may cook the outside quickly while the inside may still be raw. To prevent this from happening, cover the frying pan so that you simultaneously steam and fry the fish. If you broil the fish at 450 degrees F, you may want to flip the fish over if you are using a whole fish or cover the fish at about the halfway point so that it does not become too browned or overcooked. When pan-frying or sauteing fish in butter, you can also check its texture. The color of the fish will also tell you when it is done. If you are cooking a large piece of fish, such as a fillet exceeding 10 ounces, you will need to cook it longer and check it after 10 to 15 minutes. According to Purdue University, you do not need to turn fish over if you are baking it.
A good rule of thumb to remember when cooking fish is that you should rely on its texture and color to tell you when it is ready to eat it.