How to bake fish, including baking with or without foil.
Baking is probably the easiest and most efficient way in which to cook fish. One dish is used, reducing the amount of time needed for cleaning afterwards and most of the fishy smell is contained within the oven.
You can cook most types of fish this way and end up with excellent results. Whenever preparing fish, try to use fish that is as fresh as possible for best results.
Always check recipes for cooking times, as this will vary depending on the thickness of the fish and on the method of cooking. Generally, calculate 10 minutes baking time per 1 inch (2.5 cm), measured at the thickest part of the fish. Thin fillets usually take 15 minutes, whilst small steaks approximately 10 - 15 minutes.
Baked fish recipes
Baking white fish
Lean, white fish such as cod, haddock or plaice, does not contain as much fat within the flesh as oily types of fish such as salmon or herring. For this reason it is advisable to protect the flesh of lean fish so that it does not dry out during the cooking process.
This can be done using a variety of methods, so you can select your preference and cook accordingly.
To stop white fish from drying out, cook it by adding some liquid to the tray or in a sauce.
The liquid could be water, wine, butter, milk, lemon, lime or orange juice, oil or a little stock. Other ingredients can also be added to give extra flavour and aroma such as herbs, tomatoes, onions or chopped vegetables. Check out some of your favourite recipes first if you are unsure, as there you will find suitable combinations of ingredients.
Alternatively, the flesh can be protected by either stuffing the fish or by coating it in flour or breadcrumbs before baking.
Baking in foil
Lots of people prefer to bake their fish by wrapping it in foil. This method is very efficient, as it cuts down on oven and utensil cleaning time.
By wrapping the fish in a protective covering, it has a similar effect to steaming, as moisture is sealed within the foil rather than escaping into the oven. This is an excellent way to ensure that your fish does not dry out and it also helps to seal in aroma and flavour.
Preheat the oven to around 400°F (200°C) and grease the base of a large piece of foil with butter. Take the piece of fish and season it with salt and pepper. Place the fish onto the foil, add some herbs and lemon juice, fold up the sides of the foil and seal at the top. Place into the preheated oven and cook for the specified time until the flesh is white and firm.
If baking a whole fish in foil, ensure that the fish is properly cleaned, scaled and gutted before wrapping it in foil. The head, tail and skin can be left intact and the body cavity can be stuffed with herbs and lemon or with a breadcrumb mixture. Cooking a whole fish in foil will take much longer, perhaps around 40 - 50 minutes. Calculate 15 minutes per half kilo of fish plus an additional 15 minutes. Once the fish is done, remove it from the oven and foil and skin before serving.
Baking in the oven without foil
Oily fish such as trout or lean fish that is stuffed or coated can be baked in the oven on a baking tray. Even lean types of fish on their own can be baked, although the flesh will tend to be a bit drier. Generally, whole fish are baked using this method.
To bake a whole fish, clean, scale and gut as above. If your fishmonger has not already done this for you, see our section on Preparing fish for cooking, for detailed instructions on how to do this.
Baking a large round fish
For a large round fish such as a sea bass or grey mullet, make several diagonal cuts into the fish, so that the fish cooks more evenly and quickly and so that it keeps its shape during cooking.
Season the fish with salt and pepper, inside the cavity and on the outside skin.
Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with lemon juice and some herbs.
The body cavity can be stuffed with lemon slices and herbs or with some stuffing made from breadcrumbs.
Spoon the filling into the body cavity and place loosely inside. Do not overstuff the fish, as the stuffing will swell during cooking.
Close the cavity by securing it with cocktail sticks and reshape the fish.
Place on greased paper lining a baking tray and bake in the oven until the skin is crispy and the flesh is white and firm. Baste during cooking with the melted butter and juices from the fish. This is particularly important for white fish.
Baking a whole flat fish
Baking a whole flat fish is just as simple, although if stuffing is required a certain amount of skill is needed.
As there is no body cavity as such with a flat fish, you will have to make your own.
This can be done, by taking a sharp knife and cutting through the flesh all the way down the backbone. The flesh is then loosened away from the bone with the knife and a cavity is thus created.
Fill the cavity with a little stuffing in a loose fashion as above, dot with butter and bake in the oven until done.
Stuffing for fish
A typical stuffing for fish would include around 2 oz of fresh breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, some chopped herbs such as parsley, chopped bacon, a little beaten egg and some milk.
These ingredients would be mixed together until a paste is formed and then used to stuff the fish.
Cooked stuffing is also popular where butter is melted, adding chopped onions and celery. After a few minutes of frying, this mixture is added to chopped herbs, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and mixed together.
Even with just using the baking method alone, there is a possibility of hundreds of delicious recipes to try.
Why not go to our baked fish recipes and see if any of them appeal to you and your family? You will find links to our recipes near the top of this page.