How to poach fish including cooking times and oven or kettle methods.

poaching fish
To poach is the same as to gently simmer in liquid and therefore when you poach fish, whether it is in the form of cutlets, fillets, steaks or even whole, this signifies that you are cooking the fish in a gently rolling liquid of some kind.

Poaching is an easy and hassle-free method of preparing fish and can be carried out in a number of ways.

You must never allow the fish to cook in boiling water, as this will break the fish into pieces and destroy the structure.
Due to the fact that the fish is being cooked in a liquid, poaching is an excellent method for leaner, less oily types of fish, as moisture is retained during the cooking process giving the fish a succulent flavour and texture.

When poaching fish, it is necessary to keep the fish covered in liquid at all times throughout the cooking period.

Try to always use good quality water and not tap water, unless it is clean enough to drink. Use bottled or filtered water or water from a spring.

Poaching fish in the oven

Small whole fish or fish fillets, cutlets and steaks can be poached in the oven. For this you will need to arrange the fish in a buttered flameproof and ovenproof rectangular dish.

Add liquid according to the recipe and pour to around two-thirds of the height of the fish. Then add any other ingredients to flavour such as vegetables or herbs.

Lay a lightly buttered piece of greaseproof paper on top of the fish. This will help retain the moisture in the fish and prevent the paper from sticking to it.

Place the dish on to the stove first of all and heat until the liquid starts to boil. Then transfer the dish to a preheated oven at a temperature of 350°F (180°C) and poach in the oven until the flesh of the fish becomes slightly translucent and cooked.

Poaching fish on the stove

Similarly, all types of fish can be poached on the stove, although larger sized fish will need to be cooked in a bigger cooking vessel. Ideally, a fish kettle should be used. This is a rectangular container, with or without a lid, and a perforated rack inside, making the removal of the fish easy. If you do not have a kettle, you could use a wire rack placed inside a deep tin or a muslin hammock inside a casserole dish instead.

Firstly, prepare the liquid that you are going to poach the fish in the pan.

If you are poaching fillets, steaks or cutlets in a court bouillon, it is best to prepare the liquid and allow it simmer for 10 - 15 minutes before adding the fish.

To keep the shape, the pieces of fish can be wrapped in cling film for the cooking process. The shape is retained without compromising the method or end result or quality of the fish in any way, although the cling film must be removed before eating.

For a larger piece or whole fish, it can be placed on the rack of a kettle or inside a hammock made of muslin and then lowered into the simmering liquid. If the court bouillon or liquid does not cover the fish, add more liquid or water.

Cover the kettle or casserole dish with the lid and bring back to the boil. At this point, reduce the heat and gently simmer until the fish is just cooked. This should take around 15 - 20 minutes for large fish.

Remove the fish and drain and then transfer to a serving dish to cool. When the fish has cooled slightly, carefully peel off the skin from the body.

Some poached fish such as salmon, may be eaten hot or cold served with a mayonnaise type dip or sauce.

Poaching liquid

Fish is often poached in a court bouillon, although other forms of liquid are just as good. When poaching in the oven, milk is often used. Other poaching liquids are wine, soup, orange juice, fruit juice or cider and you can use the liquid as a basis for a sauce to serve the fish with once the fish has been cooked and removed.

Court bouillon

A court bouillon generally consists of fresh water, lemon juice, bay leaves, peppercorns, sea salt, parsley springs, celery and occasionally carrots, mushroom stalks and onions.

Poaching cooking times

Cooking times when poaching fish vary depending on the size and thickness of the fish.

Generally, rolled fish fillets need 5 minutes cooking time, fillets or steaks 6 - 8 minutes, a small whole trout or salmon weighing 10 oz (285 g) 8 - 10 minutes and larger fish weighing several pounds will require around 15 - 20 minutes.

Fish suitable for poaching

Most types of fish are suited to poaching although salmon, bass, haddock, red snapper and trout give excellent results.

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