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FISH – General preparation and cooking times




Larger fish should be scaled (if necessary), washed, trimmed and gutted before cooking. Smaller fish can be just washed and scaled (if necessary) and left whole.


To scale -  Some fish  have a very smooth skin do not require scaling e.g. mackerel.  If a recipe calls for the fish to be skinned, then scaling isn’t necessary. However, as the skin is often very flavourful, it is generally worth the extra effort.  Scaling is done with the back of a knife. Start at the tail end of the fish and scrape the skin from tail to head. Rinse thoroughly under cold running water.


To trim -  Trimming is the name given for cutting off the fins, tail and head. These are best removed with a sharp pair of kitchen scissors.


To Gut -   Gutting is the name given to the removal of the intestines.  Slit along the underside of the fish with a sharp knife, from just below  the head to about half way down. Open out and remove the roe and intestines. Rinse thoroughly under cold running water.


To Bone and fillet  -  The method  depends on the type of fish.


Flat Fish e.g. Sole, Plaice, Turbot -  remove the head with a sharp knife then make a deep incision for the middle of the back side (usually the darker side). Insert the tip of the knife  into the incision then gradually loosen the fish from the bones, gently folding back the flesh as you go. Finally, cut the flesh away from the edges to remove the fillets


Round fish e.g. Mackerel, Trout, Cod, Salmon -  Cut off the head, fins and tail and remove the intestines as above, then open out the fish as flatly as possible. Insert the knife under the backbone and gently ease away from the flesh. This will leave a whole fish with no backbone. Rinse thoroughly under cold running water Divide into fillets.






Fish Stock     HT  C   40mins


Allow enough cold liquid (water, stock, milk etc)  to just cover the fish.  Bring to boiling point then immediately reduce the heat and simmer as follows:-


Thin fillets                 =            3-4 minutes

Thick fillets               =            5-6 minutes

Cutlets or Steaks      =            7-10 minutes



Unless baking in liquid, always well grease the dish. Bake in a moderate oven as follows:-


Thin fillets                 =            15 minutes

Cutlets or Steaks     =            20-25 minutes

Whole fish                  =            25-40 minutes



Always well grease grill pan or rack. Brush the fish with oil or butter then cook under a preheated grill as follows:-


Thin fillets                             

3-5  minutes – no need to turn during cooking


Cutlets or Steaks                 

10-15 minutes, turning once during cooking and brushing the second side with a little oil or butter


Whole fish                            

15-25  minutes, turning once during cooking  brushing  the second side with a little oil or butter


Shallow Frying

Coat the fish with seasoned flour or egg and crumbs and fry as follows:-



Thin fillets       =    4 minutes, turning half way through


Thicker fillets  =    5-6 minutes, turning half way through  



Cutlets, Steaks or  Whole fish               

10-15 minutes, turning half way through and whole fish reducing the  temperature for the last  5-8 minutes


Deep Frying

Coat the fish with seasoned flour, batter or egg and crumbs. Preheat the oil to 190C, 375F,  and fry as follows:-



Thin fillets       =    3 minutes  



Thicker fillets  =    4  minutes  



Cutlets, Steaks         

5-8 minutes, turning half way through  and reducing the temperature for the last 5-8 minutes              



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Serving Suggestions


Key techniques used in this recipe


Make Ahead




Tips, Options and Substitutions





Main equipment required to prepare fresh fish


Sharp knives - large and small

Chopping board

Kitchen scissors

Fish Scalers (optional)


Related Recipes and Information

Fish/Seafood  Main Course Recipes

Fish and Seafood Starter Recipes

Cuts of Fish

General Fish Prep & Cooking Times  

Information about individual types of fish


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