How to avoid overbaking a whole fish?

Discussion in 'Food and nutrition' started by Irving Kimura, Dec 20, 2003.

  1. I have no problem deciding when to pull fish fillets out of the oven so as not to overcook them, but
    I have a *much* harder time getting it right with whole fish. This is largely because I want to be
    able to carve and serve nice fillets from the fish (so I don't want to hack too much into it).

    Now, I absolutely *hate* overcooked fish, but I'm not wild about undercooked fish either (with the
    exception of sushi/sashimi, of course). How can I tell when I have reached that magical point in
    which the whole fish is cooked all the way to the backbone, but not overcooked? Is it even
    *possible* to bake a large whole fish (say, 3 in [7.5 cm] thick) so that all of it is cooked, and no
    part of it is overcooked?

    My book ("Fish & Shellfish" by Peterson) instructs to "[c]heck for doneness by carefully sliding a
    paring knife into the back at the thickest part, gently lifting the top fillet, and peeking inside
    to make sure the fish pulls away from the bone and the flesh is opaque (but still moist) rather than
    tranlucent and raw."

    Well, the other night I did just that with a 4.5 lb (2 kg), 3 in.
    (7.5 cm)-thick red snapper, which I baked at 400* F (200 C) for about 40 minutes. When I peeked
    inside, the little I could see (opaque flesh) suggested that the fish was ready for carving. This
    is a nearly irreversible decision in the case of a big whole fish, especially if you want to
    serve nice fillets (it so happens I had guests over at the time); it entails transferring a big
    fish from roasting pan to cutting board, and removing the hot stuffing (lemon slices and herbs in
    my case), not maneuvers one wants to undo, and of course, making deep cuts into the side of the
    fish. Unfortunately, my judgment was off. When I served it, the meat was rather soggy, especially
    near the fish's backbone; it did not separate cleanly from the backbone, i.e. it was somewhat
    undercooked.

    Any advice would be much appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Irv
     
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  2. Chef

    Chef Guest

    Try to aim to slightly undercook let it rest for ten minutes and then when you do serve it up if
    still underdone .....nuke it for 30 secs or so until at doneness required . It really is an
    excellent medium for cooking fish . Merry xmas TTFN Andy

    "Irving Kimura" <[email protected]> wrote in message news:[email protected]...
    >
    >
    >
    > I have no problem deciding when to pull fish fillets out of the oven so as not to overcook
    > them, but I have a *much* harder time getting it right with whole fish. This is largely because
    > I want to be able to carve and serve nice fillets from the fish (so I don't want to hack too
    > much into it).
    >
    > Now, I absolutely *hate* overcooked fish, but I'm not wild about undercooked fish either (with the
    > exception of sushi/sashimi, of course). How can I tell when I have reached that magical point in
    > which the whole fish is cooked all the way to the backbone, but not overcooked? Is it even
    > *possible* to bake a large whole fish (say, 3 in [7.5 cm] thick) so that all of it is cooked, and
    > no part of it is overcooked?
    >
    > My book ("Fish & Shellfish" by Peterson) instructs to "[c]heck for doneness by carefully sliding a
    > paring knife into the back at the thickest part, gently lifting the top fillet, and peeking inside
    > to make sure the fish pulls away from the bone and the flesh is opaque (but still moist) rather
    > than tranlucent and raw."
    >
    > Well, the other night I did just that with a 4.5 lb (2 kg), 3 in.
    > (7.5 cm)-thick red snapper, which I baked at 400* F (200 C) for about 40 minutes. When I peeked
    > inside, the little I could see (opaque flesh) suggested that the fish was ready for carving.
    > This is a nearly irreversible decision in the case of a big whole fish, especially if you want
    > to serve nice fillets (it so happens I had guests over at the time); it entails transferring a
    > big fish from roasting pan to cutting board, and removing the hot stuffing (lemon slices and
    > herbs in my case), not maneuvers one wants to undo, and of course, making deep cuts into the
    > side of the fish. Unfortunately, my judgment was off. When I served it, the meat was rather
    > soggy, especially near the fish's backbone; it did not separate cleanly from the backbone, i.e.
    > it was somewhat undercooked.
    >
    > Any advice would be much appreciated.
    >
    > Thanks,
    >
    > Irv
     
  3. Penmart01

    Penmart01 Guest

    "Irving Kimura" wrote:
    >
    >I have no problem deciding when to pull fish fillets out of the oven so as not to overcook them,
    >but I have a *much* harder time getting it right with whole fish.

    Bake whole fish wrapped in banana leaves.

    ---= BOYCOTT FRENCH--GERMAN (belgium) =--- ---= Move UNITED NATIONS To Paris =--- Sheldon
    ```````````` "Life would be devoid of all meaning were it without tribulation."
     
  4. x-no-archive: yes

    If you're going to bake, the thickness differential will always be a problem. One way to get around
    that is to bake in parchment with some other (moist) ingredients so the thin parts will at least
    remain moist.

    Naomi D.
     
  5. Cook on lower heat so it cooks through evenly. Poach it, if feasible. Or try a salt-crust baking
    method. It's always impressive when they crack that dome of salt and wipe the skin off the meat and
    carve the filets with a spoon.

    Get a probe thermometer to tell you when it's done.

    Fish are medium-rare with moist, separable flakes at 130-135F, so I set my probe for 129 and expect
    a little carryover. All the safety-heads will tell you to cook fish to 145F. Try it and see if you
    like it; I know I prefer the center of the fish, at least, to be moist. The thinner edges probably
    reach well above the center.

    I leave the probe in thick fish, but for thinner filets I use my eyes and one of these:

    http://www.goldaskitchen.com/merchant.ihtml?pid=2438&step=4

    And it works great.

    --Blair "We should be evolved to be born with probe thermometers."
     
  6. That was very helpful. Thanks!

    Irv
     
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