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Basic Cooking Instructions for Seafood | save/print

Fish changes color as it cooks, changing from translucent to opaque. Avoid over-cooking. Remember fish will continue to cook when you take it away from the heat source. If you are in doubt, “peek” by inserting a knife in the thickest part of the fillet. Most cookbooks recommend that you cook fish to 145 degrees when measured on an instant read thermometer. Many cooks find that overdone. If it looks a little rare, remember the residual heat effect. Also, tuna is enjoyed by most quickly seared or cooked only to rare (80 degrees), and salmon medium to medium rare (110 to 120 degrees). These fish will be darker in the center, and still fully cooked.

Fish Fillets and Steaks

Baking:  Bake in a preheated oven at 375 – 400 degrees in oiled or buttered dish for approximately ten minutes per inch of thickness measured at the thickest part of the fish.
Broiling:  Preheat broiler.  Broil approximately 6” from the heat about ten minutes per inch of thickness.  Fillets with the skin on should be broiled skin-side down.  Steaks should be broiled 5 minutes per inch of thickness on each side.
Pan Searing: (or sautéing) Heat a heavy nonstick skillet or ridged stovetop grill pan over medium high heat.  Add a small amount of oil or oil and butter combination to the pan.  Season the fish as desired.  Place fish in pan, skin side up and cook uncovered 3 – 4 minutes or until browned.  Turn the fish over and continue to cook, uncovered an additional 3 – 4 minutes.  For very thick portions, cover pan and let residual heat cook the fish through, or finish in a pre-heated 400 degree oven.
Steaming:  Bring about 1 inch of water/seasoned liquid to a boil.  Turn off heat.  Place a Chinese bamboo steamer basket, wire basket or vegetable steamer in pan.  Line the steamer with lettuce, onion, herbs or citrus (without covering all of the holes) to keep seafood from sticking and add seafood.  Return liquid to a boil.  Cover loosely and steam 4 – 5 minutes.
Grilling:  Thoroughly clean and preheat the grill to medium or medium high heat (375 – 425 degrees).  Oil the grill and the seafood to prevent sticking.  Season and cook fish 8 – 10 minutes, skin side up first, turning to place skin side down to finish.  For skinless fillets or small items, use aluminum foil or a fish basket to prevent fish from falling through grate.
Poaching:  Add water/court bouillon to pan and simmer.  Turn off heat.  Add seafood to liquid, skin side down.  Seafood should be mostly covered by the liquid.  Return heat to a simmer, not boil.  Cover pan tightly and cook 5 – 6 minutes or until opaque throughout.

Whole Fish

Grilling or Broiling:  Stick to a fish smaller than three pounds for best results.  Rub fish that has been rinsed inside and out and patted dry with 2 tbsp of olive oil.  Then season inside and out with a mix of 2 tbsp of minced fresh parsley or other leafy herb, 1 tsp of coarse salt and ground black pepper to taste.  Grill or broil using medium high heat until the skin blisters, about 8 – 10 minutes per side average for a two pound fish.
Roasting or Baking:  Clean, season and use a similar “rub” as above.  Roast at high heat, 475 degrees without much liquid, or if the fish is large, reduce the heat to 425 – 450 degrees to prevent scorching.  Reduce the temperature further if you are roasting thinly sliced vegetables such as eggplant and/or tomatoes as a bed for the fish.  When you roast a whole fish, cut 3 or 4 crosswise slashes in each side.  This allows added flavors to permeate the flesh and hastens cooking.  Also it makes it easy to see if the fish is done, just look into the slits to see if the flesh has turned opaque down to the bone.  You can add sliced onion, lemons, garlic, fresh dill, salt and pepper to the inside of the fish for flavor.
To Serve:  Remove the skin from the top of the fish.  Using a thin bladed knife, make an incision along the back of the fish.  Work a spatula under the fillet, gently loosening it from the skeleton and remove it completely.  Next, lift the whole skeleton off the bottom fillet, starting with the tail and holding down the bottom fillet with a fork.  The second fillet can now be served.


Live Lobster:  In a large kettle of boiling, salted water, plunge lobster into the water, head first.  Cover the pot.  Bring water back to a boil.  Then lower the heat and simmer about 15 minutes for a 1 – 1 ¼ pound lobster; 20 minutes for a 1 ½ – 2 pound lobster.  For larger lobsters, simmer for about 22 to 25 minutes.
Lobster Tails:  Defrost frozen tails in refrigerator overnight, or in a bowl of cool water for about 20 minutes.
To boil, bring salted water to a boil.  Place tail in water; return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 minute per ounce of weight.
-To steam, place tails on rack over boiling water in a covered pot and cook 1 ½ minutes per ounce.
To bake, split tail down back.  Pull meat up through shell and lay back on top of shell.  Place tail on rack in bake pan and cook in preheated 400 degree oven for 15 – 18 minutes for 8 to 10 ounce tails.  Cook 12 – 14 ounce tails 20 – 25 minutes, and 16 – 20 ounce tails 25 – 35 minutes.  Baste with butter while cooking.
To broil, make a deep lengthwise cut on the underside of the lobster tail.  Spread open so it is butterflied.  Baste meat with butter every 5 minutes until light brown on edges.  Keep the tail 4 to 6 inches from the heat element.  Do not overcook.  8 – 10 ounce tails take 10 – 12 minutes; 10 – 12 ounce tails take 14 – 16 minutes, 12 – 14 ounce tails take 16 – 18 minutes.  For 14 ounce tails and larger, cook 1 ½ minutes per ounce.
To grill, insert a wooden skewer into the tail to prevent them from curling when boiled.  Drop the tails in boiling salted water for 4 minutes.  Drain the tails.  Split the soft part of the shell lengthways down the middle, but leave the hard shell intact.  Season meat with butter, oil, garlic and/or lemon as desired.  Place hard shell side down on preheated grill over medium hot heat and grill for 7 – 8 minutes until meat is opaque and firm to the touch.  You may turn the tails over half way through cooking if desired.

Crab and Crab Legs:
Crab fishermen cook their live catch on board large processing ships.  Flash freezing insures freshness of the product.  You may thaw and enjoy cold, or steam the crab above water until warmed through, approximately 10 – 15 minutes.
Alaskan King Crab Legs, whole and merus cut:  Crab legs are fully cooked and frozen on the boats.  Thaw crab legs overnight or in a bowl of cold water for 20 – 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place crab legs on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 – 18 minutes, until the thickest part is warm and flexible to the touch.  Crack whole legs at the joint.  Use kitchen shears to cut down the softest part of the shell.  Serve shell on, or slide the crabmeat out of the shell to serving plate.  If cooking from the frozen state, increase cooking time to 22 – 28 minutes

Dungeness Crab:  Steam whole crab upside down in ¼ to ½ inch of water, 5 to 10 minutes if fresh; 10 – 15 minutes if frozen.
Cocktail Claws:  These are generally served cold with cocktail sauce and lemon.
Florida Stone Crab Claws:  Steam and serve with lemon butter and nutcrackers.


Raw, On the Half Shell:  Rinse shell, hold oyster in palm of hand, deep shell down.  Wedge a strong oyster knife between shells at joint.  Twist knife.  Muscle should pop.  Cut muscle from top shell and discard shell.  Cut muscle from bottom shell.  It is ready to enjoy as is, with cocktail sauce, horseradish and/or Tabasco.
Fried:  Drain shucked oysters and dry well.  Dip in seasoned beaten egg (cayenne, salt and pepper).  Lightly roll in flour, breadcrumbs or fish fry mix and deep or pan fry until golden brown.
Rockefeller:  Shuck and drain oysters; place on deep half of shells.  For 3 dozen oysters, make a mixture of 2 cups finely minced spinach, 4 tbsp. minced onion, a pinch of salt, celery salt, Tabasco and sauté in butter about five minutes.  You may add a healthy dash of Pernod and a bit of garlic if desired.  Spread mixture over raw oysters; top with breadcrumbs and a pat of butter.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes.  Garnish with lemon slices.
Mussels:  Prior to cooking mussels, scrub lightly under cool, running water and remove the “beard”.  Mussels may be steamed in a large sauce pan.  Melt one stick of butter. Add ½ cup chopped green onion, 3 cloves of garlic.  Add 1 cup dry white wine or chicken broth or water.  Bring to a boil.  Add mussels, cover, shake and steam not more than 8 minutes or until all mussels open.  Serve with French bread.
Clams:  Prior to cooking, rinse clams under cool, running water to remove sand.  Some cooks soak clams in a mixture of cool water and cornmeal prior to rinsing.  You may steam littlenecks as above.  Or, steam clams over water and serve with lemon butter.
Scallops:  Scallops should be cooked until the edges start to crack and the scallop turns milky white.  Do not overcook.  Sauté scallops over medium high heat, using cooking spray, garlic butter or butter and dry, white wine, 3 – 4 minutes.  Scallops may be broiled or grilled, 6” from heat, 8 minutes or until opaque.


Boiled: Bring enough seasoned (using a shrimp boil seasoning or salt) water to cover shrimp to a boil.  Place shrimp in water and simmer until shrimp just turn pink, 2.5 to 3 minutes for medium shrimp, 4 to five minutes for larger shrimp.
Fried:  Peel and devein shrimp.  Dust with flour, dip in beaten egg, roll in seasoned bread crumbs or fry mix and deep fry at 385 degrees.
Stir Fry or Pan cooked: For 1 pound of peeled and deveined shrimp, you may use a scampi seasoning of 1.5 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp white wine, ½ clove of minced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes, cooking 3 – 4 minutes until done.
Broiled:  Place peeled and deveined shrimp in a buttered baking dish. Season as desired, and broil 4 to 6 inches from element until pink, 8 to 10 minutes.

Crab Cakes:  Cook crab cakes in a pan using cooking spray, oil or butter, about five minutes per side on medium or medium low heat.  Or, cook on an electric “George Foreman” grill about five minutes total.
Salmon Burgers:  Cook salmon burgers in a pan using cooking spray or oil about six minutes a side on medium heat.  Cover the pan after you turn the burger so that it cooks through.  Salmon burgers cook on a George Foreman type grill in about five or six minutes.
Tuna Burgers:  Cook tuna burgers in a pan using cooking spray or oil on high heat about 1 ½ minutes per side, until rare or medium rare.
Trout Parmesan:  Place oil in a skillet and heat until oil shimmers.  Place trout fillet flesh side down and cook about five minutes until the edges start to turn golden.  Turn fillet, placing skin side down, and cook an additional five minutes until done.

Other Tips

Seasoned Flour:  To 2 cups of flour, add 1 tsp salt, ½ tsp pepper, and ½ tsp granulated garlic.
Basic Fish Fry Mix:  Mix 1 cup masa (corn flour), 1 cup corn meal, 1 tsp Creole seasoning, ½ tsp black pepper, ½ tsp granulated garlic.
Tempura Batter Mix:  Use 1 cup flour, 1 cup cornstarch, 1 tsp. Creole seasoning.  Mix in enough water, club soda or beer to form thick “pancake-like” batter.