It’s Not The Fish, It’s You: 12 Mistakes You’re Always Making When Cooking Fish


Have you ever wondered why your fish always sticks into the pan? Or why it’s soggy on the outside but dry on the inside? Or why your fish has an unpleasant fishy taste? You might be committing a few of these nasty mistakes. 

Fish is quick and easy to cook. But here’s the deal: it can be delicate so it’s also quick and easy to mess it up. 

If you want to cook your favorite fish dishes perfectly at home, here are 12 mistakes renowned chefs want you to stop making. 

1. Overcooking your fish

Since fish cooks quickly, overcooking is the most common way people mess up fish. You know how overdone fish looks: dry, tough, and tasteless. 

A perfectly cooked fish is slightly flaky, opaque, and moist. Cook times vary but the general rule of thumb is to cook 3 to 5 minutes per side. 

2. Not pat-drying your fish before searing

Frying a wet piece of fish is a common mistake among home cooks. When you fry your fish wet, it’ll steam rather than sear in the pan. You’re also running the risk of overcooking the fish trying to get that nice crispy crust on the outside. 

If you’re pan-searing fish, make sure the fillet is dry on all surfaces to achieve the delicious golden-brown crust on your fish. Dab all sides down with a paper towel. Don’t forget to blot lightly after cooking to get rid of any excess moisture that would otherwise make it soggy. 

3. Removing the skin

Many salmon recipes tell you to get rid of the skin before cooking to keep things looking neat. Don’t! You’re missing out on three benefits: First, the skin holds the fish together while you’re cooking it. Second, it helps keep the fish moist. Lastly, it’s yummy and guilt-free. 

If you must remove the skin, wait until it’s cooked. 

4. Not cooking it skin side-down 

Speaking of skin, don’t you just want to sink your teeth into some crispy, golden skin from a perfectly seared fish fillet? No need to drown it in oil – cooking fish skin side-down is the best way to get that crunch you want. Start the other way around and you’ll get a soggy, unappetizing skin side.

5. Overcrowding the pan

This rule applies to anything, not just seafood. In this case, you run the risk of burning some while others are undercooked. 

6. Not getting the pan hot and greasy enough

Raise your hand if you’re annoyed with fish sticking onto the pan or grill. Yeah, we’ve all been there. But seriously, is there any way you can prevent it without drowning it in cooking oil? 

The trick is to get the pan blazing hot and smooth. If you don’t have a non-stick pan, you can create a temporary non-stick surface by heating oil and salt. Get a cast-iron skillet or blue steel pan blazing hot then pour 1 tbsp of oil and a liberal pinch of salt. Take it off the heat and wipe it down with a paper towel.

The same goes for grilling the fish. Lightly brush the grill with oil to prevent it from sticking to its barred surfaces. Flipping fish around until it’s cooked through and is firmer. 

Another secret tip is to brush it with some mayo. Brushing mayonnaise onto the fish helps seal the flesh, keeping it moist and succulent. It adds a burst of flavor too!

7. Flipping too frequently

If you tend to flip more than once, you’re doing it wrong. The more you flip, the more likely it is to fall apart. Patience is a virtue – you must learn to leave it alone and wait long enough for the meat to have a lovely sear.

8. Using tongs 

Again, fish is tender so it should be handled with a lighter hand. Tongs are harsh utensils that can break apart delicate fish. Instead of tongs, you’re better off with spatulas that can withstand high temperatures.

9. Cooking straight from the fridge 

Have you ever cooked something that’s crispy on the outside but raw on the inside? Chances are that you cooked it straight from the fridge. Let any seafood sit at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before cooking. 

10. Not buying the good stuff

Who cares if you have the most expensive non-stick pan? Or if you have the best herbs and spices to make your dish shine? If the star of the show isn’t fresh, your dish is still going to be less than stellar. 

If your local supermarket isn’t reliable when it comes to high-quality seafood, you may check out fresh seafood delivery online. 

11. Overseasoning the fish

Fish has a natural delicate yet flavorful taste. So if you’re not careful, fish can be easily overpowered by seasonings, spices, and sauces that are too robust.

Keep it simple and use a light touch. If the fish is high-quality, a gentle touch of butter or olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper, and a dash of herbs are enough for your seafood to shine. 

Don’t marinate it too long – a maximum of 30 minutes is enough, otherwise, it can get mushy. 

12. Putting too much salt in the marinade

Salt is notorious for breaking down proteins and drawing out moisture. Aside from making your fish unbearably salty, letting your fish sit in a too-salty marinade can make it mushy and dry instead of moist and firm.  

Author Bio: Mina Natividad is a passionate daytime writer for Manettas Seafood Market, an online and interactive seafood hub which provides customers a true, first-class fish market experience without leaving home. Since she’s a seafood lover herself, she’s got a lot to say about food, well-being, and lifestyle.