A recent article in The Wall Street Journal stated that there are two main reasons why more people don’t eat fish. One reason is a fear of health risks. The second is a lack of understanding of how to buy and cook it properly.
Why Eat Fish?
Research shows that there are several important benefits to including fish in your diet:
- Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins such as D and B2 (riboflavin) that are beneficial to heart and brain health. Since the human body does not produce omega-3 fatty acids, they are best absorbed from the food we eat.
- Fish is rich in calcium and phosphorus and is a great source of minerals including iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium and potassium.
- Fish is packed with protein, vitamins and nutrients that can lower blood pressure and help reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
There is a lot of information in the press about the risks of eating fish. We researched several studies on the topic from the Environmental Protection Agency, University of Maine and Environmental Health Studies (EHP), which is a source for The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Seafood Watch.” Fish and seafood that were found to be lowest in mercury content are the following:
3. Salmon (Coho and Wild Alaskan)
4. Black Cod
6. Chilean Sea Bass
8. Striped Bass
9. Yellowfin Tuna
11. Farmed Trout
There is also a popular belief that fresh is better than farmed. In a study by the EHP, it was found that farmed fish has lower concentrations of mercury than many fresh sources.
As in any case, moderation is the key. It was found that larger fish contain more toxins, but if you love swordfish and eat it only once every six months, the risk is low. On the other hand, if you love shrimp and eat it frequently, the small amount of mercury can add up to a significant amount if eaten in large quantities.
Basics of Buying Fish
Americans eat approximately 15 pounds of fish per person per year, but on average we eat twice as much fish in restaurants than we eat at home. Buying, storing and cooking fish isn’t difficult; it just requires a little knowledge.
Your best resource is your Mollie Stone’s Fishmonger. He or she will help you decide what is fresh and matches your tastes, and will be happy to suggest cooking tips. Additional tips include:
Basics of Cooking Fish
There are many common methods used to cook fish, some of which are easier than others due to the delicate nature of fresh fish. These are our favorite beginner techniques:
- Grill it. The sturdier and fattier fish (e.g. grouper, salmon, tuna, swordfish) grill beautifully. Make sure your grill is very clean and oil it lightly before adding the fish. When you place fish on the grill, let it cook undisturbed for 2-4 minutes before you touch it. The fish will develop a nice crust and will release perfectly when it’s ready to turn.
- Broil it. Broiled fish can be very delicious, especially if you season it well before cooking. Be sure to preheat the broiler, placing the fish 4-6” away from the broiler, and watch carefully.
- Roast it. Baking at a high oven temperature really concentrates the flavors of fish and helps the sugars on the surface caramelize for superior flavor. Roasting is baking at temperatures above 400 degrees F, and you can season the fish with just about anything you like.
- Bake it. Baking is one of the easiest ways to cook fish. Just follow the recipe instructions for cooking, covering and standing times.
Not sure when the fish is fully cooked?
As I started out to cook my own fish and was unsure of my ability to determine when a fish is fully cooked, I listened to my grandmother who said “cook it until it flakes.” Most professional cooks believe that waiting until a fish flakes is overcooking it, especially the types that are meatier like tuna. It will take some practice to figure out just the right cooking time for your preference. Here are two recommendations to get started:
1. A popular guideline is to cook a fish 8 minutes per inch of thickness. This will work for almost any fish.
2. Start out with an oily fish (more omega-3’s!) like salmon. This fish, when flaky, is still pretty moist.
Ready to start cooking? Click here for two easy fish recipes.