The smartest and most affordable ways to incorporate the world’s greatest lean protein into your daily diet.
Fact no. 1: You need to eat fish. It’s high in protein, low in calories, and contains a lot less fat than meat (and it’s often the best type of fat: heart-healthy, muscle-building omega-3s). But you already know that — which, unfortunately, doesn’t change
Fact No. 2: You rarely eat fish. Maybe you’re lazily committed to being a master of the cheap post-workout chicken cutlet. Maybe you find that cooking flathead or John Dory is just too expensive, too involved, too temperamental. (Back to chicken!) Or maybe you’ve confined your fish eating to restaurants, where you’re likely consuming it the wrong way. (We’ll show you the right way.)
But don’t worry, dudes, we got you. Bearing in mind today’s mind-boggling array of “farmed” and “wild” fish, we’ve reached out to some of the world’s top fishmongers, chefs and ichthyologists (fish scientists) to seek out the easiest ways for you to incorporate more fish into your daily diet. These include the best ways to prep fish quickly and simply at home, how to pick a luxury chef-approved tin of tuna that isn’t bone dry and which questions to ply your waiter with to guarantee he brings you the freshest, healthiest-cooked catch.
Because there’s no way to get around Fact No. 3: Eating more fish will add not only muscle to your body but also years to your life.
The Five Best Value Fish to Buy at Your Market
The fish sold in your local market can be broken down into two basic categories: Flat fish, like flounder, sole and flathead, which have lean, white flesh and a delicate flavour, and are ideal for fish novices; and round fish, which are broken down by their relative richness. There’s oily fish — dinner-party staples like salmon, trout and mackerel, which have sharper tastes that fish connoisseurs love — and leaner white fish, like John Dory, cod, snapper and barramundi, which are milder and more versatile.
Taking into consideration taste, health benefits and price, which fish lend themselves to the most idiot-proof cooking?
“As delicious as expensive fish like tuna and swordfish and can be, there are always other species available that are equally delicious and oftentimes a fraction
of the price,” says fish restaurateur Ian MacGregor. If you like your fish mild and sweet, go for Leatherjacket (typically about $10/kg). Cook whole (six minutes each side) then add red wine vinegar and rosemary leaves to the crunchy bits for a tasty sauce which perfectly complements the fish’s firmer texture. Skate (roughly $8/kg), is a stingless ray whose meat comes from its “wings”. “People tend to stay away from skate due to its stringy appearance,” says MacGregor, “but flavour-wise it stacks up against any sole or flounder and is always at a far better price than 95% of the fish
in the case.”
If you prefer your fish darker and oilier — and, if you’re a lifter, you should, since they come jammed with more omega-3s — then MacGregor recommends Spanish mackerel (close to $25/kg), a mild-tasting fish that’s high in omega-3s and vitamin D, and is more elegant than beefy tuna steaks. “It’s one of my favourites,” he says. “It’s consistently available and versatile: You can bake, broil, poach or grill it; it stands up to almost any sauce; and it’s delicious just sprinkled with sea salt and lemon.”
Fish-eating trends come and go — it wasn’t that long ago flathead was considered a poor man’s dish. Blackfish also known as Luderick (about $8/kg), is also deserving
of a dinner table comeback. Its softer white flesh is easy to
eat either grilled or fried. Batter it with plain flour and tumeric for a tasty twist.
Eastern Coast Whiting ($7-$15/kg) is another unsung hero that can be eaten whole (scaled and gutted) and deep-fried for an excellent starter.
Become a Master Fish Chef with Just Three Essential Cooking Techniques
Baking is simple, foolproof and mess-free. It’s also easy to do a large quantity at once, it doesn’t stink up the kitchen, and it’s healthy because little extra fat is needed (in fact, you can get away with using no oil at all). Plus, pretty much any fish can be baked (just adjust the time based on thickness). To start, try the instructions below to bake a) salmon with lemon and dill; b) branzino with lime and basil; or c) rainbow trout with orange and oregano.
■ Gently toss 500g of fish fillets with two tbsp each olive oil, any fresh citrus juice and any minced herb. Salt and pepper to taste. (For even more flavour, add some minced garlic, sliced onion, grated ginger or chopped black olives.) Wrap fillets in parchment paper (folding edges so it doesn’t leak), or place in a tightly covered baking dish. Bake in a 200˚ oven 12-15 minutes (denser fish and thicker fillets will take longer), or until it breaks apart easily with a fork. Don’t stress about overcooking — sealing in the juices like this keeps it moist.
Poaching is one of the healthiest ways to cook fish, and also keeps it from drying out or stinking up the kitchen. Poached fish can be served hot, cold or at
room temperature. Best fish for poaching: salmon, barramundi, trout, cod and snapper.
■ Place fillets in a wide saucepan with just enough vegetable or chicken stock to cover them (or you can make
a quick poaching liquid
by boiling water with some carrot, celery, onion, herbs, salt and
a splash of white wine, then straining). Remove the fish to a plate, and heat the liquid over
low heat until it’s steaming but not bubbling (you’re ideally just trying to keep it below a boil). Return the fish to the pan in a single layer and cook until it flakes easily with a fork, about 10 minutes. Poaching is very forgiving, so don’t stress.
Using only a light brushing of oil to prevent sticking, grilling is superhealthy
and results in a concentrated fish flavour. It’s ideal
for whole fish or skin-on fillets and steaks; firmer fish, like tuna, salmon, mahi mahi and snapper work best — just be sure all
are of the same thickness, for
■ Make sure the grill is clean, well-oiled, and blazing hot. Pat fish dry, then lightly oil both the skin and the grill. Gently place the fish on the grill and let sit — don’t nudge, or it’ll stick — for about 3 minutes (check after 2 minutes to see if it releases easily), then flip and cook, with the grill covered, another