Today we kick off the first in a recurring series here on Weekday Pescatarian. I've been reading through some common questions readers have regarding cooking seafood. (If you want to participate in this fun conversation, DM your questions on Instagram or email them here.)
The Top Question Regarding Cooking Seafood Is:
How Do I Bake Fish In the Oven Without Foil?
I'm a big fan of cooking fish in the oven. Baking fish virtually eliminates one of the top complaints about cooking fish at home - the odor. Slipping your white fish, salmon fillets or even that whole fish into the oven prevents all the splattering and smells that cooking on the stovetop can create. If you are cooking for people who don't like the fish smell hanging around well past dinner, baking your fish recipe should be at the top of your list.
So today, I'm going to talk about the best way to bake fish without using aluminum foil. Actually, I'm going to talk about the FOUR BEST WAYS to cook fish in the oven without foil.
It's an embarrassment of aluminum-free cooking tip riches.
#1: LOW AND (NOT SO) SLOW
If you've ever lived in, visited, or seen a food documentary about the South, you know low and slow barbeque is a religion in these parts. Well good news, team. This tried and true methodology works really well with seafood. Except it takes way less time.
The first person I heard talk about fish as a low and slow option was Molly Baz of Bon Appetit Magazine. She's a genius and my life was forever changed.
Exhibit A: Baked Swordfish with Lemon, Rosemary and White Beans
I love swordfish for this preparation, but it works with almost any fish fillets you find at your local fish counter.
Start with a cast iron skillet or other oven safe pan or Dutch oven.
You'll want to build flavors on and all around your fresh fish. For this swordfish bake, I started by marinating the swordfish fillets in olive oil, garlic and rosemary.
Then I used lots more garlic, shallots and spices and mixed them with the smashed white beans to create a super flavorful base for the fish.
Top the white bean mash with your piece of fish, then pop it in a preheated oven for about 12 minutes.
Like all proteins, cooking time for fish varies based on the thickness of the fish. As a general rule, fish should be baked for 10 minutes per inch of thickness. So a 1-inch thick fish filet would take approximately 10 minutes to bake. If you prefer your swordfish medium well, look for an internal temperature of 135-140 degrees. If you prefer your swordfish cooked through, you're looking for closer to 145 degrees.
This dish bakes at a little lower temperature (350 degrees) for just 10-12 minutes.
And there it is. In less time than it takes to place your order in UberEats, you have a restaurant quality meal on the table. No foil. No problem.
For the full recipe and detailed instructions, visit here.
#2 FISH EN PAPILLOTE (fish baked in parchment paper)
This method of cooking a fish inside a paper pouch is of French origin. It is ridiculously simple, especially considering how fancy it looks and tastes after cooking in its own juices. And literally zero clean up. Unless you count tossing paper pouches into the trash. Which we don't. Obviously. Since you should be rinsing those paper pouches and recycling them.
For this cooking method, first, choose a flavor-absorbing base. Here we have sliced, cooked potatoes. Layer onto a sheet of parchment paper and season generously.
Top your foundation of potatoes with a fresh grouper fillet (halibut, cod, sea bass or any mild-flavored fish would also work here). If you're using a fish fillet with skin, place the fish skin down.
Next we want to create a headline flavor to make our mild fish and potatoes sing. Here, we have a briny olive tapenade with citrus zest, garlic, thyme and pistachios.
Spoon a few tablespoons of the olive mix over the top of the fish and add lemon slices. Then wrap fish tightly in the parchment packet and bake.
Once the fish is cooked, let the pockets sit for 5 minutes before cutting open (carefully - watch for steam!) with a pair of scissors or a sharp knife. Serve immediately with a squeeze of orange juice and a pinch of fresh parsley.
For the full recipe card, visit here.
And if you're just dying to use a sheet of foil, make four foil parcels, and substitute the foil packets for parchment in this recipe.
#3 GLASS BAKEWARE
If you're a fan of Pyrex or any other classic glass baking dish, you have unlimited options for creating delicious fish dishes in your kitchen, no foil required. This is the third method on "How to Bake Fish in the Oven Without Foil."
Easy Baked Tilapia with Best Ever Lemon Butter Sauce requires only a handful of ingredients and two handfuls of minutes to churn out a simple, flavorful dinner.
Use a few tablespoons of olive oil or cooking spray in the bottom of a glass dish to get this party started. Lay your tilapia fillets over the oil. (Basa, cod or flounder work here, too).
Season with something the whole family will enjoy. Here, we used a simple mix of sea salt, black pepper and paprika. Garlic powder, garlic salt, Old Bay or lemon pepper seasoning sprinkled over the flesh of the fish would also work.
Slip your glass baking dish into the oven, uncovered. Bake 10-12 minutes (depending on the thickest part of the fish). Remove from oven.
#4 BAKING SHEET
A good sheet pan is just about the most versatile tool in our kitchens. The baking tray I use is normally covered in parchment paper before hitting the oven to keep anything from sticking, and it never fails me. For this Crispy Panko Cod, our baking method will be the same - a sturdy sheet pan or metal baking dish with a layer of parchment paper.
We have a theme in each of these foil-free baking methods...and that is FLAVOR. We have to start building big flavors into the fish as soon as we begin. Here, we do that by marinating cod fillets in Dijon mustard, buttermilk and lemon juice for about 30 minutes, giving this simple cut of fish time to absorb that savory mustard goodness.
While the cod fish fillets are soaking, prepare the crispy topping of garlic, panko breadcrumbs, lemon zest and spices. If you're looking for another fish option, hake would be one of the best fish to use as a substitute here. Haddock or grouper would also be good alternatives.
Transfer the fish from the buttermilk and mustard marinade to the baking sheet. Top each piece of fish with the crunchy seasoned breadcrumbs and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily.
Serve hot with lemon wedges and a side dish of steamed green beans or Fresh Gazpacho Salad.
So there you have it! Four of my favorite ways that answer the question, "How to bake fish in the oven without foil?"
You have so many quick and delicious options for baking your fish, no aluminum foil required!