A New Way to Cook Fish - FineCooking.com

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A New Way to Cook Fish

By Laurent Gras
from Fine Cooking #123, pp. 54-59

Chefs love cooking sous vide. French for "under vacuum," sous vide is a method of gently poaching food in vacuum-sealed plastic bags at very low temperatures, usually for long periods of time. It yields wonderfully tender, flavorful food, but I'll be honest--when it comes to fresh fish, sous vide isn't my favorite way to cook.

Since cooking anything sous vide takes a long time, in a restaurant setting you need to make the food ahead, cool it down, and then reheat it to serve to your customers. But I believe in cooking fish to order to preserve its fresh flavor and best texture, so this technique doesn't work for me.

Instead, I've developed a sous-vide-like method for fish that takes just minutes and produces super silky, luxurious results. I start by seasoning fish fillets with delicious ingredients (like brown butter and lemon or olive oil and herbs) inside zip-top plastic storage bags. Then I slide the bags into a pot filled with 140°F water. The hot water gently cooks the fish and in 10 to 15 minutes, it comes out tender, ultramoist, and infused with the seasonings.

Better still, my method calls for no special equipment (true sous vide cooking requires a vacuum sealer, special bags, and an immersion circulator), so it's perfect for home cooks. I hope you enjoy the restaurant-worthy results.

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Three Steps to Super Silky Fish

Season Put fish fillets into zip-top plastic bags and add flavorful ingredients (here, a sundried tomato and lemongrass broth).

Poach Slip the bags into a pan of hot water (140°F) to gently cook the fish; 10 to 15 minutes is all it takes.

Serve Drain off any liquid, then cut each bag open down the center to remove the fish.

Season Poach Serve
Season   Poach   Serve
Safety's in the Bag
In recent years, concern has grown over cooking food in contact with plastic, the worry being that chemicals could leach into the food. When we began this story, we had the same concern, so we did a little digging. Turns out, most plastic storage bags produced today don't contain BPA, the chemical that's of most concern.

Ziploc brand storage bags are made to withstand boiling, which occurs at a much higher temperature than the 140°F required for this technique. Ziploc's manufacturer assured us that this technique is safe with its freezer and storage bags (which when cleaned and dried can then be recycled with other plastic bags). Just don't use its sandwich bags, which are too thin. We don't recommend any other brand of storage bags for these recipes. -the editors


Photos by Scott Phillps

posted in: Blogs, fish, laurent gras
Comments (4)

dancingdog writes: It is incorrect to say that “cooking anything sous vide takes a long time”. It takes 10-15 minutes to heat fish to 140 degrees by this method or using sous vide equipment. Cooking sous vide you do not have to “make the food ahead, cool it down and then reheat it…”. You can do that with sous vide if you are cooking ahead of time for some reason but sous vide gives you a lot of leeway in the cooking time so you can heat the food to the ‘done’ temperature and hold it for much longer than you can with regular cooking. I have been looking forward to Fine Cooking writing about sous vide and I’m sorry that this article is so misleading. The cod with olives is delicious. Posted: 9:17 pm on May 16th

nena69 writes: I still worry about the safety of cooking anything that comes into contact with plastics. Even ziplock bags. YES, i use the bags for storage and freezing, but for cooking it just doesn't feel right. Is there any other option other than using plastic? I guess foil wouldn't work, since it's not water-tight... Posted: 12:34 pm on May 14th

Dorthechef writes: Thank you for speaking to the safety in the zip top bags. I hope the manufacturer is being honest. I will try this method. Thank you for bringing it to the home chef.
Posted: 7:19 am on May 14th

Neko writes: This is very exciting to me! I am going to try the cod recipe tomorrow. Thanks Laurent Gras and Fine Cooking! Posted: 3:50 pm on May 7th

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