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How to Poach Fish in Olive Oil
Poaching fish in olive oil is a striking way to elevate your dinner menu, and the technique yields buttery, succulent fish that tastes as silky as it looks. What’s more, oil-poached fish makes for a quick, low-maintenance meal that’s elegant and healthy to boot.
If you’ve poached food in water or cooked sous vide, you already have some of the skills needed for oil poaching. It’s certainly worth adding to your kitchen repertoire, especially if you’re looking for new and exciting ways to cook fish.
The technique is a type of poaching, which involves submerging food in hot olive oil, enveloping the food in fat, and helping seal in its flavor. The food is also cooked low and slow, unlike the high temps and quick cooking times traditionally used in deep frying. For example, the fish cooks for 8 to 12 minutes at less than 150 degrees, and the result is a tender, juicy fillet. Remember, the fish will need to be fully submerged in olive oil.
When it comes to types of fish that can be poached in oil the varieties best suited for oil poaching are meatier and oilier, such as tuna, swordfish, mahi mahi, mackerel, bluefish, salmon, halibut and striped bass. But don’t limit yourself to fish, seafood like shrimp and octopus also poach beautifully in oil.
Poaching fish in olive oil
The first step is to bring your fish to room temperature, that will ensure that it cooks evenly in the oil. Next, generously season the fish with salt and spice, as the oil will pull the seasoning into fish. Coat the bottom of a pot with olive oil, add the fish, then pour enough oil to fully cover the fillets.
Then, attach a deep-fry thermometer to the pan, heat the oil to the temperature listed in the recipe, then reduce the heat to maintain the required temperature. Aim for a low, gentle simmer, making sure the oil doesn’t come to a boil. The fish is ready once it becomes opaque, about 10 minutes, depending on its thickness.
Finally, remove the fillets with a slotted spoon or spatula, pausing to let the excess oil drip off before transferring it to a plate.
Can you fry fish in olive oil?
Extra-virgin olive oil is an excellent choice for cooking, even for high-heat methods like frying. Therefore, pan-frying fish in olive oil gives it a wonderfully crispy crust, and it’s a light choice since you don’t have to lather it in batter or leave it in marinades for hours on end.
Keeping olive oil at the correct temperature is the difference between crispy and spongy food. Olive oil will reach the ideal temperature on medium to high heat, when it’s searing but not smoking. Once you see wave-like ripples at the bottom of the pan, the oil has reached its desired temperature. Also, you can throw a pinch of flour into the pan or dip the end of a wooden spoon in the oil and wait for it to begin to bubble.
Since room temperature fish causes the oil to lose some of its own temperature, cooking a slew at the same time will cause your fish to absorb more oil, adding more calories and losing that sought-after crisp crust. Once your fish is cooked, place it on absorbent paper towels and gently pat both sides dry, which will help it maintain its crispy texture.
Only flip once
And while cooking, watch as the flesh slowly changes color until it reaches halfway down the filet. Then flip it and continue cooking until the two cooking lines barely meet in the center. Cook the filet for approximately three minutes on each side.
Also, if you’re cooking a larger fish, Barbarigou’s trick to check if it’s properly cooked is to insert a knife in between the two filets as the fish is lying on its side. If the meat separates from the bones without any effort, the fish is ready to go from pan to plate.
And don’t skimp on seasoning, season both sides of the fish, since the salt doesn’t get absorbed after frying, and drizzle the filet with olive oil, continuing to season with salt and pepper along every step of the way. When we pan-fry, there’s only two herbs that pair and only one at a time: fennel or rosemary.