Up until about two weeks ago, I had never cooked fish. I had cooked shrimp maybe twice, but never a hunk of fish meat like tilapia or salmon. My roommates thought I was crazy because I would cook chicken almost every day, which is a lot more risky if undercooked than fish. So, here I am—barely 20 days later—a fish-cooking pro.

First, before you get into the nitty, gritty details of becoming a fish chef, you need to be able to defrost your fish if it's frozen. You can buy fresh fish, but being in college, it is a lot easier to buy the bags of frozen fish so you can cook it at your leisure.

Thawing

Kelsie Travers

Frozen fish almost always comes in a big bag with each fish fillet individually wrapped in plastic. This makes it super easy to thaw. Literally all you have to do is run cool water over it. If the fish didn't already come in a bag, simply seal it in a plastic bag and run water over it. 

You can defrost fish in the microwave, but just like meat, it's easier to screw up or accidentally cook that way so I would just stick to the sink.

Seasoning

For every way of cooking fish, you'll want to season it to add flavor. Here's what I use as a noob fish cooker: for salmon, I usually use salt and lemon pepper and for tilapia, I use salt, pepper and chili powder.

Obviously it is up to you, but those are classic combos. If you want to get fancy, you can try making restaurant-quality cod or adding sautéed veggies on top of your fish for added flavor.

Stovetop

Kelsie Travers

The easiest and my favorite way to cook fish is on the stove. The oil helps ensure you won't dry out the fish and it tastes good!

What you'll need: A skillet, olive oil (or your cooking oil of choice), your thawed fish and any spices you like for flavor.

Step 1: Season fish and put about 1 tablespoon of oil in the pan

Step 2: Place fish in the pan and cook for 5 minutes

Step 3: Flip and cook for another 5 minutes on other side

Oven

Julia Catalano

Arguably healthier than cooking on the stove, cooking fish in the oven is the other popular way to cook it.

#SpoonTip: You can bake or broil fish in the oven. However, since broiling fish in the over requires more care (since it's easier to over cook) AND you can only broil certain types of fish—like salmon—we are going to stick to baking for this recipe.

What you'll need: A pan or tray, tin foil, thawed fish, oil, spices

Step 1: Season and oil fish and preheat oven to 425°F

Step 2: Place fish in pan lined with tin foil and place in oven

Step 3: Cook for about 20 minutes or until fish is slightly golden and flakey. For thinner fish, 12-15 minutes may be enough.

Grill

Julia Catalano
Thinner steak filets like tilapia and and flounder are difficult to cook on the grill because they may dry out. Stick to cooking thicker fish like salmon and halibut on the grill.

What you'll need: Tinfoil, thawed fish (preferably salmon), oil, spices

Step 1: Coat your fish in oil (to prevent sticking) and spices and make sure the grill is clean

Step 2: Light grill and let heat (differs depending on gas or charcoal) and place fish over direct heat. The direct heat on either type of grill means the fish will cook about the same.

Step 3: Cook for about 8 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillet. Typically, about 8 minutes per inch of thickness on the grill does the trick.

Microwave

Fish with high oil and moisture content cook better in the microwave like salmon or cod. However, there are good recipes out there for cooking tilapia in the microwave, you run more of a risk of over-cooking or drying out the fish.

What you'll need: A glass or any microwave safe dish, fish (there is no need to thaw it in this situation), oil, spices

Step 1: Place fish in dish with spices, oil or butter and cover with either microwave-safe plastic wrap or a paper towel to avoid splashing.

Step 2: Microwave 3-5 minutes (again, depending on thickness of fish)

Dishwasher

You can cook fish in the dishwasher. I know, I'm shocked too.

What you'll need: Tinfoil, thawed fish (I've only ever heard of this being done with salmon, but feel free to try other fish and LMK how it goes!), oil, spices

Step 1: Season fish and wrap tightly in tinfoil

Step 2: Place on top shelf of dishwasher and run on regular cycle (without soap)

#SpoonTip: If you have cooked all of the above fish correctly, it should fall apart easily when cut into with a fork or knife. It's easy to dry out, but after a few tries, you'll be used to it.

Kelsie Travers

I am pretty new at this, so if you were out fishing and caught a fish over the weekend, you may want to seek full fish cooking advice elsewhere. For now, these five ways to cook fish are sure to help you diversify your dinner pallet and impress your friends.