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If you love seafood but are intimidated by the idea of cooking it at home, fear not! With a little knowledge and some insider tips, anyone can become a master of preparing perfectly cooked seafood. Whether you prefer fish, shellfish, or both, here are some secrets to ensuring your seafood dishes turn out delicious every time.

The Secrets to Preparing Perfectly Cooked Seafood
Grilled fish with spices on fire

Know Your Fishmonger

The first rule of cooking seafood is to make sure you get to know your fishmonger [1]. A good fishmonger will be able to advise you on what’s in season, what’s local, what’s farmed, and what’s sustainable. They can also help you choose the freshest seafood and provide tips on how to cook it. So, if you’re unsure about what to buy, don’t be afraid to ask!

Use High Heat

When it comes to cooking fish, applying high heat is one of the most critical steps [9]. High heat kills bacteria and brings out the flavour and sweetness of fish. So, whether you’re searing, grilling, or broiling, make sure your pan or grill is hot before adding your seafood.

Master the Cooking Method

There are plenty of methods that make it simple to cook seafood [3]. Try popping your fish in the oven or sautéing your filets on the stovetop. In the oven, seafood can be cooked on a baking sheet or in tinfoil pouches for easy cleanup. Fish fillets, shrimp, and scallops sauté well on the stove in a nonstick pan. You can also steam your seafood in a bamboo steamer, poach it in a flavorful broth, or grill it on skewers for a delicious smoky flavour.

Don’t Overcook

One of the biggest mistakes people make when cooking seafood is overcooking it. Fish and shellfish cook quickly, so be sure to keep an eye on them while they’re cooking [2]. A good rule of thumb is to cook fish for 10 minutes per inch of thickness. Shrimp and scallops should be cooked until just opaque, and clams and mussels should be cooked until their shells open.

Pat It Dry

You should sear your seafood well as it creates a crackling, golden crust that traps moisture [5]. Remove the water off the outside of the seafood for the perfect sear. Pat the outside of the seafood dry with a paper towel before tossing it into a pan or putting it in the oven.

Use Medium-Low Heat to Achieve Crispy Skin

The important thing to remember is when placing salmon (skin-side down) in the pan, press down so the skin evenly starts to cook, otherwise, it will start to curl out of shape [6]. Another tip for crispy skin is to score the skin of poached fish to prevent it from curling during cooking [8].

Score Fish for Even Cooking

When cooking larger whole fish in the oven or on the grill, a few slashes on the sides can help the fish cook more evenly and are a great place to stuff aromatics like garlic cloves or slices of citrus [8]. Scoring the skin of poached fish also prevents it from curling during cooking.

Clean Your Seafood Properly

If you need to clean the fish, then a few extra steps are required. Fresh-caught or whole fish need to be gutted and scaled. You will also need to filet the fish, and if you’re working with a flatfish like a flounder, a little extra care needs to be taken [4]. For shellfish like clams and mussels, rinse them under cold water and scrub them with a brush to remove any dirt or debris. It’s also a good idea to soak them in salt water for a few minutes to help remove any sand.

Use Fresh Ingredients

When it comes to cooking seafood, the fresher the better. Fresh seafood is not only healthier but also tastes better. Always buy seafood from a reputable source, and try to cook it the same day you buy it [1]. If you’re unable to cook it on the same day, you can store it in the fridge for up to 2 days or freeze it for later use.

Season Your Seafood Properly

Seafood has a delicate flavour that can be easily overwhelmed by heavy seasonings. Use herbs, lemon, garlic, and other aromatics to add flavour to your seafood [2]. Remember to season your seafood lightly, and always taste it before serving.

Use Cold Water to Thaw Frozen Seafood

If you’re using frozen seafood, the best way to thaw it is to place it in the refrigerator overnight. However, if you’re in a hurry, you can thaw it quickly by placing it in a bowl of cold water. Make sure to change the water every 30 minutes to ensure that the seafood thaws evenly [7].

Add Wine for Extra Flavor

Adding wine to your seafood broth or cooking liquid can add a delicious depth of flavour. Use a dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio to enhance the natural sweetness of the seafood [2].


Preparing perfectly cooked seafood may seem daunting, but with the right knowledge and some insider tips, anyone can do it. Remember to know your fishmonger, use high heat, master the cooking method, don’t overcook, pat it dry, use medium-low heat to achieve crispy skin, score fish for even cooking, clean your seafood properly, use fresh ingredients, season your seafood properly, use cold water to thaw frozen seafood, and add wine for extra flavour. With these secrets, you can enjoy delicious and healthy seafood dishes at home.

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