Make Perfectly Moist Fish with the No-Cook Poaching Method
Poaching, the cooking method that gently cooks food at the barest simmer, is awesome because it keeps in moisture and flavor. The no-cook poaching method is even better, because you don't add heat to your kitchen on hot days, and you don't have to watch the pot.
The no-cook method is a gradual, gentle cooking process. It's best for very delicate foods like fragile fish, chicken, or eggs. For fish, you lay a single layer down in a wok or wide pot with some seasonings. Then you bring a kettle of water or broth just to boil, pour it slowly into the pan, and then cover your pot with a lid or aluminum foil. The fish gently poaches in the hot water.
Most experts say that the correct poaching temperature is 160–180°F. With the no-cook method, the water used does start at a near-boil at around 210–220°F, but it cools down to a more moderate poaching temperature. Since the water cools gradually, the food can even sit in the poaching liquid for a little longer than necessary without getting tough or overcooked.
Poaching with the no-cook method is gentle, so it's perfect for more delicate fish like red snapper, bass, and cod. I find that this method always helps the fish keep both flavor and moisture.
Andreas Viestad, the Gastronomer columnist for The Washington Post, says that fish cook better at lower temperatures because they live at colder temperatures, and should not be cooked at higher temperatures like warm-blooded animals. Viestad recommends a ratio of three parts water to one part fish (by weight) for the no-cook fish poaching method.
This is a lovely combination of flavors. If you like, you can ditch the Asian seasonings and do a more Western version with white wine, lemons, garlic, and fresh herbs with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- 6 ounces white fish like cod
- 2 slices ginger
- Garlic, chives, shallots, or scallions, finely sliced
- A couple teaspoons of white wine or rice wine
- 3 teaspoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoon soy sauce
- Chives or scallions, shaved (for garnish)
- Put fish in single layer in wok or wide pot on top of ginger and chives.
- Splash fish with white wine.
- Bring water to boil in a kettle.
- Pour water over fish, covering by about one inch.
- Immediately cover wok or pot with lid or aluminum foil.
- Let stand for 10–12 minutes.
- Combine sesame oil, soy sauce, and some shallot slivers and heat gently in microwave at about 20% power for one minute.
- Remove fish gently with slotted spoon.
- Spoon the soy sauce/sesame oil mixture over fish.
- Garnish with shaved chives.
You can poach in water, milk, broth, wine, or oil. Whatever liquid you use, just make sure that you use an acid and plenty of aromatics to add flavor to your fish. If you don't have a lot of time or aromatics to use, then you can use chicken broth with great results.
Aromatics (try a combination):
- Fresh herbs like parsley or dill
- Citrus rinds or juice
- Carrots and celery
If you used broth or spiced-up water to poach, then you can use it to make rice, pasta, or a slow-cooked soup. If you aren't going to use it immediately, then freeze it for later use.