How To: Skip the Oven—Microwave Your Fish

Skip the Oven—Microwave Your Fish

Fish are delicate, flaky, and can be damn tricky to cook; more often than not, you end up with a hard, dry block of flesh that makes your taste buds sad. And the best ways to cook fish that you know of—c'mon, who doesn't love a fried fish—take way too much effort for you to bother with on a weeknight. Or maybe you're looking for a healthier way to enjoy fish that doesn't require batter or frying at all.

Here's a sweet tip that will sound blasphemous at first, but that you'll learn to love as soon as you give it a try: you can cook your fish in the microwave. I'll go even a step further—not only can you zap your fish, you should zap your fish. It's so easy and fast that you'll wish you'd given it a whirl sooner.

But First: The Elephant in the Room

Let's get the number one issue everyone has with microwave cooking out of the way first (other than the tinfoil hats that think microwaves can cause cancer): microwaves don't zap the nutrition out of your food. In fact, according to an article from Harvard Medical School, cooking with the microwave can actually preserve nutrients that break down when heated over more traditional cooking methods (since microwave cook times are shorter).

Image by goodluz/Flickr

So, How Does This Work?

Well, the name of the game here is steaming, because that's essentially what you'll be doing with the microwave. This trick is extremely similar to the en papillote technique of steaming a fish in parchment paper (or foil) in the oven—except it's way faster and way less fuss. Just make sure you're using a boneless fish filet.

  1. Place the filet on a microwave-safe dish.
  2. Season your filet—salt and pepper (or not pepper?) are old standards, but you can throw in lemon, garlic, herbs, other spices, and so on. Want to make an tasty mahi-mahi filet with orange slices and five spice rub? Get 'er done, my friend.
  3. Add a teaspoon of liquid to keep the fish moist during the cooking process. Water is fine, but white wine is better! Also consider trying fish stock, a citrus juice, or even milk.
  4. Cover your dish, either with a microwave-safe lid (if you're using a reusable container) or plastic wrap. If you're using plastic wrap, make sure that you wrap it thoroughly so no steam escapes.
Image by Laura Holman/Food Hacks Daily
  1. Microwave your fish! The time your filet spends cooking depends on its thickness. Heavier filets like salmon or cod will take 4-5 minutes in a 1,000-watt microwave, while thinner filets like tilapia will take around 3 minutes. If the fish isn't completely opaque by the end of your original cook time, keep microwaving in 30-second increments until it's done.
  2. Allow the dish to cool for 1-2 minutes before removing it from the microwave, as it will be (literally) steaming hot.
Image by Laura Holman/Food Hacks Daily

So Wrong, It's Right

You already know how much easier your life can be when cooking with a microwave—so I don't see any reason you should shy away from using it for fish, too. It may sound wrong and disgusting at first, but you'll get over your trepidation real quick when you take your first flaky, perfectly-seasoned bite.

And if you're interested in checking out more fish hacks, check out Laura's original article on cooking fish without really cooking it.

If you've zapped your fish in the past or decide to give it a try after reading this article, we want to hear from you! Join the discussion in the comments below.

More Clever Microwave Hacks

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Steaming frozen fish. Wet a piece of paper kitchen towel, wrap the fish (smallish fillet) in the wet towel and put in roasting bag. Roll it up and microwave for say minute and half total cooking time, turning over halfway through. Take out of microwave and leave for at least 5 minutes before removing from bag because it will cook on whilst standing. Also try infusing wet paper towel with flavourings before wrapping the fish.

This sounds right up my alley .. Turning on the oven heats up the whole room .. If its winter that is great .. This sounds quick & easy .. Thawing out 2 small red fillets so Im going to give this a whirl ....

I actually did this a couple of weeks ago when I didn't want to go to the extra effort of oven cooking Basa.

I use two pyrex dishes, the top one is a bit smaller than the bottom one and I simply put the Basa in with a bit of butter and cover it with the top pyrex dish. It doesn't need extra fluid as there is plenty coming out of the fish as you cook it.

I leave all additives like salt, pepper, lemon etc to garnish after the fish is cooked as I have found the lemon does seem to change flavour when heated (my imagination?).

I give it two and a half minutes, check it, and add another 30 seconds to be sure.

Handle it carefully when you take it out as it will be hot, but it is a perfect way to cook Basa, and probably most other fish as well.

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