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Preparing Fish -- The Basics

Preparing Fish -- The Basics

Despite its continuing popularity, working with fish remains difficult for many cooks out there. In this lesson, we'll explore the basics of selecting and preparing fish for cooking.

All fish have four sections—the head, the trunk or body, the tail, and fins. Fish are 70 percent water and 10 to 20 percent protein, plus traces of minerals, vitamins A, B, and D, glucides, and lipids. There are 160 calories per 100 grams for fatty fish and 70 calories per 100 grams for lean fish.

Selecting Fresh Fish

  • Fish should have a brilliant appearance with scales firmly in place.
  • Eyes should be bright, shiny, convex, and completely full.
  • Gills should be brightly colored, moist, and filled with blood.
  • The anus should be tightly closed and the stomach should be firm and intact.
  • The flesh should feel firm and slightly resistant to the touch.
  • Finally, fresh fish should smell fresh and clean, not "fishy."

Preparing Fish For Cooking

  • There is considerable loss when cleaning and portioning fish. The edible portion of a fish may only be 40 percent of its original weight.
  • The portion size of fish required for a main course is 100 to 150 grams per serving.
  • Fish may be skinned before cooking, but it is useful to leave the skin on delicate fillets such as flounder or sole because it helps hold the fish together. To prevent curling while cooking, score the skin of the fillet with a knife.

About The French Culinary Institute

If you've got a passion for food and dreams of success, the French Culinary Institute could be for you. Our Total ImmersionSM approach means you'll get hands-on training in small classes with distinguished instructors who have plenty of real-world experience. You'll graduate with the skills, confidence and credentials you need to create a great future. New career and amateur courses start every few weeks.

About the Author

After receiving degrees from the University of Wisconsin and the Culinary Institute of America, Andrea Rappaport moved into a full-time career in the restaurant business. For over 12 years, she worked in various culinary jobs, including as a cook for Wolfgang Puck at Spago, and ultimately as the executive chef and partner of the highly revered San Francisco restaurant Zinzino. For the past seven years, Andrea has worked as the private chef for one family in the San Francisco area, and continues to expand her culinary portfolio by catering, teaching, and consulting.