How to cook bass like a pro
Even if bass can be cooked in a myriad of ways, knowing several important rules is essential to make a difference between a nourishing meal and an unhealthy snack.
Because of its social aspect and because health should be one of the highest points in our priority list, cooking is an important part of our lifestyle that brings family and friends together.
We might not have time to open a cookbook and spend hours in the kitchen and perhaps most of the time we are not even in the mood for it after a hard day’s of work, but learning some essential rules will help a little with time management and efficient cooking without needing to keep a fire extinguisher closeby.
What to look for when buying fish
If it’s not Asian sea bass, the eyes of the fish should always be clear. Foggy or opaque eyes mean that the fish is not fresh.
Bright red gills are also something to aim for as they are a symbol of freshness. Fins, tails, and scales should be intact and the meat should be firm and lacking any foul odor. The blood and meat color offers a clue when evaluating freshness. Dark blood or meat are a good reason to reject buying the fish.
Cooking sea bass whole
Cooking a whole bass enhances the flavor and texture of the meat. Dredging and crusting bass acts as a flavor sealant but you should remember that gutting and gill removal is necessary to avoid a bitter a taste.
Roasting or baking generally requires fish to be foiled so that it doesn’t dry out. Foil also helps when marinating or seasoning is your choice. Freshwater bass is an inspired choice for a whole fish recipe because of its distinctive taste.
Cooking sea bass fillets
You can buy fillets individually, ask your fishmonger to gut, trim and fillet a whole fish or use a fishing knife to do this by yourself. Either way, it is ideal to have evenly thick fillets so that they cook the same.
This type of fish is lean, so it cooks fast, and because of that, overcooking is a common mistake. That being said, the fish fillets should be cooked skin side down to prevent overcooking.
High temperatures should be used only on small amounts of time, especially when cooking fillets. Cooking confit-style rather than deep frying is much better. To maintain a subtle, mild flavor, you must not overwhelm the fish with spices and batter.
The secret to the best flavor is simmering instead of boiling. Bring water to the boiling point then add the fish. The water amount should be proportional to that of the fish. For every 17 ounces of fish, you need to add 100 ounces of water to the pot.
It’s recommended to use an accurate thermometer to constantly check the temperature. Overboiled fish cannot be recovered while undercooked fish can be improved.
When an ingredient gets easily damaged while being cooked, poaching is the best alternative to keep its properties moist and flavorful. To successfully poach fish it must be completely submerged in a cooking liquid.
Unlike braising or stewing, when poaching, the brine used in the cooking process will not be used or served. Before dipping the fish into the brine or broth, cook the liquid, then let the fish sit in it. Perfectly poached fish should feel like melting in your mouth. After poaching fish, it can be served for two more days as the liquid still flavors the meat.
A bass fish soup always starts with cooking the broth first. A good broth builds flavor, and the fish must be added right before serving. Mild tasting and non-oily fish should be used for soups.
For Niçoise-style soups, sautéed vegetables mixed with tomatoes sauce and dry vermouth are the base of the dish. Focus on vegetables and simmer the fish into the cooked concoction. It’s easy and uses some ingredients that you might already have on hand.
Steaming is one of the healthiest ways of cooking bass fish. The heat is transferred more slowly than with water, hence you get the purest flavor and nutrients. Steaming can be done with a steaming oven or with the help of some cooking foil.
Bamboo or makeshift colander steamers can be cheaper and very helpful in this case. The bass must be fresh; otherwise, after steaming the flesh, it will change taste and consistency. To make sure your fish does not stick to the pan, you can foil it or wrap it in wild garlic, spinach or Savoy cabbage and wipe the steamer surface with olive oil.
The time necessary for steaming fish, be it bass or any other species, is much shorter when the ingredients are stuffed inside. Baked fish changes its texture, appearance, and taste.
As for the steaming liquid, you can either use water or the sauce you serve the fish with. How do you know how much steaming is enough? You can determine the right amount of time that’s required based on the thickness of your fish fillets. The cooking time can be around 10 minutes for every inch of fillet thickness. The fish should never flake after having been steamed and its firmness is a token of a correct steaming process.