Are you planning to barbecue fish fillets or seafood? Or planning to pan fry it? It is great idea to marinate fish and shellfish before throwing it on the grill or using another high-temperature cooking method. A good marinade not only adds flavor, it also keeps the meat tender. The extra moisture in the marinade prevents seafood from quickly drying out. Marinated seafood is less likely to stick to the grill or pan because of the oil coating from the marinade.
There are 2 important tips to keep in mind when marinating fish or shellfish:
The best seafood is crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. To give it that crisp texture, you need to perfectly brown it during cooking. It is difficult to brown seafood if the meat has too much water in it. That is why chefs recommend avoiding a water-based marinade and suggest that you always pat fish fillets and other seafood with paper towels before cooking to absorb any water on the skin. Excess water creates steam during cooking which will prevent it from getting crisp, brown skin. In contrast, an oil-based marinade will help the seafood to brown as it cooks.
This is the most important rule. All marinades include an acid like vinegar or citrus juice. If you let seafood sit in an acid bath for too long it will cook the meat. Unless you are making a dish like ceviche, which calls for the meat to be cooked by citrus juice or vinegar, you want to avoid this. When you prepare a seafood marinade, be sure to only use a small amount of an acidic ingredient and don’t leave the seafood in it for too long. This is a helpful chart to follow:
Seafood Marinating Times
Type Marinating Time
Small-Medium Shrimp: 15 – 30 minutes
Large Shrimp: 30 – 45 minutes
Flaky Fish Fillet: 30 minutes
Firm Fish Fillet: 30 minutes – 1 hour
Firm Fish Steak: 1 – 2 hours
Firm fish are thick and hearty. Tuna, halibut, marlin and sturgeon all fall into this category. Flaky fish are the type of fish that can easily fall apart on the grill. They tend to be smaller, thinner fish. Trout, cod and salmon are a few examples. As you can see from the chart, flaky fish should not be marinated as long as firm fish because they will cook faster in the marinade.
The best method for marinating seafood is to put it in a zip lock bag with the marinade. Be sure to get out as much air as you can before sealing the bag. Then place it in the refrigerator. Flip it over at least once to move around the marinade and ensure each side has fully absorbed it.
It is a great idea to baste the meat with the marinade while it cooks. Be sure to never serve seafood with uncooked marinade. Any left over, used marinade that hasn’t been cooked over heat should be thrown away to avoid foodborne illness.
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