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Every now and then I walk up to the fish counter at the supermarket with a renewed, if naive, confidence. I admire the salmon's pink color, thinking about all the healthy omega-3s my husband and I will enjoy... if only I can get it right this time. I've tried the skillet (pieces stuck to the pan) and the oven (devoid of moisture), but I can't seem to master a dish that others consider a no-brainer. Now there's hope for culinary klutzes like me: FITNESS compiled a list of common healthy-cooking woes and asked chefs for foolproof advice. Let's start with that fish fiasco!
"I have no clue how to cook fish."
Ellie Krieger, RD, host of Food Network's Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger, recommends fatty fish, such as salmon, for newbie chefs, because it's less likely to dry out. So how did I mess up? I cooked it too long. Krieger says to drizzle the fillet with olive oil on both sides, sprinkle with salt and black pepper, and bake it at 400 degrees in a baking dish. "For thick fish, like salmon or halibut, here's a good rule of thumb: Cook it for 10 minutes per inch of thickness, measured at the fattest spot," Krieger says. Check the fish after eight minutes to see if it flakes when you stick a fork in it; that means it's done. I tried her technique, and my husband was astounded at how good salmon can taste.
With thin fillets, such as flounder, sole, or tilapia, panfrying is best and can be healthy if you go light on oil, says Devin Alexander, author of The Biggest Loser Flavors of the World Cookbook. Dry the fish with paper towels (excess water prevents the outside from browning) and drizzle a few drops of olive oil (one teaspoon per pound) over the skin and rub it in. Cook the fillet in a pan over medium-high heat until one side is lightly browned (one to two minutes), then flip the fillet for another one to two minutes of browning before turning the heat down to low to finish cooking (three more minutes).