Baking surrounds food with even, dry heat and is a great method for cooking whole fish. Smaller, delicate pieces of fish do not respond as well to baking & require a coating of breadcrumbs, or a splash of broth/oil to keep them moist. Most varieties of shellfish tend to dry out as they cook in the oven unless a combination of cooking techniques are used.

To roast a whole fish, preheat the oven to about 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Make a few vertical slashes on each side of a cleaned fish. If desired, soak the fish in a quick marinade; tuck a few herbs, spices, or other flavorings inside; or spray it with a little oil & season w/ salt & pepper. Place the fish on a rimmed cookie sheet or shallow pan. As the fish roasts, baste it w/ the juices that accumulate in the bottom of the pan until the flesh at its thickest point just begins to flake & turns from translucent to opaque. It will take about 8-10 min per inch of thickness to cook through. Rotate the pan about half way through cooking time to cook evenly.

Baking Used With Other Cooking Techniques:

Baking is sometimes combined with other cooking techniques to more evenly and quickly cook food, or to keep baked foods from drying out. The two best examples of this are steaming while baking, or pan searing then baking.

To steam while baking, simply splash your favorite combination of flavorings and a liquid (broth, juices, wine, or water) over seafood in a shallow baking pan. The amount of liquid will vary depending on the amount of seafood you are cooking, but figure that it should cover about a quarter of the seafood. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake in a 425 degree oven until the seafood has cooked through. Or, prepare foil "packets" by placing seafood on one half of a large piece of foil, adding desired seasonings and a splash of liquid to just moisten the surface of the seafood. Fold the other side of the foil over the seafood. Seal the three sides by folding and crimping the edges to make a "packet." Estimate the cooking time for the packets by using the same 8-10 minutes per inch guideline as explained above; however, add up to 2 minutes to the final cooking time to account for the heat having to makes its way through the foil.

Pan searing then baking allows the surface of the seafood to brown and crisp, while making sure the middle of the seafood cooks through. Begin by heating an oven-proof skillet on the stovetop over med-high heat until warm. Add about a tsp. of oil, swirl the pan to evenly coat and heat until almost smoking. Add the seafood, keeping multiple pieces separated. Do not touch or move the seafood until it is browned on one side. You may have to adjust the heat to so that the seafood browns evenly but does not burn. Carefully flip the seafood and then place in a 425- 450 degree oven to finish cooking. Cook until the second side is brown, and the thickest part of the seafood is just starting to flake and is almost fully opaque. Rest two minutes and serve.

***Information provided by our partners at National Fisheries Institute***

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