Beginners Guide to Cooking Fish (How to Buy, Cook & Substitute Fish)

Cooking fish at home is so easy if you know the basics. Get our handy Beginners Guide to Cooking Fish and learn everything from best buying practices to different ways to cook fish!

  • By Brittany Yamamoto-Taylor
  • June 22, 2021

If cooking fish at home is something you’ve never really tried, or if a couple of smelly, unsuccessful attempts have made you steer clear of anything with gills, it’s probably because you just aren’t familiar with the basics. And that’s okay, since we all have to start somewhere!

Although literal tons of fish are eaten every day around the world, there can still be a cloud of anxious cooking questions that hovers around the average homecook: What fish should I try for the first time? What are the different ways to cook fish? How do you thaw frozen fish? What are good fish substitutes for halibut?

These are all great questions that we can help you with. We’ll go over everything from main culinary fish categories to the best tips for storing and thawing fish.

Beginners Guide to Cooking Fish

Here’s what’s included in our free, printable guide:

  • 5 helpful fish categories when buying and substituting fish
  • Best practices for buying, storing, and thawing fish
  • Different ways to cook fish
  • Cook times for 3 fish cuts
  • Safety tips
  • Seasoning suggestions
  • Profiles for 28 types of fish – taste, texture, and substitutes

So, if you feel out of your depth when it comes to fish (see what we did there?), our Beginners Guide to Cooking Fish is here to take all the anxiety away.


Guide to Fish

Cooking fish at home is easy once you know the basics, and this Beginners Guide to Fish will teach you everything from best buying practices to different ways to cook fish.

Easy Fish Recipes

If fish and homecooking have just never really jived in your kitchen because of the flavor factor, here are some of our favorite fish recipes that are sure to win you over! They are quick, easy, and delicious.

1. Smoked Salmon and Avocado Toast on a Bagel

This is no ordinary avocado toast. In just 35 minutes, you’ll have a substantial meal with balsamic marinated tomatoes and, from then on, every other avocado toast will pale in comparison. Salmon pairs great with the flavors in this recipe, but you can also try another tender and omega 3-rich fish like herring or sardines.

2.  Asian-Style Fish Tacos with Slaw and Sriracha Mayo

It’s hard to choose a favorite element of these unique tacos – the crunchy baked fish, the tangy slaw, or the creamy spicy Sriracha mayo. It is all so good. This community favorite is ready in just 35 minutes and will renew your love for Taco Tuesday. And, if you want a more adventurous fish than tilapia, you can find a great substitute like catfish by using our guide above.

3. Jerk Fish with Cucumber Salsa, Plantain Chips, and Smoothie

The sweet, tangy, spicy marinade in this meal pairs perfectly with white fish. To keep things simple and delicious, serve this meal with our cooling cucumber salsa, crispy plantain chips, and fresh green pineapple smoothie. Since this jerk fish recipe requires marinating to get that punch of flavor, make sure to follow the safety tips we outline in our guide!

4. Fish Chowder with Butter Lettuce Salad

This is a classic version of fish chowder that uses aromatics, spices, and even savory bacon to build layers of flavors. You can sit down to a creamy chowder and crisp salad in 30 minutes or less if you use an Instant Pot. When choosing a type of white fish for this recipe, we recommend cod, haddock, or another fish that is tender but not too delicate.

5. Halibut with Miso Butter and Charred Green Beans

Miso butter has become a Cook Smarts classic. The rich, savory flavors of our compound butter pair beautifully with mild halibut, but you can also use our guide to find the best substitutes if halibut isn’t available. The whole meal is served with charred green beans and fluffy rice, and is ready in just 40 minutes.

6. Crispy Fish Sandwiches with Creamy Slaw

The whole family will love this crispy, panko-breaded fish topped with a creamy slaw. Add honey mustard roasted vegetables on the side for a flare of flavor and color. For the best breaded fish results, we like to use cod or another white, lean, and firm fish that won’t fall apart.

All of these meals are a part of our weekly meal planning service and our Recipe Archives with thousands of dishes at your disposal. If you want access to all of this deliciousness, sign up for a free 14-day trial.

If you’re excited to start using our Beginners Guide to Cooking Fish and have a friend who has been wanting to get more of those omega 3s in their diet, send this article along to them! You can also check out our 3 Tips for Cooking Fish and make sure you never miss a new infographic by signing up for our weekly email below.


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