side of salmon
A shiny side of salmon

If you’re afraid to cook fish at home, you might be suffering from some misconceptions. In fact, a few fish recipes should be in every home cook’s arsenal. In general, fish fillets cook extremely quickly, making fish an easy way to get a delicious dinner on the table quickly. These are some of the best types of fish to cook at home for beginners, and a few methods to get you started. 


Salmon is easy to love. It has a beautiful orange color and a buttery texture. Its falvor is both rich and mild, which makes it a crowd-pleasing option for homecooks with a family. It pairs well with sweet glazes and vegetable side dishes, as well as any grain. In stores, you’re mostly likely to find salmon fillets, steaks, or whole sides. Any of these cuts will work well at home, but cooking time will vary based on the thickness of the cut and cooking method. 

There are many choices for sustainable salmon options, including Atlantic salmon farmed worldwide in indoor recirculating tanks. If determining the source of the salmon in a store gets confusing, try ordering online or asking for more information at the meat counter.


Tilapia is actually the name for a large family of fish. These fish are mostly found in freshwater, and in recent years have become popular candidates for aquaculture and aquaponics.

Tilapia has a sweet, mild flavor. The versatile taste and low cost have made Tilapia one of the most-consumed types of fish in the United States. Their medium firm texture makes this fish exceptionally easy to prepare at home. 


Cod is a classic, clean-flavored whitefish. Often cod is the first fish people come to love in the form of fish sticks. Its mild flavor means that it is delightful paired with tangy toppings, like a lemon-butter sauce. It’s firm texture helps it stand up to vigorous cooking methods like frying, making cod a popular choice for fish tacos. 

Once you’ve conquered your fears of cooking fish, step outside the supermarket aisles. Find a good local fishmonger, and ask what they love. Sometimes lesser known fish can be more sustainable. 

Ways to Cook Fish

After you’ve left the store, the battle is half over. Now you just need to decide on a cooking method.

How to Bake Fish

Baking fish is a quick and hands-off way to get dinner on the table. All you need is a sheet pan and some aluminum foil to prevent sticking. Line the pan with aluminum foil, season your fish and place it in the oven. There’s no need to flip during the baking process.

Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of your cut, but in general, the fish should look opaque, feel firm, and flake apart easily when tested with a fork. The cod in this Japanese-inspired recipe bakes for 8-10 minutes. Look for an internal temperature of 145°F.

How to Sear Fish

One of the greatest challenges of cooking fish is making sure that it doesn’t fall apart. Ideally, you end up with a beautifully seared piece of tender fish that stays in one piece. Watching your cooking time closely will help with this, as will a good fish spatula

To sear fish, grab a good nonstick pan and add enough oil to coat the bottom. Wait for the oil to heat up before introducing the fillet. The oil should shimmer slightly. The fish won’t need to stay in the pan long! Two to three minutes per side should do it. If your fish has skin, start with the skin side up, that way you’ll be able to check the flakiness of the fish for doneness while you’re cooking the second side. Try our recipe for seared salmon with chili glaze here.

How to Fry Fish 

Introducing breading to the mix tends to make things a bit more complicated, but if you’re craving a crispy fish taco or the perfect accompaniment for potato salad, then frying is the way to go. 

To fry, you’ll want to make sure to have a neutral oil on hand. Olive oil is delicious, but it’s best suited for lower temperature cooking methods. Canola or peanut oil will stand up better to the heat for this method. 

When it’s time to coat, remember this: dry sticks to wet. Start by patting your fish dry with paper towels and coating it lightly in flour. This will create a dry surface for your egg batter to stick to. After the fish has been dunked in egg batter, you’ll have a wet surface for the breadcrumbs. After the breadcrumbs, the next stop is the frying pan. 

Once it’s time to fry, be sure not to overcrowd the pan. If you add too many pieces of fish at once, the temperature in the pan will drop and the fish won’t brown properly. Fry for 2-3 minutes per side, and enjoy.