Fish is one of the most versatile proteins we have. Caught and served fresh, it needs little or no sauce, seasoning or fuss to get the best out of it. Yet, if you’re in the mood to add a sauce, marinade or seasoning, the fish is happy to work with it and will reward you with a very tasty dish!
Marinating is a simple way to impart flavour into fish without changing anything else. It’s a way of transforming any meat or fish, takes only a few minutes to prepare and delivers some pretty spectacular results.
How does marinating fish work?
Marinating fish imparts flavour into the meat without otherwise altering its state. The obvious exception here is ceviche. Ceviche is the ‘cooking’ of fish using citric acid such as a lemon, lime or orange. There is a difference between acidic marinades and ceviche, so one does not necessarily mean the other.
Always marinade fish in the refrigerator. It slows down bacterial growth and keeps the fish fresher. Remove to bring up to room temperature and then cook straight away.
Usually, you use the around three quarters of a liquid marinade to do the work and reserve some to pour over the fish to serve.
How long does a fish marinade need to work?
How long you marinade a fish for depends on whether it is a firm fish or flaky. Firm fish take longer to absorb the flavour of the marinade whereas flaky fish will take it very quickly. Firm fish include tuna, marlin, sturgeon, halibut and other larger fish. Flaky fish include cod, salmon and trout.
So for example, a tuna steak needs 1 or 2 hours to marinade properly. A halibut fillet may only need 30 to 1 hour depending on size. A cod fillet on the other hand will be fully marinated in 30 minutes and small shellfish between 15 minutes to 30 minutes.
It’s important to marinate fish only enough to impart the flavour and no more. Fish can begin to break down if left in a marinade too long, especially an acidic one. The result with be a mushy consistency that may taste too strong and fall apart before eating and not in a good way!
The anatomy of a fish marinade
A liquid marinade typically has three elements, an acid, an oil and the flavouring. They combine to keep the fish moist and impart flavour into the meat. A brine marinade can work too and uses a saltwater solution to carry a flavour into the main ingredients. Dry marinades are usually a mixture of dry herbs and spices that flavour the surface of the meat.
Marinating fish is an excellent way to add a real zing to a dish. Choose the right mix and you can quickly transform any fish into something really special!