Fish is one of the easiest, fastest, most nutritious proteins you can cook—why save it for eating-out occasions only?

I am not a wholesale food distributor. But I was just reading an article by Jessica Fu in The Counter that described the hit taken these last few weeks by the people who sell fish. And I was stunned. I prepare fish frequently at my house, as we love fish both for its flavor and for the health benefits. However, I buy my fish from a fishmonger or at a grocery/big box store. I had no idea that 70% of Americans ONLY eat fish in restaurants, and rarely (if ever) cook it at home. This is where I was caught totally off guard; I knew restaurants were in dire straits, but somehow it hardly occurred to me that those who sell food to restaurants would be hurting as badly, or worse. Many fish wholesalers are reporting up to 85% percent of their business is, simply, gone. And it’s not like fresh fish can be held for weeks at a time.

While thinking about all of this—I began to wonder if I had anything to add to the discussion. And I realized that I do: I want to encourage everyone to cook fish at home. I realize that isn’t going to help the plight of fish sellers right at this moment, but it would accustom us to cooking fish at home—and that is a good thing.

mr - Bourbon-Glazed Salmon reshoot
Credit: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Kay Clarke

Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer; Prop Styling: Kay Clarke

Here are some of the biggest reasons people would seemingly avoid cooking seafood in their own kitchens:

  1. I don’t know how to cook fish.
  2. My house is going to smell.
  3. I have no idea how to buy fish.
  4. Don’t I have to cook it immediately??

I completely understand all of these concerns; I used to be afraid to cook fish at home. But one day, I just decided to get over myself and try it. I bought a very inexpensive, innocuous fillet of a white fish (I think it was Tilapia). I heated some butter, seasoned and floured the fish, slid it into the skillet, and cooked it. Was it perfect? No. Did it sort of fall apart? Yes. Did it taste good? Actually, yes, it tasted pretty wonderful. And that was it.The monkey was off my back.

There is a rule I have about all of my work in the kitchen: Try things. If you have good ingredients, and pay attention, what you have will be good to eat, even if it’s not perfect. Try things. It will not be the last meal you ever eat, so not being perfect will not matter. Try things. You’ll get better. I am no longer afraid to cook fish. And I’m a lot better at it.

mr-Crispy Sheet Pan Salmon with Lemony Asparagus and Carrots Image
Credit: Jen Causey; Prop Styling: Kay Clark; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners

Jen Causey; Prop Styling: Kay Clark; Food Styling: Rishon Hanners

For a first timer, there are many ways to make things easier and more approachable:

Buy frozen fish in bulk. Buy it at your favorite big box store. You won’t need to cook it immediately, and it can stay in your freezer for quite some time. This move will free you from the “How do I buy fish at the seafood counter? What am I looking for?” conundrum.

Consider recipes that steam or bake the fish. These methods are apt to be more forgiving and they will help alleviate any “smelly” concerns you may have. Try one of these for starters: Steamed Fish and Vegetables, Parmesan Crusted Baked Fish, Steamed Fish with Spicy Ginger Sauce, Easy Baked Fish Fillets, Steamed Fish Ratatouille.

When you feel ready to saute, go for salmon. Salmon is a great choice because it takes just minutes in a hot pan, and benefits from undercooking. Plus, the rewards far outpace the effort. Give this Fast Pan-Fried Salmon a go; you won't regret it.

Fish makes any meal feel kind of special. And I think we could all use some of that right now. But, I’d love it if we all stopped feeling that fish was so “special” that it’s only to be indulged in while at a restaurant. You can do this. It truly is easier than we’ve let ourselves believe. And if, after dinner, you get a little whiff of fish, let it remind you of the spectacular dinner you just prepared. You wouldn’t refuse to roast a chicken on the off-chance that you might smell chicken, now would you?

Remember. Try things!