How to Make Fish For People Who Don’t Like Fish
Fish is gross. If you’re reading this, you probably agree. Or, you’re reading this in hopes to convert someone into a seafood lover. If you’re the latter, we’re sorry to break it to you, but you’re probably not going to be able to convert a seafood hater into a huge fan.
To all the seafood haters out there — we feel you. Whether you hate seafood because you’ve been traumatized by eating too many fish sticks as a kid, you hate the texture (too slimy, too chewy), the smell turns you off (we’re looking at you, squid), or you never grew up eating it and at this point in your life are too scared to try it, you’re not alone. We hate fish too… But many people absolutely love fish.
Are we truly missing out some of the best food out there? Maybe, maybe not. If you’re brave and want to try eating fish, or want cook a fish dish for a significant other and also be able to eat it without gagging, this blog post is for you. You can make fish palatable even if you dislike things from the sea. As a pair of fish haters, trust us.
Before we get into the meat and potatoes fish and chips of this post, let’s clear something up. Yes, the title reads How to Make Fish for People Who Don’t Like Fish. Yes, we are also going to be talking about scallops and crab, which aren’t fish. But this is our blog, and in the immortal words of Eric Cartman:
Here are some tips on how to make fish for people who don’t like fish.
1. Wrap It In Bacon 🥓
Bacon makes everything better. The same is true with it comes to seafood.
The first thing that comes to mind when we think of bacon and seafood is bacon wrapped scallops. If you hate seafood because of the texture however, then scallops are probably not for you. However, scallops done right aren’t that bad texture-wise, but it really depends on the person. Bacon wrapped scallops are great because they’re simple and easy to make, and because the scallops absorb the bacon flavour, which makes them perfect for seafood haters.
🐟 Mediocre Tip: Experiment with different types of bacon! Try an applewood smoked bacon or maple bacon instead of your normal everyday bacon.
Before wrapping your scallops in bacon, be sure to take off the little tough muscles on the side. You can wrap the bacon around the entire body of the scallops if you have small bay scallops, or around the circumference if you’re using sea scallops which are much larger.
You can cook bacon wrapped scallops two ways: bake them in the oven or sear them in a hot pan with butter. We cooked our bacon wrapped bay scallops in the oven for 10 minutes (5 minutes on each side) at 425°F and they turned out perfectly — they weren’t tough or rubbery and the bacon was cooked. If you opt for the pan method, we recommend cooking your bacon before wrapping your scallops, as the bacon won’t cook much during the searing process. According to the internet, searing your scallops on each side for 1 minute and 30 seconds will result a perfectly cooked scallop. (The internet doesn’t lie, right?)
How else can you apply the theory of bacon + seafood = good? Wrap fish in bacon! If you decide to try this, we recommend using a white fish (see point three for more details).
2. Hide it in a Cake
Cake is delicious. Birthday cake, chocolate cake, strawberry shortcake — you get it. So why take what is usually delicious and taint it with seafood? Because if you do it right, you’ll barely be able to taste the seafood. A perfect example of this is crab cakes. Crab cakes are something that we’ve often associated with fancy wedding receptions and hoity-toity charity events. But it turns out that they’re actually pretty easy to make and aren’t just for snooty rich people.
To make crab cakes you’ll want to mix together roughly equal parts (by volume) of lump crab meat and mayo-based filler. In addition to mayo, you can put whatever you want in your filler, but we recommend finely chopped green onion and bell pepper, some sort of herb (parsley is probably best), some seasoning (many recipes call for Old Bay), and lemon juice to brighten the whole thing up. If you like a little bit of spice in your life, add a chopped jalapeno or some hot sauce.
So, let’s say that you mix all of this together in a bowl. You’re likely going to find that there is a ton of liquid and that the mixture doesn’t really hold itself together in a nice wee cake shape. That’s because you need a binder! Simply put, a binder is anything sticky that will help the mixture hold its shape. It should also help absorb some of that nasty, crabby liquid. Most cakes are bound with eggs along with breadcrumbs or crushed crackers. The recipe we followed called for pureed cod as a binder (which Trevor totally omitted because he didn’t read the recipe properly and thought, “Why do we need fish in our crab cake? Let’s axe that garbage.” but then didn’t realize that there wasn’t a binding agent until everything was falling apart).
Once you incorporate your binder, everything should hold its shape quite nicely. Form your mixture into crab cakes and bread them with some bread crumbs if you want them to get extra crispy when you fry them. From here you can fry them in some oil or you can stick them in the oven to bake or broil. Choose your own adventure! You are the chef, after all.
If you’ve followed the basic theory then you should have a lovely, light crab cake that will taste and smell of crab, but it won’t be overpowering to the point of wanting to vomit.
🐟 Mediocre Tip: Still not down with the taste? Try making a dip or sauce that you can put on the crab cake to help mask the flavour. Chipotle mayo is a good place to start — the spiciness of the peppers helps to reduce the crabby taste of the cakes.
You can hide other types of seafood in cakes too. Shrimp cakes, salmon cakes, fish cakes — the possibilities are endless!
3. Choose a White Fish
Some fish tastes fishier than other fish. White fish are a great way to introduce people who are picky eaters to fish, because of their mild taste (they are the least fishy of fish). White fish are also pretty good at absorbing the flavours you impart on them because of how neutral they are.
Examples of white fish:
We tried making two different cod recipes to see if we could make it edible. (Spoilers: we did!) The first recipe we recommend trying is Broiled Cracked Pepper Cod — the fish absorbs the flavours of the onions and bell peppers that you cook with it. It didn’t even taste fishy!
The second recipe that is Mediocre Chef approved is Roasted Chili-Lime Cod. We opted for smoked paprika instead of regular paprika (because smoked paprika is x1000 better) and used less lime juice and zest in the butter mixture, as we felt that the zest of one lime was enough when we combined the ingredients. The texture of the roasted chili-lime cod was super flaky and perfect. As people who hate seafood, we were pleasantly surprised with how both of these recipes turned out.
Choosing the least fishiest of fish definitely helps!
4. Use Lemon 🍋
Like bacon, lemon makes everything taste better. It won’t be able to mask the flavour of super fishy fish (fish haters know what we’re talking about), but it can make fish edible.
You can incorporate lemon into a marinade and marinate your fish, you can simply cook it with lemon juice and butter on top, or you can squeeze fresh lemon juice on top of a deep fried and battered fish.
When we think of lemon and fish, we immediately think of salmon. As fish haters, even we can appreciate salmon, if cooked well. Salmon pairs exceptionally well with lemon and dill, as is evident by the thousands of recipes online, each with their slight variation on salmon with lemon and dill. We baked our salmon on top of a bed of sliced lemons, and topped it with a mixture of minced garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, and melted butter. We sprinkled a bit of dried dill before baking and served it with with fresh dill as a garnish. If you like dill, lemon, and garlic, this is the way to eat salmon! The end result: deliciousness.
We baked both a fillet of organic Chinook salmon from Tofino, BC and a fillet of Atlantic salmon to test the difference. A couple of observations:
The organic Chinook salmon is more appealing with its bright pink flesh and ribbons of fat.
The Atlantic salmon had a less fishy taste compared to the Chinook salmon — it was barely noticeable.
Your choice of salmon will affect your end result — not all salmon is made equal. If cooking for someone who hates fish because of its taste, choose the cheaper Atlantic salmon!
🐟 Mediocre Tip: Use fresh lemon juice! It makes all the difference.
Here are a few other lemon + fish recipes that we found that sound good in theory. We hope to test these one day!
5. Choose High Quality Seafood
High quality seafood generally means fresh — caught the day of, ideally. Here’s the problem for us and many people out there: if you don’t live by the ocean, you’re not able to buy freshly caught seafood. Being landlocked sucks.
So, trying to get fresh fish can be a tough thing to do. It can be done, but you end up paying a premium for it. (If you live near the ocean, be thankful that you have an abundance of fresh seafood!)
When we had the idea for this post, we truly wanted to see if we could find recipes that made seafood palatable for us. We also wanted to give ourselves the best possible chance of liking the recipes we chose, so we decided to get the best quality seafood that we could find, even if we had to pay a little more for it.
The helpful staff at Fin’s Select Meats and Seafood were able to answer all of our fishy questions and point us in the right direction. (We’d like to point out that this isn’t an advertisement, nor a collaboration. They have good quality product, knowledgeable and friendly staff, and for that we’re happy to give them a shout out.) The lesson here is: go somewhere that specializes in seafood, where they know what they’re talking about. It will cost a little more, but the quality is worth it.
Of course, if we’re going to talk about quality of seafood, we have to talk about fresh vs frozen fish. Now this is a touchy subject, so let us be clear up front: if you have the means and can afford it, you should probably buy fresh caught fish. However, if you live in a landlocked part of planet Earth you can still get high quality frozen seafood, in fact, we’d argue that frozen fish can be just as good as fresh fish.
The key is to look for the fish that’s frozen solid and in a vacuum sealed bag. Avoid anything that appears freezer burnt, and if there’s liquid or ice crystals on the inside of the packaging, then it’s been partially defrosted and thus should be avoided.
6. Cook It Right
As mentioned a few times throughout this post so far, cooking fish perfectly is key. Many people hate seafood because when they’ve had it, it wasn’t prepared properly. Overcooked scallops, rubbery shrimp, dry salmon — these are just a few examples of how you can fuck up seafood.
This point is a bit of a “duh” moment, but it needs to be said. If you’re cooking fish for a loved one that isn’t the biggest seafood fan, do them a favour and help them like fish by cooking it right. Don’t know how long to cook your fish for? Google it and use a damn thermometer.
If you don’t like seafood, is this blog post going to change your mind? Probably not — it didn’t change our minds.
We're not going to go out of our way to eat fish, because it’s not our favourite thing. That being said, we did like the dishes we made to illustrate each point. We were able to turn something unpalatable into something that we were able to eat (although the price we paid was turning the Mediocre Chef kitchen into a stanky war zone). Even though we don’t plan on cooking a ton of seafood in the future, we’re are now armed with the knowledge of how to make fish more edible.
We hope that this blog post helps you, the non-fish lover, navigate the treacherous waters of a fish-loving world. Tell us how much you hate fish in the comments below. Or if you tried some of our tips and kind of enjoyed eating seafood, let us know!