Poached fish may sound fancy and maybe even intimidating to some, but in reality, it is one of the most delicious and shockingly simple cooking methods out there. Plus, it’s also one of the healthiest ways to prepare fish. And with lean, flakey and delicate fish in particular, poaching is a perfect technique that even the beginner chef can manage.
The Basics for Poaching Cod
Put simply, when you poach food (fish, eggs, shrimp, vegetables) you are cooking it by using a moist-heat method where you submerge your ingredients in liquid (think broth, milk, water, wine etc.). Any cooking method that uses liquid as opposed to fat to cook your dish is instantly more nutritious, with less fat and fewer calories.
But beyond that, poaching your fish is also better for maintaining the integrity of your cod, as well as boosting flavor without diminishing the health benefits. When you poach fish, you are using the liquid base as the conduit to deliver heat to the fish, and the fish cooks gradually with less intense heat.
Compared to oven roasting, grilling or pan searing where fish cooks fast and furiously, and you have to be careful not to overcook or break the fish apart, poaching cod is a gradual, gentle process. Essentially, poaching preserves moisture and adds flavor without adding fat.
Prepping Your Cod
Any time you cook fish, regardless of cooking method, you need to first remove any excess moisture by blotting the fish with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. The more moisture you remove, the more moist will your fillet be once it’s cooked.
Cod is delicate but also holds together nicely when it is poached. But if you’re nervous about your fish falling apart, you can always wrap it in a cheesecloth and place it in your pot when ready.
What Kind of Pot Should I Use?
Any pot will do, but the important thing to consider is the size of your pot. A bigger stockpot or soup pot that can hold more liquid will often yield better results. And if you really want to get fancy, there is such a thing as a fish poacher, which is a long narrow pot with a shelf that allows you to easily poach your fish and then remove it from the cooking liquid without risking it falling apart.
What About the Poaching Liquid?
When you poach your fish, you don’t want your liquid to be too hot. It should never ever boil. The most successful poaching technique is to raise the temperature of the cooking liquid, regardless of what liquid you choose, to approximately 150 degrees, and maintain that temperature throughout the cooking process. It can range between 150 and 180 degrees, but again, don’t let the water come to a boil; a light simmer should be perfect.
In most cases a cod loin will cook in about 10 minutes if the cooking liquid is the right temperature. The perfect cooking time depends largely on the thickness and size of the filet; obviously a thicker cut of fish will take a little longer to cook through, while a thin filet might only take about 4 or 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook — you want your fish to flake easily when you poke it with a fork, and the inside should be opaque.
Don’t Skimp on the Herbs and Seasoning
The liquid you choose along with the herbs, seasoning and aromatics you include will determine both how your fish tastes and the sauce you decide to serve with your fish. So choose wisely, and don’t skimp on the flavors. Typically there are 4 main components when you poach fish:
- An acid (lime, lemon, or oranges)
- A mixture of onions, celery and carrots
The most traditional liquid base for poached fish is called a court bouillon, which is a flavorful cooking liquid that is equal parts water to white wine, plus a small amount of an acid like lemon or vinegar. From there you can add any herbs, spices or vegetables you like, the more the merrier. The result is a light but flavorful fish dish.
If you want a slightly more indulgent, creamy dish, then you should include milk in your cooking liquid. Poaching in milk creates a creamy, chowder-like flavor and texture.Thanks to the high fat content of milk, the flavors from the herbs and spices will be more absorbed into the liquid and then infused into the fish.
Poached Cod Recipes We Love
This Poached Cod with Lemon Butter Sauce calls for a mixture of milk and water as the cooking liquid, plus tons of herbs and spices such as cloves, garlic, parsley, peppercorns and shallots. You top it off with a lemon butter sauce and the end result is an easy to make but super impressive and delicious poached cod dish.
If you’re looking for something lighter try this Poached Fish with Spinach in Chili-Tomato Sauce. This dish uses tomato puree and olive oil to create a cooking base, plus the fish is infused with flavors from olives, chili peppers, garlic and fennel.