The first bite of fresh fish is generally unforgettable, especially when you’re the one who caught it. Learn how to cook fresh caught fish.
However, prepping that freshly caught fish for the campfire can be intimidating, causing some outdoor enthusiasts to freeze it for dinner back at home. Cleaning and filleting your fish isn’t as complicated as you might think. And what work is required will be forgotten, once you taste a fish cooked over the campfire.
Proper handling of a fresh caught fish can help it maintain its delicate flavor and avoid spoilage. It also helps with the smell, which is a major bonus. Here are our tips to prepare your fresh-caught fish as you take your fresh catch from your hook to the dinner plate:
Ensure That You Have the Necessary Equipment
While many campgrounds, especially state parks, provide fish cleaning areas, some rural locations lack this amenity. In this case, any outdoor table is a great work surface. Some other tools to have on hand include:
- fillet knife
- scaling tool
- bucket or other container for discarded parts
- water source to keep the fish and work surface clean
- zip top plastic bags to store the fish if necessary
Immediately after the catch
As soon as you catch the fish, be sure to avoid bruising. Immediately hose it down with potable water to remove the slime and bacteria that might cause spoilage. For the final rinsing, use chlorinated water.
Chill your fish
Be sure to chill the fish as soon as possible. The fish should be stored in a 3” deep cooler and covered with a pound of ice. Reserve America recommends to keep your fish on the stringer in the water until you can place it in the cooler.
Cleaning the fish
Clean the fish as soon as possible. Though their tissue may be sterile, the scales still hold a lot of bacteria, therefore, when washing the fish, be sure to avoid breaking the skin so the bacteria doesn’t spread. Hold the head with one hand and, using a scaling tool, dull knife or spoon, apply short, raking motions, moving from the tail toward the head. Use caution around the sharp edges of the fins. Repeat the action on both sides of the fish, around the fins and up to the gills. Rinse the fish in water once you’ve finished. Once the fish has been washed, you can start gutting it. Cut through the belly since this leaves no blood or viscera in the body. Be careful not to soak the fish fillets in freshwater because it might reduce the flavor and texture of the meat.
Storage and cooking
Properly cleaned fish can be stored in a refrigerator for up to five days. Washing your hands before touching the fish is extremely important.
When getting ready to cook the fish, be sure to follow the one golden rule. Whether it is whole or not, cook exactly 10 minutes for every inch measured. If you plan to bake the fish, add another 15 minutes, especially if the fish is wrapped in foil. Moreover, if the fish is frozen, double the time. If you decide to thaw out the fish before you cook it, be sure to thaw it out slow. Thaw for 24 hours under refrigeration, to ensure the fish doesn’t become too dry. Do not thaw a fish that’s frozen before cooking as it may make it mushy and dry.
Use steaking as an alternative to filleting when you prepare salmon or large fish. Cut perpendicular to the work surface, along the entire fish. These cuts are traditionally 1/2- to 1-inch thick. Don’t forget to trim any excess fat or bones without removing the backbone.
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3 tablespoons cornmeal
- 1/4 teaspoon onion salt
- Pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 lb cod
- Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Melt butter in baking pan at 350 F
- Mix flour, cornmeal, onion salt & pepper
- Dredge filets in flour mixture
- Place in pan, turning one to coat both sides with butter.
- Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese
- Bake 10 minutes
You can add additional seasonings to add more flavor.