How to cook bluegill fillets?
June 22, 2016 6:11 PM   Subscribe

My neighbor just dropped off a bag full of bluegill fillets. I love fish, but don't know how took cook most fish. Help?

I have the sense they should be breaded and cooked on the stove. But not the specifics. I've never mastered the art of cooking on the stove top so I'm lost here. I can boil things, brown beef and sauté onions, that's about all I can do (okay garlic too.)

But cooking other meats that don't have a visual cue like turning from pink to brown? I haven't a clue.

I have a stainless steel pan, glass pans (Pyrex visionware) and ceramic non-stick pans.

Also, can the fillets be baked? Made without breading? I have a one gallon ziplock bag full, and I don't eat a lot in one sitting, so I'll have enough to play around a bit.

Do I do anything special to thaw them? Just throw some in the fridge the night before I want to use them? Or being small, would thawing in cold water be better/quicker.

I let the blue full she gave me last year go bad out of fear of my cooking, and I don't want to do that this time.

Assume I'm a complete novice when it comes to cooking; I might as well be. My hodge podge collection of cooking skills are just barely enough to get by.
posted by [insert clever name here] to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My stepdad would lightly bread them in flour seasoned with a little salt and pepper and then pan fry them on the stove in a little oil.

I'm pretty sure we had them baked as well, with a little butter and Mrs. Dash. They'll turn white when they're done, like cod.

As for not eating the whole bag in one sitting, you can thaw them in the fridge and split it into smaller bags and refreeze, as long you get the smaller bags back into the freezer within a day or two.
posted by zrail at 6:20 PM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and when you refreeze make sure to add lots of water to the bag so it freezes into a solid chunk. That will help prevent freezer burn, at a cost of taking longer to thaw in the fridge.
posted by zrail at 6:21 PM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Being small, they probably don't need defrosting at all, and can fry directly. Being small, they will cook quickly through. Being breaded fish, and small, they won't get too tough.

You can wing it and pan fry these with any of those pans and you will be fine I think. I'd personally pick stainless steel first. I mean sure listen to the rest of the advice you get but also just go for it.
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:29 PM on June 22, 2016

I use the 10 minute rule to cook fish. I found the write-up below here, mostly.

The 10-Minute Rule is one way to cook fish by conventional methods (but not deep-frying or microwaving). It can be used for baking
(at 400 to 450 degrees), grilling, broiling, poaching, steaming and sautéing. Here is how to use the 10 Minute Rule:

Measure the fish at its thickest point. My mother always used a ruler. I do too. If the fish is stuffed or rolled, measure it after stuffing or rolling.

Cook fish about 10 minutes per inch, turning it halfway through the cooking time. For example, a 1-inch fish steak should be cooked 5 minutes on each side for a total of 10 minutes. Pieces less than 1/2 inch thick do not have to be turned over. Test for doneness. Flake with a fork. Fish should reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees.

If you are baking the fillets, you do not need to turn them over.

Add 5 minutes to the total cooking time for fish cooked in foil or in sauce.
Double the cooking time for frozen fish that has not been defrosted. Use this rule as a general guideline since fillets often don't have uniform thickness.
posted by djinn dandy at 6:29 PM on June 22, 2016 [7 favorites]

Yeah if they are filleted you've got plug and play yummy there! Google some dishes and have fun. You could fry them, bake them (fishcakes), grill them, smoke them, perhaps even cheviche them.
posted by vrakatar at 6:32 PM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

Very simple baked white fish.

You can, if you feel like playing around, make the above recipe except with a shake of taco-type seasoning (powdered onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder, hot chili powder) and then serve on tortillas with slaw and sour cream or crema.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:50 PM on June 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

My grandma breads them in finely crushed saltines (dredge in flour and egg first) and fries them in a few inches of oil, in electric skillets out in the garage. I'm sure that last part can be done on the stove. Enjoy!
posted by Fig at 6:57 PM on June 22, 2016

Assume I have no idea how to pan fry. Because I do not. I have a general sense it involves the pans, but beyond that ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I am game to try, but this has always been a daunting area of cooking.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 7:23 PM on June 22, 2016

Take each fillet and dunk it in egg. You've cracked the egg first, and put it in a dunking bowl. Then take the fish that is covered in the egg and dip it in a flour. Redip in egg. Then coat by rolling around in a plate of bread crumbs- Panko for the win- and putting into the skillet. You've already filled the skillet with like an inch of vegetable oil. Heated to medium hot.

Cook until brown on the bottom side. Flip. Cook until brown on the other side. Take out with a spatula. Put it on a plate you've lined with paper towels to let the excess oil drain.

While its cooling, take mayo, pickle relish or capers and lemon out of the fridge. Mix together. You now have home made tartar sauce. Dip fish into tartar sauce and eat.

Forgive yourself if you burn your first go round. Try again, and have fun.
posted by slateyness at 7:33 PM on June 22, 2016 [9 favorites]

(Oh and that egg has been mixed up with a fork so yolk and white are all blended together in runny raw egg-ness, if that wasn't clear).
posted by slateyness at 7:34 PM on June 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is a simple and delicious fish taco recipe.

Despite being basic, it's really good, and very fast and easy to put together. I fudged the measurements on the seasonings for the fish based upon what I had lying around and sauteed it in a pan because I didn't have a grill and it was still super good. Keep the pan juices to drizzle on the taco, they're the best. The slaw is wonderful, although I didn't use cilantro because I didn't have any. I'm not really a slaw fan in general but it was the star of the taco.

I have also tried a variation where I dredged the fish in flour after marinating and used a little extra oil in the pan for a slight crunch and it was very good.

I also recommend making a crema-style drizzling sauce by mixing mayo or sour cream, hot sauces of your choice (I especially like the Mexican kinds that are more like a thin salsa than a smooth liquid sauce), and lime juice to taste.

The action of sauteing in a pan will be a lot like what you do with ground beef: put a pan on the stove, turn it to medium or so heat, let it get hot (you can put your flattened palm a few inches above the surface to test), put in some oil and spread it around, then put in the fish, marinade and all. Stir periodically (you don't have to push things around constantly) to keep the heating even and keep it from burning.

I'm not familiar with bluegill, but in general fish (like chicken) will go from sort of squishy and translucent to firm and opaque when it's cooked. If you cut it into smaller pieces, they'll cook more evenly and it'll be easier to tell. If you try to break up a piece with a fork and it breaks up into firm flakes (as opposed to still wanting to stick together in the middle) which are also firm and opaque on the inside, it's done. It'll probably release water as it cooks, too. That's fine. I wouldn't let it stay too soupy but it doesn't have to be bone-dry when you finish, either. As I said, the juices are great on the taco.

Frozen fillets should be thawed before cooking, although I imagine if there doesn't look like there will be too much extra water (it'll release water as it thaws, too) you could let them thaw and marinade at the same time. If you're not sure, thaw first.

Also, in the recipe for the slaw, "cored" means you cut out and discard the hard middle stem bit of the cabbage. Otherwise, slice everything for the slaw into thin strips. Leave out the cilantro if you don't like it and it's still great.

If you don't want to bother with heating the tortillas in a (dry or lightly oiled) pan, you can cover them and microwave. Let me know if you have any other questions.
posted by spelunkingplato at 12:16 AM on June 23, 2016 [3 favorites]

The tastiest way to cook fish is going to be some kind of frying or grilling/broiling to get a bit of colour onto it. However, I nearly always default to baking it because it’s dead easy and a lot less smelly.

Oil it, season it, add any other flavours you want, put it in a roasting pan/baking dish/whatever, stick it in the oven until it’s cooked (i.e. firm and opaque). I’m not familiar with bluegill, but looking at pictures it looks like it will have quite thin fillets, so maybe 8 minutes at 180c/350f? Or even a bit less?

Breading and frying them will be more exciting, both to cook and to eat, but if you want a low-stress back up plan, the easiest possible way to cook fish fillets is just to chuck them in the oven. And if you season it properly, even just with salt and pepper and lemon juice, it will still be good to eat.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 1:21 AM on June 23, 2016

But cooking other meats that don't have a visual cue like turning from pink to brown? I haven't a clue.

Most fish is translucent when raw, and becomes opaque when cooked. If it's got a lot of color, like salmon, then it will turn paler. It also becomes very fragile and is easily flaked apart, where it started out somewhat gelatinous. Some kinds of fish (bluegill not among them) are very nice when cooked rare, still somewhat translucent and soft in the middle.

Since the fillets are so thin, bluegill cooks very quickly. I suggest you film a nonstick skillet with a bit of oil, heat it on a medium flame until the oil shimmers a bit, and cook one or two fillets plain, without any breading, just so you can watch the changes it goes through and learn those visual cues. It'll probably stick to the pan and you'll end up with a bit of a mess at the end, but you'll learn from it, and you can use it for an improvised taco.

If you want to try frying them in a larger amount of oil as has been suggested a few times, my favorite improvised deep-frying thermometer is a bamboo chopstick leftover from carryout. Periodically dip an end of the chopstick into the oil as it heats. When the oil is hot enough, you'll see a stream of tiny bubbles coming out of the end and rising to the surface. When you're cooking in that oil, remember that you're trying to keep the oil temperature fairly steady as you move through multiple small batches. If the flame is too high then it will keep getting hotter, which will burn the fish and eventually become dangerous. If you dump in large volumes of cold fish all at once then it will chill the oil to the point that the fish will just be soaking in warm oil instead of frying, which would be gross. It's not difficult, but you do need to pay attention to what's happening.
posted by jon1270 at 2:16 AM on June 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do you have a microwave? (I can hear everyone groan.) Fish is very easy to microwave and it turns out beautifully. Next time you're at the supermarket buy some parchment paper, it will be in the same section as plastic wrap, foil, etc.

Take one of those little fillets (frozen is ok), plop it in the middle of a square of parchment paper big enough that it will wrap the whole piece of fish. Season the fish, salt, pepper, lemon juice, whatever seasoning you might like. Wrap it, put it on a plate and put it in the microwave. The timing is going to depend on your microwave and the size of the fish. Try a couple of minutes. Check the fish, if it's done it will be white, very white. If it isn't do it for another minute, repeat until you've figured out how long it should cook. Enjoy!

I learned this method from a lifelong professional fisherman on Martha's Vineyard.
posted by mareli at 4:18 AM on June 23, 2016

What everyone else has said regarding cooking methods, except:

Coat in pepper and corn meal (mix the two together; dip the fish in egg; then dip in the cornmeal/pepper mixture). Cornmeal instead of flour, absolutely, no question.
posted by pecanpies at 1:57 PM on June 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bluegill ceviche

1 lb deboned fish fillets
1/2 medium white or red onion finely chopped
1 cup of pure lemon juice
1 diced large tomato
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of powdered sugar
1 finely chopped jalapeno pepper
(Use these measurements as a general guidline.)
Place whole deboned fillets in a deep glass baking dish placeing them as flat as possible. Add the lemon juice, onion,salt,and sugar in the dish. Be sure that the lemon juice completely covers the fillets. Place the dish in the refrigerator for about 2 hrs. After 2 hrs, put the jalapeno, cilantro, and tomatoes into the dish and stir lightly ensureing to moisten all of the ingredients. After 1 hour your fillets will be fully cooked with the lemon juice. Stir the ingredients into a nice medley and enjoy with your favorite cracker or dipping chips.

Or breaded and fried for great fish sandwiches.
posted by mikecable at 1:54 PM on June 24, 2016

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