Seafood cooks very quickly. Raw seafood flesh is translucent (e.g. white fish, squid, shellfish, prawns and lobsters), it appears white or opaque when it is cooked, except of course pink-red flesh fish which will stay roughly the same colour.
The biggest mistake you could make is to OVER COOK seafood. Overcooking spoils the flavour and texture of the seafood. So seal it on a high heat and then cook through on a medium heat. Remember that seafood will continue to cook after it is removed from the heat, so remove it from the heat a few minutes before completion of the required cooking time. Overcooking may strengthen the “fishy” flavour of the seafood.
Very high temperatures will denature (breakdown) the good omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids and reduce the overall health benefits of the seafood. In fact to get the highest nutritional value from you seafood you should eat the seafood Japanese style – fresh raw sashimi! But if raw fish is not to your palette, you could try grilling, steaming or microwaving. These cooking methods will retain the health properties of the seafood while minimising the loss of omega 3 and 6 essential fatty acids.
If you are using frozen seafood, be sure to thaw it SLOWLY. If fact the best way to thaw seafood is to remove it from the freezer the night before its intended use and place it covered in the fridge. This will guarantee the fish retains its moisture, texture and quality.
There are some general rules for cooking seafood – but there are always exceptions! Use a DRY HEAT (baking, grilling or BBQ) or MICROWAVING for species with a high moisture and/or oil content (e.g. barramundi, Atlantic salmon, swordfish or prawns on the BBQ) . Use MOIST-HEAT cooking techniques (steaming or poaching) or FRYING for species with a low moisture and/or oil content (e.g. King George whiting, snapper, bugs, crabs, prawns and rocklobster).
As a rough guide fish fillets usually take 5-8 minutes to cook, depending on the thickness but to be sure if your fish is ready, simply insert a fork into the thickest part of the fillet and gently divide. If it flakes easily – it’s ready!
Prawns, lobsters and other crustaceans are cooked when they turn pink/orange. Scallops and cephalopods (squid & octopus) need only a minute to cook. Overcooking this flesh will toughen the flesh or make it rubbery! Steamed shellfish are ready when their shells open, but remember to thoroughly wash and clean the outside prior to steaming!
Seafood is delicate in structure and flavour so keep flavours SIMPLE. Any flavours added to the seafood should enhance it rather than overpowering it! You might like to try lemon, lime, lemongrass and other light sauces for your snapper, dory or whiting. But for stronger flavoured seafood, e.g. tuna, mullet or prawns, you could try garlic, onion or wine.