Boiling or Deep Poaching Fish; Cooking Time & Tips

Boiling or deep poaching is suitable for a number of types and cuts of fish, as the following table demonstrates:

Oily fish:
Mackerel — fillets
Salmon — whole, cross sections, steaks, fillets
Salmon trout — whole, fillets
Skate — wings
Trout — live trout (blue trout)

White round and flat fish:
Brill — tronçons, suprêmes
Cod — steaks, suprêmes
Coley — steaks, suprêmes
Haddock — steaks, suprêmes
Halibut — tronçons, suprêmes
Turbot — tronçons, suprêmes

Smoked fish:
Haddock, Coley and Kippers

Cooking times and procedures vary considerably according to the size of fish being deep poached. A 180 g cod or salmon steak takes approximately 8-10 minutes and is ready to serve immediately, whereas a whole salmon weighing 7-8 kg which is generally served cold should be maintained just at boiling point for 10 minutes, then left in the cooking pan in which it has been poached until cold (preferably for 12 hours and under refrigeration once it has cooled). Ideally a special fish kettle should be used for boiling fish and, as for shallow poached fish, the liquid in which the fish is cooked should gently simmer.

The term boiled fish is seldom used when referring to items of fish cooked in this manner. According to trade practice it is referred to as poached, but for the sake of clarity the term poached will not be used in this section to mean boiled except in recipe headings.

Testing if cooked:

Due to its delicate nature cooked fish is difficult to handle and prone to breaking. Moreover, that the fish appears cooked on the outside is no guarantee that it is cooked right through at the thickest point.

Fish in a court-bouillon continues to cook as the liquid cools. It is therefore not possible to know if the fish is cooked to the correct degree when it is removed from the cooker without considerable experience. Careful attention to time and procedure are the surest guides and are therefore of great importance.

To test if cooked
(1) Remove the fish from the cooking liquid and place on the fish kettle drainer.
(2) Small whole fish and cuts of large fish should be firm to the touch and show signs of breaking or flaking when slight pressure is applied. If the fish gives a feeling of springiness then it is not cooked.
(3) With fish steaks such as darnes and tronçons the centre bone should detach easily from the fish with no traces of flesh adhering to it. It may be possible to move one of the fillets gently away from the centre bone at its thickest point using the point of a small knife. This has the advantage that you can see if the fish is cooked as well as feel, and the fish can easily be reformed for the next stage of the recipe.

Service of boiled fish dishes:

With cuts such as darnes and tronçons the dark skin may be removed either at the time the food is dressed up or at the actual point of service.

Place the fish in an earthenware dish, remove the center bone and the dark skin with the point of a small knife, and add sufficient of the cooking liquid to cover the base of the dish. Garnish with slices of lemon, small turned boiled potatoes and sprigs of picked parsley. Serve the appropriate sauce separately.

Items cooked in a court-bouillon are served with some of the cooking liquid, slices of the carrot and onion, bayleaf and peppercorns, sprigs of picked parsley and small turned boiled potatoes. The appropriate sauce is served separately.

Darnes of salmon are served with an accompaniment of sliced peeled cucumber.

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