A Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking the Best-Tasting Fish

Wondering what type of fish to buy for dinner? Here's a guide to shopping for and preparing the best-tasting fish.

Many nutrition experts recommend incorporating fish into one’s daily diet. They’re rich in nutrients and protein, and tend to be quick-cooking. Not sure what the best-tasting fish is? Here’s our guide to common types of fish: their taste, texture and ways to cook.

What Makes Fish So Healthful?

Fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (aka “good fats”) and are often rich in vitamins and minerals, including calcium, iron and potassium. Plus, fish are high in protein and lower in fat than other proteins, like beef.

The Secret to the Best-Tasting Fish?

No matter what kind of fish you buy (more on that below), the secret to good fish is to use fresh fish. Don’t buy any fish that’s slimy or has a strong odor, or with any discoloration. Cook fish within 1 or 2 days of buying, and keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to cook.

Packaged fish should be tightly wrapped, with no air space between the fish and wrapping, and no liquid in the package. Frozen fish should be frozen solid. The package should not contain ice crystals or discoloration.

Here’s how to tell if fish is fresh.

What Is the Best Fish to Eat?

Whether you’re new to cooking fish at home or looking to expand your repertoire, here’s a starter guide to six commonly available types of fish. Can’t find a particular fish at the store? Here’s a guide for how to substitute one fish for another.

Cod

Taste: Cod has a very mild, milky flavor. Atlantic cod is slightly sweeter and softer, while Pacific cod is firmer and more savory.

Texture: Cod is nice and flaky, but it’s firm enough to stand up well to baking and broiling.

How to Cook: Since it’s a milder fish, we like to add flavor with citrus, herbs or spices. Cod will cook in under 15 minutes; it’s done when it flakes at the touch of a fork.

Try this delicious baked cod recipe or this simple recipe for broiled cod.

Sole

Taste: Sole is another fish with a mild, almost sweet flavor. It’s an excellent fish for fussy eaters.

Texture: Sole is flaky and slightly firm when cooked. Did you know that a dish of sole launched Julia Child’s career?

How to Cook: Sole holds up well to cooking in a skillet. Most sole recipes call for about 10 minutes of cooking time. Again, the fish is done when it flakes with a fork.

Check out this skillet sole recipe.

Halibut

Taste: Halibut has a sweet, meaty flavor that’s widely popular.

Texture: Halibut is prized for its firm texture, with big flakes. It is a lean fish, so it can dry out if overcooked.

How to Cook: Halibut is a versatile fish. Treat it tenderly by poaching in liquid, or draw out a crust by blackening the fish. Whatever you do, don’t overcook it!

Don’t miss our top halibut recipes.

Sea Bass

Taste: Sea bass has a very mild, delicate flavor.

Texture: Sea bass is flaky and lean, so be careful not to overcook it.

How to Cook: Cook sea bass gently by poaching it, baking it or pan-cooking it. It’s done when the flesh is opaque and flaky.

This baked sea bass recipe is a sure-fire hit.

Trout

Taste: A rare freshwater fish that’s commonly available, trout can taste slightly gamey, but it’s also sweet. Not too adventurous, but probably not the fish to serve a fish-doubter.

Texture: Trout is very tender to eat.

How to Cook: Trout is versatile. Bake in the oven (wrap in paper or foil to lock in moisture), grill or pan-fry.

Be sure to check out our baked trout recipe or this trout recipe you can make on the grill.

Salmon

Taste: Salmon has one of the most distinctive (and popular!) flavors out there. It’s super oily and rich, with a meaty, savory flavor.

Texture: Salmon is meaty and tender, again thanks to the heavy dose of fatty oils.

How to Cook: Salmon is a versatile fish. For hands-off cooking, try the foolproof baking method. Salmon can also be grilled, pan-cooked or baked in parchment.

Get our top 10 salmon recipes

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Kelsey Rae Dimberg
A former in-house editor at Taste of Home, Kelsey now writes articles and novels from her home in Milwaukee. She's an avid cook, reader, flâneur, and noir fanatic. Her debut novel, Girl in the Rearview Mirror, will be published in June 2019 by William Morrow.