You may be in the habit of saving fish for a special meal because it seems complicated to cook. But fish baked in aluminum foil is a breeze to make, even for a weeknight quick dinner. The foil maximizes moisture so the fish comes out tender, flaky and delicious every time. You can add minimal fat or omit added fat altogether, because the foil packet creates a steamy pouch that keeps the fish from drying out, which means fewer calories and a lower-fat meal compared to fish fried in oil.
Cooking fish in foil is incredibly versatile too. Use a variety of fish – from halibut to tilapia to shrimp – and accessory ingredients such as bok choy, shredded carrots, spinach and beans. Seasoning further enhances flavor and can give your meal an exotic spin. Try ginger, scallions and low-sodium soy sauce for an Asian flair or tomatoes, dried oregano and garlic for an Italian aura.
Choose Your Fish
A meaty, dense fish with a neutral flavor is your best bet. It’ll cook up moist but not overcook. Plus, it’ll absorb all the delicious seasonings that are sharing its foil pouch.
Halibut, shrimp, salmon and cod are good options. But if you only have sole or tilapia on hand, go for it. Just realize that the thinner fillets cook faster so you'll need to check on them sooner. A 6-ounce serving of raw fish or about 1/2 pound of large shrimp serves one person.
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Add the Ingredients
Use about 1 cup of vegetables to complement each serving of fish. Chopped onions, minced garlic, thinly sliced carrots, summer squash and spinach are common additions. But don’t be afraid to experiment with sliced bell peppers, boiled potato cubes, halved grape tomatoes, artichoke hearts or thawed corn kernels. Even black or white beans and sliced mushrooms make for some tasty add-ons.
Select the Seasonings
Any variety of seasonings will highlight your fish. For example, make a mix of minced garlic, soy sauce and grated ginger. Stir together sherry wine vinegar, smoked paprika, garlic, salt and olive oil. Or consider curry powder, a dash of cumin and black pepper.
Remember that while cooking your fish in a foil packet allows you to forgo added oil or fat, a pat of butter on top of your fish and vegetables goes a long way toward adding a little flavor. Pile on fresh herbs, like thyme and marjoram, for a delicate meal to serve over rice.
Wrap the Packets
Once you’ve prepped your ingredients, lay out a sheet of heavy-duty foil that’s large enough to encase an entire fillet and about 1 cup of vegetables. Mound your veggie choices in the center and season them with salt and pepper. Brush olive oil on the fish fillet and place it on top of your vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and top with your chosen seasonings. If you’re adding butter, now's the time to do it.
Fold the short ends of the foil packet around the fish and then bring in the long ends to make a neat little pouch. Place the packet on a cookie sheet or lay it directly on an oven rack. Bake in a 450 F oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until the fish is tender. Thinner fish and shrimp may take less time to cook, whereas thicker fillets may benefit from a little extra cooking time. Allow the fish to sit in its packet for about five minutes once you take it out of the oven to allow the steam to finish up the cooking.
Andrea Boldt has been in the fitness industry for more than 20 years. A personal trainer, run coach, group fitness instructor and master yoga teacher, she also holds certifications in holistic and fitness nutrition.