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Brining fish

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

Hi All-


Making halibut for a crowd this Friday....pan searing...lemon oil...very simple.   I was thinking of brining the fish beforehand in a typical salt sugar brine.  Anyone ever brine white fish like halibut?  Was it beneficial?  Any tips?

post #2 of 7

It won't give you the same leeway it would as if you were cooking low and slow, but will help. 


Be careful not to oversalt when you season the fish before searing.  Cook off a piece ahead of time to get your seasoning levels right.


Make sure the fish is completely dry before cooking it.  By completely dry, I mean completely dry.  If a hazy "pellicle" doesn't form on the flesh, it's not dry.


When halibut is perfectly cooked, it starts soft, becomes "fluffy" to the touch, firms up, and finally flakes.  You don't want rare halibut, to use the technical term, it's yucky.  Fluffy means the center is just barely cooked, and is perfect.  Firm is okay but less good.  Flakey ... well you might as well eat canned tuna.


Lemon flavor from the zest becomes bitter when overheated.  Lemon juice before or during cooking will dry out the fish.  Whatever lemon oil is (outside of furniture care), you're better off not using it as part of the cooking process.  When pan searing fish, lemon should come after, otherwise it's counterproductive. 


Good luck,


post #3 of 7

The Japanese commonly do a dry salt rub, sometimes with sugar and other spices but not usually. The normal time for this is 30 minutes, and less for a smaller fish. Brine penetrates faster than a rub, so I'd say keep it quick. Otherwise you'll end up with a salty fish.


The dry rub works, by the way, giving you a juicier, firmer (in a good way), more flavorful fish.

post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 

Super.  The lemon oil I am referring to is great light olive oil and a bit of zest.  And you're absolutely right - I was remiss in not mentioning that I would put the squeeze of lemon and touch of the oil AFTER it is complete.  Salt and pepper was all I was going to do going into the sear. 


However - you're making me a bit weary about brining in the traditional sense.  I will take your advice and try on myself before Friday, and also keep it quick, monitor measurements of salt etc and TASTE!


Do you have a temperature for getting past the yucky stage to the just done stage for halibut?  If not, I do appreciate your descriptions - can't wait to try it all out.


Maybe I'll do two pieces for myself - and one I'll try a dry rub - never thought of that.  Thank you.

post #5 of 7

Y'know, I don't know fish internals offhand.  There are a lot of visual and tactile cues though.  If the piece is thick enough, you want a very thin band of translucent flesh in the exact center, and when the fish is cooking on the second side and just done, it will just push back when gently pressed on the top (presentation) side. 


"Just push back" is exactly the same way mid-rare, aka a point feels when you press-test a 1" thick steak. 


Okay, now that we've got that out of the way -- halibut is just a bit different.  You should definitely feel it as fluffy -- firm but soft at the same time -- rather than as a straight push back.  If you mess around with a few pieces, you'll not only see what I mean about how it feels when you press test, but its outstanding mouthfeel and taste.   


Furthermore, that fluffiness is a staple of halibut and nearly all flatfish -- even if you're just baking a piece of fin muscle on a piece of foil in a toaster oven.  Along with freshness, hitting the texture on the nose is what makes these fish so outstanding.  You can hit it almost instantly with smaller sole and a lot of heat.  Another night, perhaps.



post #6 of 7

The standard test for fish doneness is to stick a skewer in the middle, wait 3 seconds, and then press its tip just under your lower lip. If it feels warm, it's done. If it's hot, it's overdone.

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

I'm going to work with the press testing - need to learn it anyhow - so no time like the present.  I can easily use your thin band of translucent guide - know exactly what you mean.  Now I just need to perfect the push test.   I'm always so focused on my presentation (first) side being perfectly light brown crusted, that I can lose sight of the most important thing- internal doneness and as you say, fluffiness.  Have to refocus.


The pieces I get from my fish guy are usually pretty thick - a bit tougher to gauge, but I'm up for it - thank you again for your awesome descriptions - makes it much easier.


As for the skewer under my lip??!!??  Wow!  But.....OK.....you never know....it just might be a valuable trick.  Thank you!


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