Guidelines for Baking Fish

1. Fat fish are better for baking because they are less likely to dry out.

2. Lean fish may be baked successfully if great care is taken not to overcook them. Basting with butter or oil helps prevent drying.

3. In most cases, baking temperatures are from 350° to 400°F (175° to 200°C). Large fish are best baked at the lower end of this range so they bake more evenly.

It is also possible to bake thin fillets or slices of fillets (cut like scaloppine) at very high temperatures. Great care must be used in this case because the fish may cook in a minute or less, and a few seconds too long might ruin it. The effect of the high heat is almost like broiling, and the normal guidelines for broiling thin fish fillets should be followed, as explained in the next section.

4. It is not possible to give specific baking times because fish vary so much in shape and composition. Different ingredients and types of baking pans also affect the baking time. The following guideline is helpful, however: Measure the thickness of the fish at the thickest point. At 400°F (200°C), baking time is about 10 minutes per inch (2.5 cm) of thickness.

5. Serving baked fish with a sauce or seasoned butter enhances its moistness and improves palatability. Serving with lemon also enhances the fish.

6. If fish is baked with a moist topping or sauce, strictly speaking, it is no longer being cooked by a dry-heat method. However, because the basic procedure is the same, the fish is treated as if it were.

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