Poaching is perfect for when you want to make a sophisticated meal without making it complicated. There are many different ways to poach fish, and in this post, we’re sharing our favorites.
The simple method calls for submerging fish in barely simmering liquid and letting it gently cook while soaking up all kinds of flavor.
How to Poach Delicious Fish Every Time
Start with the right liquid.
Broth-based poaching is refreshing and relatively low-calorie, while oil- or butter-based poaching makes for unbelievably tender fillets. Other staples like coconut milk or wine make great poaching liquids, too. (Note: Each of the recipes below uses a different poaching liquid.)
Build flavor with aromatic vegetables, herbs, and spices.
Sauté aromatic vegetables in the pan before adding the liquid to add depth. Add herbs, spices, and condiments like soy sauce and vinegar to your poaching liquid for a bigger boost in flavor.
Poaching isn’t the same as boiling.
Be sure not to let the liquid boil, as this will make your fish tough. You want to heat your poaching liquid to a slight simmer. Make sure you have enough liquid in your pan to fully cover the fish.
Pair these five poaching liquids and herbs with your favorite type of fish (it’s barramundi, right?). Each will yield enough liquid to poach four 4- to 6-ounce fillets in a 12-inch pot or saucepan.
Poaching in fat makes for tender, fall-apart fish. Olive oil is a great option, and pairing it with fresh flavors like fennel and citrus cuts the richness of the dish.
Try It at Home: Heat 3 cups olive oil over medium heat, then add 1 small bulb sliced fennel, 6 cloves crushed garlic, a ½ bay leaf, and 2 strips of orange zest. Add seasoned fish fillets, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and let it sit, covered, for 10 minutes, to cook fish through.
A butter poach is as decadent as it sounds. It’s also a great way to make lean white fish more tender. Wine, garlic, and thyme deepen the flavor but are subtle enough not to distract from the buttery taste.
Try It at Home: Heat 14 tablespoons butter, ¼ cup white wine, 1 clove smashed garlic, and 1 sprig thyme in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. When the liquid is nearly simmering, add seasoned fish fillets and cook until opaque, 10 to 15 minutes.
Court bouillon is a quick-cooked broth that gets its flavor from wine and aromatics. It’s the perfect way to add lots of flavor without a ton of calories and works equally well with lean or fatty cuts of fish.
Try It at Home: In a large pot, combine 5 cups water and 1 cup dry white wine. Add 2 chopped celery stalks, 1 chopped leek, 1 small chopped onion, 1 crushed lemongrass stalk, 1 bay leaf, 6 black peppercorns, and 3 parsley stems. Simmer 15 minutes, then strain. Return strained liquid to pot or saucepan, add seasoned fish fillets, and simmer for 7-10 minutes.
Coconut Milk, Onion, Garlic, Ginger, Curry Paste & Lime
An Asian-inspired poach is a surefire way to get out of a fish-cooking rut. Coconut milk has a strong flavor, so it’s complemented by other strong flavors like ginger and curry paste. Finish the dish with a squeeze of lime juice to liven things up.
Try It at Home: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan. Sauté 1 small minced onion, 3 cloves minced garlic, and 1 teaspoon grated ginger until fragrant. Add 3 tablespoons red curry paste and stir. Add 1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk, the juice and zest of 1 lime, 1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional), and 1 tablespoon sambal chili sauce (optional). Simmer for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add seasoned fish fillets. Poach for 7-10 minutes.
For a light dinner that’s more than a salad, try poaching a piece of white fish in a leek and ginger infused broth.
Try It at Home: Thinly slice 3 leeks, then rinse with water until no dirt remains. In a large saucepan, simmer 2 cups chicken broth, leeks, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 4 teaspoons grated lemon zest, and 1 teaspoon grated ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Add seasoned fish fillets, cover saucepan with lid, and poach for 10 minutes.
Once you’ve had a few goes at poaching fish, you can start to build your own poaching liquids with whatever ingredients you love or happen to have on-hand. You can also cook vegetables in potatoes in the same liquid to round out the meal—just add them a few minutes before the fish, since they take longer to cook.
Want even more variety? Here are a few other easy cooking methods to try.