The Sensitivity and Fragility of Fish in the Pan

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Most fish pose a double challenge in the kitchen. They are more easily overcooked to a dry fibrousness than ordinary meats. And even when they’re perfectly done, their flesh is very fragile and tends to fall apart when moved from pan or grill to plate. The sensitivity of fish to heat is related to their perishability: muscle fibers that are specialized to work well in the cold not only spoil at lower temperatures, they become cooked at lower temperatures. The muscle proteins of ocean fish begin to unfold and coagulate at room temperature!