Poaching and Steaming

The important thing about poaching as a cooking method is its gentleness. It achieves exquisite results of succulent, tender, evenly cooked fish. Poaching means cooking in a liquid, but it must never mean boiling; if fish is agitated in bubbling liquid the flesh begins to fall apart, succulence escapes, tenderness is lost and the appearance is destroyed. The very most that the liquid should do is just to tremble on the surface. There shouldn’t be any bubbles.

When poaching whole large fish you will need a receptacle big enough, ideally a fish kettle. If you are going to eat fish cold you should start it in cold liquid and bring it slowly up to just bubbling; then, after about 1 minute, remove it from the heat and leave it to become completely cold in the liquid. For eating hot, poach the fish, let it sit in the hot water for 15-20 minutes, then test to see if it is done by inserting a thin skewer or trussing needle; if it meets no resistance in the flesh it will be ready. The fish will feel firm if you press it lightly with your finger.

Steaming, as well as poaching, is a healthy, virtually fat-free way of cooking. Many types of inexpensive steamer are sold, including the excellent tiered Chinese baskets and a steaming rack to fit inside a wok.

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