How to Reheat Fish
The first bite of the first serving: flakey, tender, juicy fish with a touch of crunch on the outside—or perhaps it’s a delicious battered piece of seafood that audibly crackles with flavor and taste. You made enough for yourself or your family for two or three meals, and leftovers are in the fridge immediately.
But now it’s time to reheat it for another meal. You remove it from the fridge and wonder: How do I reheat this, so it is as delectable as the first time I made it? Fish fried, battered, baked or broiled, we have some fantastic tips to reheating leftover fish so that it’s just as delicious as the first time.
Fish is a delicate meat, so being gentle with it in its reheating is important. Any way you cook it, go for low temp and patience instead of quick and convenient.
Properly storing your leftover fish will greatly help with getting you the best results when reheating. Keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for no more than 3 to 4 days, tops. Freezing it will take a toll on its quality, but if you want or need to keep the leftovers longer than a few days, it is an option (but not the best for flavor and texture).
Thicker the Better
You will have better luck preserving the moistness and flavor of thicker cuts of fish. Thin fish, for example, tilapia, trout, or flounder, tend to dry out and overcook very quickly. You will have more success in keeping the fish tender and juicy if you are reheating thick swordfish or tuna steaks instead.
Do be aware: reheating fatty fish like salmon and mackerel tends to give off a stronger fishy scent than when it was cooked and served the first time. This is due to the oxidation of its fatty acids which turn into strong-smelling aldehydes, bringing out a more pungent fish aroma.
Too high a temperature creates dry, overcooked fish
One common, and one of the biggest, mistakes when reheating fish is blasting it with too high heat. Overcooked, dry fish—like salmon—is not exactly a tasty, pleasant experience. It is always best to reheat very slowly at a low temperature. Going slow ensures you keep the tenderness and moistness of the fish as intact as possible, losing far less than you would on high heat.
Avoid the Microwave
It’s easy, it’s convenient, it’s quick and one button away from reheating your food. And it will dry out and overcook your fish. Unfortunately, your microwave won’t help in reserving the wonderful flavor of last night’s fillet. Microwaves apply too high heat and dry fish out very quickly, unleashing that sometimes-off-putting fishy aroma due to the oxidation of its fatty acids. You know those days when a co-worker heats up some seafood in the company microwave and it smells like that for the entire day? An oven would do a better job at keeping that smell in, and, turning to the oven for reheating fish on low temps and slowly will help combat potent fishy smells.
Always cover the fish
Keep the edges of your fish from drying out and give yourself secondary protection from fish smells by covering it loosely with foil when you reheat in the oven. This will also help prevent the middle of your fish from drying out before it is warmed all the way through.
It will not taste exactly as it did fresh
Even if you take every precaution and every piece of advice we’ve given, the fist will not have the exact same flavor on the second day as it did when freshly served. So make sure your expectations have adjusted accordingly. The fish can still taste wonderful, be juicy and tender, but the perfect taste from last night will have changed on the second night. You can, of course, always repurpose leftover fish by flaking it into an entirely new dish such as hash or fish cakes if the second-day flavor just isn’t to your liking.
How to Reheat Fish:
- Store it well in a reliably airtight container, no longer than 3 or 4 days.
- Always cover fish to keep it heating evenly and preventing dry out and help combat fishy odor.
- Try and avoid the microwave if possible.
- Don’t expect it to taste exactly like it did freshly served.
- Microwave: We really don’t recommend the microwave for reheating fish. But we also understand that not everyone has the time needed to go slow. If you really need to use the microwave, we recommend using a microwave-safe cover, setting it to a very low power mode, 30 to 40 percent of its full power, and microwave in short 30 second spurts until heated all the way through. Flip the fish over every 30 seconds as well to ensure it heats evenly. Baked, stewed or sautéed fish can sometimes do alright reheated in the microwave.
- Toaster Oven: Just like a larger oven, a toaster oven will work very well in reheating breaded and fried fish. Most toaster ovens will provide even, gentle heating. Always cover your fish with foil before placing it in a toaster oven and set it between 275 or 350 F (No higher than 350!) and continuously check that it is heated and remove as soon as it’s warmed to your taste.
- Oven: Preheat your oven to 275 or 350 F (But do not go higher than 350). Cover your fish in whichever dish or platter or pan you are using in the oven with loose foil if it is unbreaded fish. If your fish is breaded or battered, leaving it uncovered will help return crispiness to the outside, but you may lose moisture.
- Stovetop or Skillet: If a fishy smell doesn’t bother you, using the stovetop or skillet to reheat fried fish is doable. If you are reheating a fish stew or sautéed fish, using the same method they were cooked (stovetop) can be used. In a skillet, heat the skillet on low, add oil, and add fried fish. Cover and check every three minutes to ensure it is heating evenly and you aren’t overcooking. Flip as little as possible to keep fish from flaking.
Fish is such a lovely, amazingly healthy, versatile food. Enjoying it, even a day after, shouldn’t be a horrific experience and with these above steps, you should be well on your way to enjoying your favorite fillet the second time around!