There’s more than one way to prepare surgeon fish, a favorite of many and a true delicacy from the sea.
And although each method gives a unique result, all of them must respect a basic safety rule: the safe minimum internal temperature for the consumption of fish.
If you feel like you’re always winging it when it comes to preparing surgeon fish, whether on the stovetop, in the oven, or on the grill, you no longer need to! We’ve written this guide to help you know exactly what internal temperature to look for, and more.
Cook your surgeon fish to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C). This temperature applies to all cooking methods and should be measured with a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fish.
Some bloggers, celebrity chefs, and cookbook authors may recommend lower internal temperatures for more tenderness. Although the decision is ultimately yours, keep in mind that you’re taking a risk by doing so, as bacteria, parasites, and viruses in undercooked surgeon fish can make you sick.
Also, do not forget that by cooking surgeon fish for the members of your household, you’re very often taking that decision for them. If you’re preparing surgeon fish for the young, the pregnant, the elderly, and those with a compromised immune system, cook it thoroughly to keep the risk of foodborne illness to an absolute minimum.
What About the Time in the Recipe?
Cooking times given in recipes are only approximate, and you should treat them as such.
The exact cooking time for surgeon fish, whole or filleted, comes down to its size, the appliance you cook it on, the cooking vessel you prepare it in, the method of cooking, as well as the amount of heat used.
These factors, as you have probably already thought to yourself, vary greatly from home kitchen to home kitchen and from cook to cook. The only way to reliably tell if surgeon fish is done is to check it early and check it often.
Now you know how, and what internal temperature to look for!
The Best Ways to Cook Surgeon Fish
Surgeon fish is best prepared in three ways: under the broiler, in the pan, and on the grill.
Broiling surgeon fish: To broil surgeon fish, heat your broiler for 15 to 30 minutes. Just before cooking, take the surgeon fish out of the refrigerator, season it generously with salt, place it on a greased sheet pan and slide it under the broiler. Check for doneness after 2-3 minutes.
Pan-frying surgeon fish: To pan-fry surgeon fish, pull out a cast iron skillet or non-stick pan, add a big dollop or two of cooking oil, and heat over medium heat. Salt the surgeon fish liberally and fry. Check for doneness when it’s golden brown on both sides.
Grilling surgeon fish: For charcoal grills, light the coals and wait 20 minutes. For gas grills, light the burners and heat on medium for 15 minutes.
Season the surgeon fish, place it on a tray greased with cooking oil and let it cook on the grill with the lid closed. Check for doneness when it has turned a golden brown color.
Surgeon fish pairs deliciously well with .
Can You Undercook Surgeon Fish?
Surgeon fish can indeed be undercooked. And when it is, eating it can lead to food poisoning or a parasite infection. Take caution to cook your surgeon fish to the safe minimum internal temperature for consumption.
A lot of home cooks and their households enjoy eating lightly cooked surgeon fish. But surgeon fish, high in moisture and rich in proteins, can harbor disease-causing bacteria and harmful parasites of the sea if undercooked.
In particular, raw or undercooked surgeon fish may be contaminated with Salmonella, a pathogenic bacterium that causes a serious disease called salmonellosis, as well as a number of parasites, called “worms,” known to infect fish.
Can You Overcook Surgeon Fish?
Like all other fish and creatures of the sea, surgeon fish overcooks quickly.
Overcooked surgeon fish is dry, tough, and rubbery, and is often left uneaten. Sure, you can always give it a makeover by adding it to a soup or stew—but then there’s little point in baking, broiling, grilling, or pan-frying it in the first place.
Remove the surgeon fish from the heat as soon as it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C). If you don’t trust yourself to keep the surgeon fish from overcooking, braise or poach it.
Both of these cooking methods rely on moist heat, and so they’re more forgiving of mistakes and haste.
Surgeon fish should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F (63°C), regardless of the cooking method. Broil it, pan-fry it, or cook it on the grill, and be sure that you neither under- or overcook it.