Poaching Seafood
  |  First Published: April 2003

POACHING is a method of cooking that’s simple, healthy and brings out all the natural flavour of the seafood, whether you’re cooking fillets, steaks or whole cleaned fish. I use a stainless steel fish poacher with a lift-out tray because the tray makes it easier to place the fish into the poaching liquid, and also easier to take it out when it’s cooked.

Fish poachers come in a variety of sizes, and it’s best to buy one that’s big enough to suit the largest fish that you’ll poach. If you want to try the flavour of poached fish before handing over the cash for a poacher, you can use a covered roasting dish. Find a gridded metal tray, such as one used for cooling cakes or biscuits, that will fit into the roasting dish and you have a makeshift fish poacher. If your roasting dish doesn’t have a lid, use a roll of strong alfoil to cover the dish.

Poaching liquid is usually water flavoured with lemon slices or zest, wine, herbs or spices and is called a court bouillon. To poach, place the fish on the tray in the poacher and fill the poacher with the liquid until the fish is just covered. Simmer very gently, making sure the liquid doesn’t reach boiling point. Poaching is a very gentle way to cook, and the surface of the poaching liquid should be just shimmering or moving slightly from the heat.

If you’re going to serve the fish cold with a salad, or as a presentation dish at a meal, allow the fish to cool in the poaching liquid. To do this, take a few minutes off the total cooking time to make an allowance for the fish remaining in the hot liquid. This will ensure that the fish retains all of its moisture and flavour, and will also reduce the risk of overcooking.


The court bouillon in the following recipe is one version of a poaching liquid.


4 cups water

1 carrot, sliced

1 onion, sliced

a few sprigs of fresh thyme

a few black peppercorns

2 sprigs parsley

1/2 cup white wine or lemon juice


• Place all of the ingredients in a stainless steel saucepan (aluminium will taint the flavour of the poaching liquid). Bring to just below the boil and continue simmering, uncovered, for ten minutes. This reduces the amount of liquid and concentrates the flavour. Cool and strain.

• After gutting the fish, make sure it is thoroughly clean and the backbone is free of blood. Wash the fish quickly in a little lightly-salted water and pat dry inside and out.

• Put the fish on the poaching tray and place into the poacher with the poaching liquid. The cooking time depends on whether you’re preparing a whole fish, cutlets or fillets. The general rule is 20 minutes for a whole fish, eight to 10 minutes for steaks and five minutes for fillets.

• When cooked, remove the fish carefully from the poacher, draining the fish well.

• Serve with a fresh green salad or some steamed vegetables. Good Health!

1) Poaching brings out the full flavour of seafood.

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