Fish and seafood can be difficult to cook. Because the flesh is much softer and the connective tissue weaker than land animals, it’s easy to overcook fish and ruin its delicate flavor. That’s why some people aren’t confident in cooking it.
But if you know how to prepare it, fish and seafood can open up your culinary senses to a whole new world. There so much flavor and texture in fresh fish but we often don’t realize it because we cook it like it were pork or chicken. Cooking it too long causes it to dry out and lose its flavor.
So if you’re new to cooking this type of meat, it’s best to get a fish cookbook. More than just a collection of recipes, the best ones give you tips on every aspect of cooking fish. They’ll show you where to buy fish, how to choose, what to do with it, and even, how to plate it.
We all should be eating fish more often. It’s a healthier source of fat because fish and seafood contain omega 3 fatty acids which are good for the heart. But don’t worry; if you don’t know how to cook fish and seafood beyond frying them to pieces, a good fish cookbook will show you other more flavorful ways to prepare the ingredients.
Some cookbooks will focus on fishes, others will both feature fish and shellfish. There will be cookbooks on preparing freshwater game fishes, and there will be others about saltwater fishes.
The best ones feature a wealth of information and trivia alongside the recipes so they make good coffee table reading. This include highlighting the nutritional info for each featured fish.
A good cookbook should also offer a substitution list for its fish recipes. Because some of the fish may be offseason, having such a list will be helpful when you go shopping for ingredients at the fish market.
Pick a cookbook that has lots of photos. Depending on the book design, some might have illustrations instead of photos. But often, these are illustrated gorgeously so that you won’t need to look for pictures at all.
There are fish cookbooks for beginners, and fish cookbooks for the pros. Whatever your skill level, all of these books will have always something to offer. But if you pick the right one, you’ll be able to easily pick your catch of the day and seamlessly transform it into a delicious meal for you and your family.
Best Fish Cookbooks
- Fish: The Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking Paperback
- Foolproof Fish: Modern Recipes for Everyone, Everywhere Hardcover – Illustrated
- The Seafood Cookbook: Classic to Contemporary Hardcover
- Good Fish: 100 Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast Paperback – Illustrated
- Lake Fish: Modern Cooking with Freshwater Fish Paperback
- The Joy of Seafood: The All-Purpose Seafood Cookbook with more than 900 Recipes Hardcover Williams-Sonoma Collection: Fish Hardcover
- Fish Without a Doubt: The Cook's Essential Companion Hardcover – Illustrated
- Fish: Recipes and Techniques for Freshwater Fish Hardcover
- The Whole Fish Cookbook: New Ways to Cook, Eat and Think Hardcover
1. Fish: The Complete Guide to Buying and Cooking Paperback
This book is designed to be a recipe book and reference guide for preparing and cooking fish. It contains information on 70 kinds of fish and shellfish that are found in American fish stores and supermarkets. Categorized from A-Z, each entry describes the fish and its health benefits, how it’s sold, what it should look like, and how to buy it.
It starts with an overview of how to store, prepare and cook fish and then goes on to catalogue the fishes. There are more than 500 recipes here, including their variations. Each recipe uses low-fat, high-flavor ingredients to complement its flavor. Most recipes are also doable in just under 30 minutes. And at the end of each recipe, there’s a note on what fish one can substitute without affecting the recipe.
There are lots of beautiful photos and illustrations to accompany each entry. The sections on sauteing, frying, grilling, and smoking fish are packed with enough tips to make you an expert in prepping your favorite fish.
2. Foolproof Fish: Modern Recipes for Everyone, Everywhere Hardcover – Illustrated
From the editors of the American Test Kitchen, this book features 198 delicious recipes that have been kitchen-tested and will work with different kinds of fish. There’s enough information to educate the reader on the basics of selecting quality fish in stores and how to handle and prepare them.
The recipes are easy to follow and use fish that are commonly sold in regular stores. At the end of each recipe, there’s a suggestion on what kind of fish to substitute if the main ingredient is out of season. It also includes nutritional information about the fish. Color photos accompany each entry.
Readers loved the section on sauces as it offers a lot of variety and flavor. The sauces can also be used for just about anything. However, there were some comments on how the book does not include the total prep and cook times for the recipes.
3. The Seafood Cookbook: Classic to Contemporary Hardcover
This cookbook features classic fish cuisine recipes and modern ones. There are more than 300 recipes in this book, most of which can be done in an hour while the rest can be made in 30 minutes.
The book is organized by cooking techniques: baking, sauteing, deep-frying, grilling, poaching, and braising. Each chapter goes through the basics of the technique and then provides the recipes and types of fish that would work well for the technique. The last chapter offers a common-sense formula for pairing wine with seafood, which readers found more helpful than a wine list.
The recipes are easy to follow and use fish that’s commonly sold in fish markets. There are also sections for using fish in sauces, stocks, vegetables, salads, and side dishes. There are no photos in this cookbook but there are 114 line drawings that illustrate the fishes and the various techniques to prep them.
This is an old book (it was published in 1986) but readers loved how the recipes have withstood the test of time. For those looking for a classic, this book is a must-have.
4. Good Fish: 100 Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast Paperback – Illustrated
This is a revised and expanded edition of a cookbook that features sustainable seafood recipes from the Pacific Coast. There are 100 fish recipes here that come with the most updated sustainability information.
This is not a comprehensive fish cookbook but it does teach you several cooking techniques and provides tips for buying and caring for sustainable seafood. The recipes are easy to understand for the average cook but are gourmet so some prior experience in cooking and handling fish is required. Each recipe comes with a suggested wine pairing.
Some samples of recipes include: wild salmon, Pacific halibut, black cod, lingcod, rainbow trout, albacore tuna, Pacific cod, Arctic char, mahimahi, wahoo (or ono), sardines, herring, squid, and caviar.
In general, readers found the book informative for its content on the seafood of the Northwest. One reader, however, said the recipes-while delicious- are more geared towards a culinary artist than a home cook. Come for the recipes, but stay for the gorgeous photos and the intensive info on sustainable fishing.
5. Lake Fish: Modern Cooking with Freshwater Fish Paperback
This is a cookbook that highlights new and different ways to prepare freshwater fish. There are 100 recipes here for every variety of fish, from panfish and trout to the world-famous walleye to Lake Superior ciscoes.
Sections are arranged by fish type and the recipes include appetizers, salad and soups. The instructions are easy to follow and provide space for creativity for the average home cook. There are only 50 photos that accompany the recipes but these are beautifully shot.
Readers liked this book because it presents a lot of alternatives to breading and frying freshwater fish. It is also a nice introduction to learning about the subtle flavors of white-fleshed inland fish.
6. The Joy of Seafood: The All-Purpose Seafood Cookbook with more than 900 Recipes Hardcover
The most comprehensive of the cookbooks on this list, the Joy of Seafood features nearly 100 fresh- and salt-water fish and shellfish, along with more than 900 recipes.
The book is organized by fish species and includes their different names. It then presents the recipes for the fish and follows it up with an overview of both traditional and modern methods of preparing it.
The recipes are inspired by regional and traditional cuisines. Instead of photos, beautiful illustrations accompany these recipes. There’s a section on culinary techniques and another one covering flavored butters, sauces, and spice mixes to complement the featured dishes.
Readers liked it for its extensive content although one said its recipe selection could be repetitive at times. If you’re looking for an encyclopedic approach to cooking seafood, this is the book for you.
7. Williams-Sonoma Collection: Fish Hardcover
Like its other selections, this Williams-Sonoma cookbook focuses on a few essential recipes to build up a home cook’s skill set in preparing fish and shellfish.
There are more than 40 recipes here that range from the simple and quick to the hearty and intriguing. There’s a separate section for shellfish and how to prepare and cook them. There’s also an extensive glossary to keep you updated with the terminology.
Each recipe is easy to follow and beautifully photographed. There’s a side note in every recipe that highlights the key ingredient or the cooking technique used.
Readers like it because of the quality of the recipes and the gorgeous photos. This is a good introductory book for the occasional fish cook.
8. Fish Without a Doubt: The Cook's Essential Companion Hardcover – Illustrated
This is a cookbook for the professional fish cook. It features more than 250 recipes and includes a section on the culinary techniques for preparing fish and shellfish.
The book is organized by cooking method, with chapters on broiling, poaching, roasting, grilling, steaming, and frying. There are also sections devoted to chowders, fish cakes, salads, and side dishes.
The recipes are a mixture of updated classics and modern favorites. And they’re accompanied by beautiful photos. While the recipes are easy to follow, use common ingredients, and provide sustainable options, newbie cooks might find all of the information overwhelming.
Readers love its collection of sauces and how the sauce makes the final dish tasty and flavorful. They also like the “Accept Substitute” side notes that are present in each recipe because these notes give them some latitude when shopping at the fish market. If you’re looking for book that will teach you the art of prepping and cooking fish, this is for you.
9. Fish: Recipes and Techniques for Freshwater Fish Hardcover
This cookbook specializes in preparing freshwater game fish and features 50 modern recipes for dishes and accompanying sides.
The book is divided into three sections: Fishing, Cleaning and Filleting, and Recipes. The first section shows you how responsibly harvest freshwater fish all throughout the year. The second is a more intensive look at how to clean and process the fish. It includes step-by-step color photos for scaling, gutting, filleting, and storing fish.
The last section is a collection of basic and average recipes that anyone can easily do. It also includes notes on how to cook it the traditional or gourmet way. It’s also accompanied by beautiful photos of the finished dish.
This a good game fish cookbook that should be a must-read for anyone new to game fishing or even experienced game fishermen.
10. The Whole Fish Cookbook: New Ways to Cook, Eat and Think Hardcover
More textbook than a recipe collection, this book will appeal to professional chefs looking for creative techniques in fish butchering. There’s great information in cleaning fish and utilizing parts of the fish not commonly used for eating, like innards, fish bones, and scales. There’s also a section that shows you how to dry or age the fish prior to using it in a dish.
There are 60 recipes for dozens of fish species in this book. This book is published in Australia so it features Australian fish species and uses local ingredients but there’s a section in the book that provides European substitutions.
Readers found the recipes complex with some having a high level of difficulty. Home cooks will find this an interesting coffee table book though since it has gorgeous photos. If you’re looking for a book that shows you a completely new way to think about the aspects of fish cookery, this will suit you.
FISH: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO BUYING AND COOKING by Mark Bittman
This is a user-friendly book because it lists each fish entry in alphabetical order for easy reference. There’s a ton of useful info here, including good advice on buying fish and how to prepare them in a way that’s realistic for the average home cook. One reader said that the shellfish section helped him get over his apprehension with dealing with mussels.
The book offers quite a range of dishes that are not too complicated and are great for everyday cooking. It also has lots of variations for every fish and dish. This is not a gourmet cookbook, however, so some culinary snobs might find the recipes too pedestrian but the recipes are delicious and fool-proof. Sometimes, that’s all one needs for a great fish dish.