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Josh Niland: Seafood chef, 31, reveals his secrets for creating crispy skin fish EVERY time

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Top seafood chef, 31, reveals his secrets for creating crispy skin fish EVERY time – and says all cooks should use a weight for perfect results

  • Josh Niland, 31, is one of Australia’s most respected seafood chefs 
  • He owns Saint Peter in Paddington, an award-winning sustainable fish eatery  
  • He says the secrets to perfect crispy skin are the use of ghee and a fish weight  
  • He  says it would be ‘impossible’ to pan-fry or grill a fish well without a weight 
  • A small, heavy saucepan filled with water is an alternative if there’s no weight

One of Australia’s most respected seafood chefs has revealed his tips for cooking fish with the ‘perfect crisp skin’. 

Josh Niland is the owner and chef behind Saint Peter in Paddington, New South Wales, an award-winning ‘fish eatery’ known for serving sustainably sourced, fresh seafood with attention to detail. 

Writing for Good Food, the 31-year-old former ‘Breakthrough Chef of the Year’, said the fish you choose should always be ‘ambient’ before it’s added to the hot pan and should never be put in straight from the fridge.

If it is, it will ‘set unevenly’, making it harder to determine when it is cooked. 

Josh Niland (pictured) is the owner and chef behind Saint Peter in Paddington, New South Wales, an award-winning 'fish eatery' known for serving sustainably sourced, fresh seafood

Josh Niland (pictured) is the owner and chef behind Saint Peter in Paddington, New South Wales, an award-winning ‘fish eatery’ known for serving sustainably sourced, fresh seafood 

To get the skin ‘crispy’, Josh uses a small amount of ghee which he removes from the pan after two minutes, before adding more at the end of the cooking process.  

Ghee is clarified butter with a high smoke point that is great for sauteing and creating a ‘rich’ and ‘nutty’ taste in cooking. 

He also always uses a fish weight (his own Saint Peter brand) when cooking and says it would be ‘impossible’ to pan-fry or grill a fish well without it. 

‘When pan-frying a fish on the skin, the heat that’s generated crisps the skin, which travels up through the muscle of the fish and sits on the face of the weight,’ he said.

To get the skin 'crispy', Josh uses a small amount of ghee which he removes from the pan after two minutes, before adding more at the end of the cooking process

To get the skin ‘crispy’, Josh uses a small amount of ghee which he removes from the pan after two minutes, before adding more at the end of the cooking process

On his website, Josh describes his $150 weight as an 'essential tool' for crispy skin fish and a way of creating 'an even golden colour' over the fillet

On his website, Josh describes his $150 weight as an ‘essential tool’ for crispy skin fish and a way of creating ‘an even golden colour’ over the fillet

‘This sets the top of the fillet very gently while forcing the skin to have direct contact with the pan. By using a weight on thin to thickish fillets, you will be able to cook the fish from raw to cooked on the stove and rely less on the oven to finish cooking.’

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He says a small, heavy saucepan filled with water is an alternative if a weight is not available.  

On his website, Josh describes his $150 weight as an ‘essential tool’ for crispy skin fish and a way of creating ‘an even golden colour’ over the fillet. 

He shares more tips for cooking fish perfectly in his The Whole Fish cookbook ($55).  

Josh isn’t the only chef with tricks for creating crispy skin, with MasterChef Australia star Georgia Barnes making crispy skin salmon by first patting the fillet down with a paper towel to remove moisture.

Writing for Good Food, the 31-year-old former 'Breakthrough Chef of the Year', said the fish you choose should always be 'ambient' before its added to the hot pan and should never be put in straight from the fridge

Writing for Good Food, the 31-year-old former ‘Breakthrough Chef of the Year’, said the fish you choose should always be ‘ambient’ before its added to the hot pan and should never be put in straight from the fridge

Josh isn't the only chef with tricks for creating crispy skin, with MasterChef Australia star Georgia Barnes making crispy skin salmon by first patting the fillet down with a paper towel to remove moisture

'There's an even cooked line in the salmon, with a pink middle and crispy skin. That's exactly what we want, a perfectly cooked piece of salmon,' she said, before resting it for five minutes and serving

Josh isn’t the only chef with tricks for creating crispy skin, with MasterChef Australia star Georgia Barnes making crispy skin salmon by first patting the fillet down with a paper towel to remove moisture

Appearing on the second episode of The Chef’s Secret: Cooking with Natural Gas on Bright-r.com.au, she then adds sea salt and cracked black pepper and cooks it on a gas cooktop to maintain temperature control.  

‘A drizzle of olive oil in the frypan will help the skin crisp up perfectly,’ she said. 

Over a medium-high heat, Georgia then the salmon skin side down, presses down on each fillet to ensure skin is flat against the base of the pan and cooks the salmon for two to three minutes on each side.  

‘There’s an even cooked line in the salmon, with a pink middle and crispy skin. That’s exactly what we want, a perfectly cooked piece of salmon,’ she said, before resting it for five minutes and serving.     



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