This gentle method of cooking involves submerging food in liquid without boiling it; the liquid should be heated to the point where it just barely trembles. Being a gentle method that doesn’t jostle the food about too much and that helps retain moisture in the food, poaching is ideal for seafood which is relatively low in fat and has a delicate structure.
A foolproof method for poaching whole fish to serve cold, such as salmon, is to place the fish in cold salted water over a low heat, covered, as soon as the water starts to simmer with tiny bubbles appearing, remove from the heat, uncover and leave to cool in the poaching liquid. By the time it’s cooled it will be perfectly cooked and wonderfully succulent. As a larger volume of poaching liquid takes longer to heat and longer to cool, this method cooks large and small fish perfectly.
Curries, soups, and other wet dishes such as tagines, usually involve simmering, which is technically distinguished from poaching by a slightly higher temperature, but for our purposes is included here. The liquid is brought to a boil, then the heat is reduced to the point where only tiny bubbles occasionally rise to the surface.
Tips for Poaching Seafood
- It’s worth investing in a metal fish kettle if you want to poach whole fish such as salmon.
- Place whole fish on a rack to make it easier to lift it from the pan or kettle.
- If poaching fillets or several small whole fish make sure they’re arranged in the pan in a single layer.
- Unless using the above method to cook fish to be served cold, bring the poaching liquid to a gentle simmer before placing the seafood in it.
- Cover pan with a lid, or aluminium foil, to prevent too much poaching liquid from evaporating.
- Cook fish under 1kg for about 1 minute/100g (minimum 5 minutes), add 5 minutes for each additional kilo
Seafood Suitable for Poaching
- White, firm-fleshed fish such as blue-eye trevalla, coral trout, goldband snapper, leatherjacket, ling, Murray cod, rays and skate, red emperor, snapper, whiting
- Pink-fleshed fish such as salmon and rainbow trout
- Bugs, crabs, marron, prawns, rocklobsters, yabbies
- Quenelles of seafood made from pureed fish, prawns, scallops or other seafood
- Curries usually involve poaching seafood in stock or coconut milk flavoured with a spice paste
- Court-bouillon (a vegetable stock with lemon juice or acid added)
- Salted water
- Coconut milk (often flavoured with spice pastes for curries)
- Butter, oil or rendered fat (goose, pork)