Cod is a lean and versatile fish, with a firm texture, delicate flavor and beautifully pale flesh. Most countries in Europe have a rich tradition of dishes made with salted cod, an indication of its historic importance as a trade item. Today, cod is sold fresh and quick-frozen rather than salted, eliminating the tedious soaking process required by the salted fish.
Choose your cooking method by taking into account the size of the cod fillets. Thin portions cook quickly, but are easily overcooked. Thick portions take longer to cook, but don't require such close supervision.
Poach cod by simmering in a flavorful liquid, such as white wine, apple juice, fish stock or water, that's been seasoned with some combination of lemon juice, salt, peppercorns and fresh herbs. The cod will cook in five to 10 minutes, take on the flavors of the poaching liquid and have no added fat.
steam cod on a bed of fresh herbs or flavorful vegetables. This technique also adds flavors without fat, and the simple preparation method showcases the delicate flavor of the fish.
Bake the cod on a parchment-lined sheet pan, either plain or in a light sauce to prevent drying. Thin fillets will cook in as little as six minutes at 420 degrees Fahrenheit if baked plain, while thick fillets in sauce can take 20 to 25 minutes.
Slip the fillets into a parchment bag, available at your supermarket, and seal the opening by folding and creasing it like a sandwich bag. Bake the fillets in your oven for 10 to 15 minutes, and they will steam in their own juices. Add fresh herbs, lemon juice or a favorite salad dressing mix to the bag for additional flavor.
- Most recipes advise you to cook cod until it flakes easily with a fork. By that time, however, it may be slightly overcooked and already becoming dry, so more modern cookbooks advise you to judge by appearance. Slide a knife between flakes of flesh at the thickest part of the fillet, and gently lift so you can see inside. If the cod is pearly white in the middle, it's fully cooked and ready to serve.
Fred Decker is a trained chef and prolific freelance writer. In previous careers, he sold insurance and mutual funds, and was a longtime retailer. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. His articles have appeared on numerous home and garden sites including GoneOutdoors, TheNest and eHow.