Freshwater bass is a favorite catch among those who love to fish. Its tenderness and mild flavor are best enhanced by cooking the fish simply and quickly and serving it without heavy sauces. Most freshwater bass filets have no bones, making them as easy to eat as they are to prepare. The key to cooking any type of fish -- whether fresh-caught or store-bought -- is not to overcook it. A good rule is to cook the filet for 10 minutes per every inch of thickness for fish that is tender and moist.
Preparing Your Bass
Clean your fish if it is self-caught by removing the head, tail and fins. Cut the fish open and remove the guts. Slice the skin off carefully, making sure not to take any of the meat. Fillet the fish and check to make sure you have removed all of the bones.
Rinse your bass filets or steaks in a slow trickle of cool, running water.
Pat the fish completely dry with paper towels.
Season both sides of the fish with kosher salt and cracked black pepper to taste. This basic seasoning prepares the fish for your favorite recipe, though if you are cooking the fish simply you can add other spices now, or substitute Hawaiian pink salt and lemon pepper or cracked, mixed peppercorns for plain salt and pepper.
Cooking the Catch
Grill freshwater bass by spraying your grill with nonstick cooking spray. Turn the grill on to medium-high heat. Lay the bass directly on the grill and cook it on each side for 5 minutes per every 1 inch of thickness.
Pan-fry your fish by coating a skillet with olive oil and heating it over medium-high heat. The oil is ready for the fish when you can smell its scent. Place the fish carefully into the pan and fry it for 10 minutes per every inch of thickness, turning it halfway through the cooking time. For example, if your filet is 1 inch thick, your total cooking time is 10 minutes, turning the fish at the 5-minute mark. For a filet that is 1/2 inch thick, cook it for 2 1/2 minutes per side, and so on. Season the fish as it cooks, using whatever herbs and spices you prefer.
Deep-fry your fish by heating 1/2-inch of canola or vegetable oil in a deep skillet. Dip your filets in a mixture of milk and a beaten egg and then roll them in bread crumbs, panko crumbs, fish fry mix or flour seasoned with sage, thyme and lemon pepper or whichever spices you prefer. Place the breaded fish filets carefully into the hot oil and fry them for 5 minutes per every 1/2-inch of thickness. Turn the fish with tongs to avoid puncturing them.
Broil your freshwater bass by adjusting the broiler rack to its highest setting. Turn the broiler on. Coat a broiling rack with nonstick cooking spray and place the bass on it. Broil the bass until the top starts to brown, which should take approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the fish and broil for an equal amount of time. The fish will continue to cook for a few minutes after being removed from the broiler, so watch the time carefully to keep it from scorching or drying out. The fish will be completely opaque and flake easily with a fork when it is done.
Bake the fish by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the freshwater bass in a casserole that has been greased with oil or coated with nonstick cooking spray. Season the fish with your favorite spices, pour a bit of wine into the baking dish or place sprigs of mint, a sprinkle of chili powder and lime slices on top. Bake the fish until it is translucent and flakes easily with a fork. Use an instant-read thermometer to verify that the internal temperature has reached at least 145 F. This can take 20 to 30 minutes.
- Top freshwater bass filets with slices of lemon and onion and a sprig of fresh rosemary, wrap them in foil and grill them for a steamed treat that tastes like it’s fresh from the stream.
- Never walk away from fish in a skillet because it can go from perfectly cooked to completely dried out in a matter of seconds.