Haddock is a firm-fleshed white fish with a mild and delicate flavour. It’s found on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, however, it’s most common in European waters.
You can spot haddock in the fishmongers or supermarket fish counter by the noticeable stripe down its side. It also has a black mark just above the fin, which according to fish folklore, is said to be the thumbprint of St Peter; a biblical fisherman.
Because of its delicate, sweet flavour, haddock takes very well to being smoked. It is common to find haddock smoked, and often dyed a yellow, golden colour, though the dyed fish is less common nowadays.
How to prepare haddock
You don’t need to do much to prepare haddock especially if you get the fishmongers to do it for you. Just make sure the skin is clean and that the fish is at room temperature before cooking. This will help to make sure the fish cooks evenly.
We asked Nico Fitzgerald, Head Chef of fine dining restaurant London Stock to share some of his expert tips and tricks when it comes to preparing haddock.
‘When it comes to cooking haddock in the restaurant or at home, my preferred method of preparing the fish is to make a ballotine. This is where lengths of the fillet are tightly rolled in cling film to create a thick ‘sausage’.
I then cut into beautiful (100g or so) chunks and sear on one side, with the cling film still on to get a good amount of caramelisation, I then flip it over and pop it in the oven for 4-5 mins or until a skewer goes right the way through it without any resistance. Rest for a few mins then remove the cling film and serve.’
Nico adds; ‘If you have a piece of haddock that you’ve been putting off cooking, perhaps it’s been in the fridge for 2-3 days and is not as fresh as you’d like it to be or you want to improve its texture, get some coarse sea salt and coat your fish generously in salt. Leave for 20-30 mins and then wash off, allowing it to air dry in your fridge. This will give it a beautiful meaty feel and will ‘freshen’ it up if it is a couple of days old.’
How to cook a whole haddock
Due to the size of haddock, it’s usually sold as fillets, however, if you are looking to cook a whole haddock, be sure to ask your fishmonger to scale, gut and remove the gills for you.
Haddock can grow to be quite large, so depending on size, you should ask them to remove the head as well, this will save space in the roasting tray.
You can cook the whole fish directly on a BBQ, cook it ‘en papillote’ – where you enclose the fish in a parcel of baking paper and bake with herbs and lemon juice or you can simply roast in the oven. The time it takes to cook a whole haddock will vary on the size of the fish and the method you choose to cook it but a rule of thumb is to cook haddock for 15-20 mins per 450g.
To cook in the oven:
- Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6.
- Stuff the cavity of the fish with fresh herbs of your choice, along with slices of lemons and onions.
- Drizzle olive oil or melted butter liberally all over the fish and season with salt and pepper.
How to cook haddock fillets and smoked haddock fillets
Haddock is traditionally cold smoked for flavour, but still requires cooking. Cooking methods for both smoked and unsmoked haddock are the same, it’s just a matter of personal preference. Make sure that your fillets have been pin-boned.
The following methods are based on fillets between 150g-200g in weight.
How to cook haddock: in a pan
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add a glug of olive oil. If you’re cooking fillets with the skin on, salt the skin and place the skin-side down.
- Depending on the thickness of the fish, cook for 4-5 mins, before turning and cooking for a further min.
- If your fillets are skinless, cook for 2-3 mins on each side. For a richer dish, you can also cook with butter, basting throughout the cooking.