Tilapia is one of the most popular fish to eat in the United States and compared to more expensive fish like salmon, it’s also pretty affordable. There are also numerous benefits to eating tilapia as a part of your weekly meals. If you’re not used to cooking fish or are simply looking for a new way to make your tilapia more flavorful, we’re going to discover how to cook tilapia perfectly, no matter what kitchen tools you have on hand.
Like most fish filets, tilapia is easy to cook. With just a handful of ingredients, you can have a delicious, flavorful, and healthy meal on the table. Let’s first look at how to prepare your tilapia filets for cooking.
How to Prepare Tilapia
If you’re new to cooking fish, cooking tilapia isn’t as intimidating as it may seem. When you purchase tilapia filets at the grocery store, there’s hardly any necessary prep work at all.
While some still hold to the idea that you need to wash fish before cooking it, the USDA does not recommend you wash any meat or fish since it can spread the bacteria around your cooking area.
Tilapia is a popular fish because it’s so easy to prepare and it’s affordable compared to other fish as well. To get started, prep the tilapia filets by seasoning them with salt and pepper. Before pan-searing or baking your tilapia, you can also coat it in flour, but this step is optional.
The entire preparation might look slightly different depending on how you’re going to cook the tilapia, but for the methods listed below, the prep work is as simple as any other meat.
Benefits of Tilapia
Tilapia is a great fish to cook at home because it’s flavorful and affordable. According to government dietary guidelines, it’s actually recommended that you eat fish twice a week, and tilapia is a great choice for your weekly dose of fish.
Here are some of the benefits of eating tilapia:
Good for Your Heart
Like most fish, tilapia is great for your heart. This is due to the high omega-3 fatty acids in fish. The omega-3s in fish can help to lower your blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, and decrease your risk of certain conditions such as strokes and heart failure. However, tilapia isn’t as high in omega-3s as other fish like salmon.
Full of Nutrients
Additionally, tilapia is full of nutrients including vitamins and minerals that are great for your health. Tilapia is high in nutrients such as B12, phosphorus, and potassium. It’s also perfect for those who are on a high-protein diet because one filet of tilapia has 23 grams of protein, which can help you to feel full after your meal and is healthy for your bone and muscle health.
Low in Mercury
One of the concerns about eating fish regularly, especially for certain groups like pregnant women or young children, is the presence of mercury. This is less of a concern with tilapia. Since tilapia is usually farm-raised in closed tanks, it limits contact with pollution, leading to lower amounts of mercury than other fish. Tilapia is safe for children and pregnant women, although you should only have 8-12 ounces per week.
Where Should I Buy Tilapia?
There is some controversy concerning how tilapia is farmed and where you should buy it from. The concerns about tilapia farming in certain regions show that it does matter where you buy your tilapia from.
The problem with certain tilapia is what it’s fed, especially when the tilapia is pond-raised. When purchasing tilapia from stores, what’s important is finding places that sell responsibly farmed tilapia. Costco is one of the most well-known stores that carry this type of tilapia, along with stores like Kroger and Walmart.
How to Sear Tilapia on the Stove
If you’re looking for a delicious and simple way to enjoy tilapia, it doesn’t get much better than pan-searing it. It’s tasty and easy to have on the table in no time.
Here’s how to sear tilapia on the stove:
- Place olive oil in a large skillet
- Heat it to medium-high heat
- Once hot, place your tilapia filets in the skillet
- Cook for about 4 minutes on each side
- Remove once the fish is fully cooked and at least 145 degrees
If you want your tilapia to have an extra crispy crust, coat the tilapia in flour before searing it in the pan. You can also drizzle it with melted butter once it’s done searing.
How to Bake Tilapia in the Oven
If you want a meal that’s more hands-off, baking tilapia in the oven is the way to go. You can bake tilapia in the oven for an easy meal any day of the week.
Here’s how to roast tilapia filets in the oven:
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
- Place your seasoned tilapia in a baking dish or on a baking sheet covered in foil
- Cook for 10-15 minutes until flaky
- When you can easily flake it with a fork, remove the tilapia from the oven
Salt and pepper are the standard when cooking tilapia, but you can also add additional seasonings such as garlic powder or onion powder. For a more flavorful filet, drizzle melted butter and lemon juice over the filets before baking.
How to Cook Tilapia in the Air Fryer
The air fryer is a great substitute for frying your meal. It helps you achieve a crispy exterior without the extra oil and grease.
Here’s how to cook tilapia in the air fryer:
- Preheat the air fryer to 350 degrees F
- Coat each tilapia filet with olive oil and season
- Place the tilapia filets in the air fryer basket
- Cook the filets for 5-6 minutes until brown and at least 145 degrees F
Air frying your tilapia filet is a simple and straightforward way to get perfect, crispy filets. You can choose whatever seasoning you want, but straight salt and pepper will work as well. You can also switch it up with different flavors such as cumin, paprika, or chili powder if you like a bit more spice.
How to Grill Tilapia
Whether you’re grilling outside for a cookout or you have a grill at home and want to cook a delicious meal for your family, grilling tilapia is a delicious and healthy way to enjoy this fish.
Here’s how to cook tilapia on the grill:
- Preheat your grill to medium-high heat
- Place the tilapia filets directly on the grill, with the skin side down
- Cook the filets for 3-4 minutes on each side
- Once they’re browned and start to flake, remove the filets from the grill
- Check the temperature to ensure it’s at least 145 degrees F
While some choose to place the fish in foil before grilling it, it’s not necessary. If you choose to place them directly on the grill, wait until they’re completely cooked on one side before flipping them over to prevent sticking.
What to Serve with Tilapia
Tilapia is a tasty and healthy fish to serve your family, but you might not be sure what to serve with it. The good thing about tilapia is if you cook it properly, it tastes delicious with just some salt, pepper, and lemon juice. The simplicity of tilapia means it goes well with a variety of side dishes.
Consider serving your tilapia with:
- Steamed broccoli
- Roasted asparagus
- Baked potatoes
- Greek salad
- Pasta salad
A healthy side dish is the perfect complement to your already healthy meal. Next time you’re in the mood for fish, try out one of these four methods for cooking tilapia at home.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©stockcreations/Shutterstock.com.