Preheating means bringing your oven up to a specific temperature, so that it’s ready to cook your food. This can take anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes depending on your oven. That’s why we usually do this first, before beginning our food prep.
If you don’t preheat your oven, you risk messing up your cooking time because you have no idea how hot your oven actually is when you put your food in. To save yourself the stress and confusion of possibly over- or under-cooking your food, always preheat.
Now grab a baking pan, tray, or sheet. Lay a large piece of aluminum foil on top—about 18” long. This is not the time to be conservative. A large sheet will make it much easier for you to crimp the packet tightly later on.
Now rub some olive oil on the foil with the back of a spoon. The oil flavors the fish and prevents it from sticking to the foil.
Next, put your fish on the foil. Lay it perpendicular to the long side of the foil. This may seem wrong at first, but it actually makes it easier to wrap up later.
Finally, you can spread some more oil on top of the fish. This is optional.
Salt and pepper the fish. I use anywhere from a quarter to a half teaspoon. Anything less than that, and the fish can be bland.
Now here’s where you can get CRAZY WITH FLAVORS! Well, not too crazy. I mean, yes crazy. But only you can gauge the right amount of crazy. Nevermind. Just do your thing.
Look in your fridge and cabinets and see what you can find. Add these extra seasonings/garnishes on top of your fish. (If you have fresh veggies, you can add those too. Just make sure you cut them into smaller pieces so they cook quickly.) Here are some suggestions:
I went with the “Farmer’s Market Leftovers” approach: I used half a chopped onion and a few asparagus spears, along with a lemon. Because that’s what I had in the fridge. Sneaking some asparagus in there is a great way to cook two birds with one stone. (Is that how that saying goes?)
Watch the video to see how it’s done.
The trick is to seal it tightly so steam does not escape. If you do it right, the packet will puff up in the oven. It is extremely cute and will bring you overflowing buckets of delight, guaranteed.
If your fish fillet is thin like flounder, you may want to bake for 10 minutes only. Otherwise, for most fish fillets that are about ¾ to 1 inch thick at the thickest part, 15 minutes will do.
Set your timer so you don’t forget.
And now we have some downtime. So relax, sit on the couch, and—you guessed it—call your folks! You can brag to them about all these great meals you’ve been cooking for yourself these days.
Take the fish out of the oven when the timer beeps. Let it sit for 5 minutes to cool down ever so slightly.
While you’re waiting, read this over 5 times:
Steam burns happen every quickly and are all sorts of painful.
When you go to open the packet, be careful. Very careful.
Steam travels upward, so never position your hands directly over any opening in the packet. Always put your hands off to the sides. And open it slowly so only a little steam escapes at a time.
All righty? Did you read that 5 times? Okay good! I don’t want anyone going to the hospital on account of foil packets. That will surely foil your enjoyment of this dish. (Look, I had to.)
Great. Now let’s open the packet to check if your fish is done.
How can you tell if it’s done? Take a butter knife and poke the thickest part of the fillet. If it goes straight through without any resistance, your fish is ready. If it feels rubbery at all, seal your fish back up again and pop it in the oven for another 5 minutes. Don’t worry about the steam that has already escaped. There’s lots more where that came from.
If your fish is perfectly done, resist the urge to eat it right out of the packet. I mean, you totally can (and it’s not like I did that while filming the mission or anything), but we’re grownups okay! We classy! So let’s put it on a plate with a spatula and pour the juices on top.
NOW we are ready to eat.