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Ways to Cook Tilapia

Ways to Cook Tilapia

Last Updated on 24th February 2022 by Pauline

Tilapia is one of the most widely consumed whitefish in the world, and it can be cooked and served in a variety of delightful ways. This whitefish has a mild flavor, so it’s best when well seasoned and paired with flavorful side dishes.

What Is Tilapia?

This bland fish benefits from seasoning of any kind, and you’ll probably want to use more than just salt and pepper to make your dish stand out. Even a little lemon pepper seasoning goes a long way toward making this fish palatable.

Because tilapia is so flavorless, it pairs well with just about any kind of side dish, including steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, cornbread, cheese sticks, potato skins, creamy spinach, and more.

How to Cook Frozen Tilapia

Is it okay to cook tilapia while it’s still frozen? It’s better if you thaw out, but you can cook it from frozen. It will just take a little longer to cook tilapia this way.

Tilapia is often packaged frozen, which allows it to last a long time in storage until you’re ready to use it. To thaw out, you can simply put it into the fridge overnight so it can thaw naturally, or you can run it under cold water. You could also defrost the frozen tilapia in the microwave, but that can start to cook the fish a little bit, which isn’t ideal.

Tilapia tends to be a thin fish that cooks quickly, and you can cook it in the oven while it’s still frozen, if you like. I don’t recommend cooking it on the stove top from frozen, though. As the ice melts into the hot oil, it will spatter and make hot oil fly everywhere.

Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is warming, you can brush your tilapia with melted butter and then sprinkle on salt, black pepper, and lemon pepper. Once the oven is heated, place the fish onto a baking pan and cook it in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

If the fish is not frozen, you can wrap it in aluminum foil and cook it in the oven at the same 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. It should start to brown around the edges if it’s done cooking.

This is just a very basic recipe to start with, and you can add other seasonings to it and then make it to your liking. As you can see, cooking tilapia from frozen doesn’t make a big difference in the way you cook it, but it does affect the cook time.

This method for how to cook tilapia in the oven is meant to be very simple and straightforward. There’s not a lot of extra seasonings or steps involved. It’s a great starter recipe if you’ve never tried to cook fish before.

How to Cook Tilapia on the Grill

Let me share a recipe with you for how to cook tilapia using an outdoor grill. This recipe uses a few more seasonings, but you don’t have to use all of these, and you could go with something simpler like what I used for the recipe above for oven baking tilapia. The recipe and seasonings I’ve included are just to give you some ideas of what you can do when you cook your tilapia.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tilapia filets
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon of celery seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat the grill to medium high heat. This should make it somewhere between 375 degrees Fahrenheit to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Allow refrigerated tilapia to rest at room temperature for about 10 to 15 minutes. using a clean towel, pat the tilapia until it is dry and then rub it down with olive oil. Sprinkle on black pepper and salt.
  3. Next, you’re making a rub for the fish from garlic powder, celery seed, onion powder, and smoked paprika. Mix these together in a small bowl then pat down the fish with your rub.
  4. Place the tilapia on the grill where it will receive indirect heat. Allow it to cook for three to four minutes on one side, and then flip it over to cook for another three to four minutes. You know it’s ready to flip when it releases easily from the grates. When it’s done cooking, the internal temperature should be about 135 degrees Fahrenheit. 

How Long to Cook Tilapia?

Because tilapia tends to be a pretty thin filet, it cooks fairly quickly. On the grill, it should take less than 10 minutes to cook. On the stovetop, it takes about the same amount of time, when you’re cooking it in a skillet on medium high heat.

In the oven, cooking the tilapia takes longer- between 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how high you have your oven set and whether the fish is frozen or not.

If you want your fish to cook faster, be sure to thaw it out ahead of time. You want to be careful about using a heat level that’s too high, however, since you may blacken the outside of the fish and leave the inside not cooked all the way through.

What to Serve with Tilapia?

Tilapia benefits from a healthy garnish, like a buttery cream sauce, some stewed tomatoes, or a sauce made from onions and teriyaki.

Remember that tilapia is not flavorful, so accompanying it with side dishes, seasoning it well and smothering it with sauce will help you to get the most out of it.

Think of tilapia as a blank slate, and it works best when you’ve taken your time to think about how to spruce it up. Just about any kind of sauce will go well with it, and you’ll want to consider what kind of sides will work with your seasoning and sauce rather than think about how those sides may interact with the fish.

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