Tilapia is a low-cost lean protein, making it a satisfying, health-conscious entree choice. However, while fish is touted for health benefits from omega-3 fatty acids, tilapia is relatively low in them. It also contains more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s, which may be detrimental. This isn't to say tilapia should be avoided; include it as an occasional part of your fish rotation, favoring fattier fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, cod and halibut. Tilapia's flavor is notably mild, so any fish preparation or recipe works. Fillets cook quickly and with minimal effort in the oven, making it a convenient meal for busy home chefs.
Defrost tilapia fillets before cooking them. You can bake frozen fillets in the oven, but it takes longer and yields unevenly cooked results. Stick these thin fillets in the fridge overnight or soak them in their airtight wrappings in a bowl of cold water for about 45 minutes, replacing the water with colder water halfway through.
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit for about half an hour. When baking fish, high heat is key to developing a crust on the outside of the fillet in the short cooking time.
Place a sheet of foil over a baking tray and grease it with a light coating of nonstick spray. Put the tilapia fillets on the tray, leaving a little space between them.
Season the tilapia fillets with salt and pepper to taste. Add other ingredients, as well. For example, lemon, lime or orange juice and zest work well, or go the spicy route with a liberal application of Cajun or blackening seasoning. Or, mix fresh chopped rosemary, dill, thyme, tarragon, sage, basil, cilantro or other herbs with a little olive oil and minced garlic, then spoon it onto the fillets and spread it out evenly. Make the tilapia more substantial by topping it with a pile of chopped peeled canned tomatoes, olives and capers or something sweet, like mango chutney or peaches sauteed in butter and brown sugar.
Bake the tilapia for about 8 minutes, just until they're opaque and flaky all the way through. Take them off the baking tray immediately, or they quickly overcook and start drying out. Transfer cooked fillets with a broad spatula; they fall apart unless supported underneath.
Things You'll Need
Salt and pepper
Complementary flavoring agents
The USDA recommends cooking fish to an internal temperature of 145 F.
As another option, bread tilapia fillets by dredging them in flour, dipping them in beaten egg, then dredging them in breadcrumbs. Mix cornmeal, herbs and spices, Parmesan cheese, finely chopped pistachios or pecans or other suitable ingredients in with the breadcrumbs for a more interesting coating.
Fish must be stored below 40 F and cannot safely be left out at room temperature for any longer than two hours.