The lesser-known cousin to popular cod, hake is a lean fish with a delicate flavor and firm white meat. Hake can be prepared with a variety of seasonings — from mild to savory or spicy. When baked in an oven, hake will shrink to half its size when done.
Cooking Hake in the Oven
Cooking hake in the oven is a simple method for preparing this fish. First preheat the oven to 350 F.
To bake the fish, add the hake fillets to a baking dish with a tight-fitting lid or wrap the fillet in aluminum foil, along with a marinade or a drizzle of oil and seasoning. Consider adding a little bit of water to create steam and keep the moisture in.
According to Exploratorium's Science of Cooking, a good rule of thumb for cooking time is 10 minutes per inch of thickness. A more accurate alternative is to insert a digital meat thermometer into the thickest part of the fish; when the internal temperature reaches 140 F, the fish is done.
If you want to cook potatoes or other vegetables with your hake, preheat the oven to 390 F and bake the vegetables for 15 minutes; then lower the temperature to 350 F when you're about to add the fish.
To roast the hake, grease a baking dish with 1 ounce of olive oil. Place the fillets in the baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place thin lemon slices, sprigs of fresh dill and cut butter (6 tablespoons for each 1.5 pounds of fish) around the fillets. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes or until the fillets turn flaky and golden or light brown. Serve with the reduced cooking juice and steamed rice.
Although hake is an incredibly flexible variety of fish, it is not flexible when it comes to the time it spends inside the oven. This soft, mild fish can easily become chewy and dry when overcooked, so to check to see if it is cooked through, touch the flesh — it should feel firm and appear opaque.
Seasonings and Marinades
To get the most out of baking or roasting hake, marinate the fish ahead of time to give the fish a unique flavor. Marinades work well with hake because they boost the fish's mild flavor while infusing it with moisture. "To preserve the texture of the fish, don't marinate for longer than an hour," writes Nigel Slater, author of Appetite, Eat and the Kitchen Diaries, in an article for the Guardian.
You can marinate hake in soy sauce, oils, vinegar and/or lemon juice and a range of herbs and spices such as ginger, coriander, garlic, chili flakes or fennel seeds, or you can chop fresh herbs such as parsley, dill, rosemary, basil or oregano and scatter your choice on top of the fish before serving.
Hake Origins and Sustainability Considerations
Also known in the United States as ling or whiting, hake are part of the cod family but have a milder flavor. They tend to swim in the deep end of the ocean, usually at depths of over half a mile, according to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).
Hake can be caught in different parts of the world, usually in the Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. According to Great British Chefs, the regular fishing season goes from November through March, and this species' breeding season is between February and July. If you are concerned about sustainable fishing practices, don't buy hake during breeding season to avoid buying fish from depleted stocks.
To find MSC-approved shops and restaurants, look for the blue MSC logo when choosing your fish so you can be sure it has the council's stamp of approval.