How to Bake Whitefish With Butter

Whitefish can refer to any of almost 30 different types of fish, mainly freshwater varieties. These fish are usually mild in flavor and make for a quick, no-fuss preparation. When baking a lean version, such as pollock, catfish, Pacific cod, Pacific halibut, tilapia, flounder, snapper, striped bass or haddock, add a little fat in the form of butter for flavor and moisture. Pair with steamed vegetables, a modest portion of brown rice or quinoa, and you've got a healthy dinner for almost any day of the week.

White fish with butter and cherry tomatoes in aluminum foil. (Image: Paul Cowan/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 1

Shop for creamy white fillets with no signs of yellowing, a signal that the fish is not fresh. Inspect the edges of the fillet, which should show no dullness or browning. The flakes should hug each other tightly in the center and not look as though they are separating. Sniff to ensure your fish has no noticeable fishy odor; it may faintly smell earthy or briny. Prepare within one to two days of bringing it home.

Step 2

Ensure the baking pan is large enough to fit all of the fillets in one layer with no overlap. Prepare the pan for baking by spraying with cooking spray or oiling with the olive oil.

Step 3

Unwrap the fish and run your fingers across to detect any bones your fishmonger may have missed. Remove with needle-nose pliers or a tool designed for removing fish bones.

Step 4

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Melt the butter in a small pan on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Step 5

Lay the fish fillets in one layer in the baking pan and baste with the melted butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add any other herbs or spices you desire. Good choices include paprika, oregano and thyme.

Step 6

Place in the oven and cook for 10 to 12 minutes for every pound of fish. The fish is ready when it flakes with a fork.

Things You'll Need

  • Whitefish filets

  • Olive oil or cooking spray

  • Unsalted butter

  • Herbs and spices

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Baking dish


Oily versions of whitefish, such as albacore tuna, Chilean sea bass, cobia and Pacific sablefish, may be better pan-seared to highlight their natural moisture. If you're cooking frozen fish, thaw in the refrigerator for 18 to 24 hours before baking.

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