According to Exploratorium, fish has shorter muscle fibers and less connective tissue than meat. This makes the former more likely to break; therefore, it is important to treat fish gently when cooking. According to Food & Wine, home cooks should try to avoid moving the fish around too much while cooking.
“Fish is very delicate; the more you move it in the pan, the more juice it loses, causing the meat to break apart,” chef Roberto Bellitti told the outlet. “The less you touch the fish, the better.”
Martha Stewart has some key tips for cooking fish without breaking it apart. A recommendation is to sear the fish in a hot pan. Start by heating a cast iron or stainless steel skillet to very hot, adding a small amount of high smoke point fat such as canola oil, and adding a well-seasoned fillet of room temperature fish to the skillet. The heat and salt will help prevent the fish from sticking, the outlet notes, and it’s only necessary to turn the fish once – doing so repeatedly can tear the flesh and prevent the skin from crisping. . When the fish is ready to flip, it will naturally detach from the pan, so grab your fish spatula – a thin, flexible type that slides more easily under delicate fish – and flip it over. Resist the urge to fiddle and you’ll be rewarded with a perfectly intact net.