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Food

The New Ease of Cooking Seafood

February 27, 2024
Samantha Erb/Associated Press

Tired of the same old rotation of seafood dishes this Lent season? It turns out that cooking delicious seafood meals at home is easier than ever, thanks to a few pieces of modern-day technology. With a little effort, it’s possible to create restaurant-level cuisine at home – without the restaurant bill.

Though the words “seafood preparation” may sound daunting and create images of flailing lobsters in your head, most amateur cooks are more than capable of creating delicious seafood meals at home with a few easy tricks. Everyday kitchen appliances like air fryers and Instant Pots make it easy to prepare fish and shellfish at home. Plus, it’s simpler than ever to order seafood online, especially for people living in urban areas. No need to splurge on a deluxe fish scaler or worry about carrying home live crabs from the store.

Seafood cooking at home, transformed

From shrimp tempura to calamari, it’s clear that seafood and crispy batter go together like, well, fish and chips. And thanks to the mighty air fryer, it’s possible to enjoy crunchy-yet-tender seafood at home without any of the downsides associated with deep frying. Gone are the days of leaning over a pan of hot oil while an unpleasant fried smell pervades hair and clothing; with an air fryer, it’s possible to create crispy seafood in a few easy steps.

Air fryers, which use a minimal amount of oil and hot air to cook food, have become a must-have for busy home cooks. “With the introduction of air fryers, cooking seafood has become significantly easier, thanks to rapid preheating, quick cooking times and consistent, even heating,” explains Diana Alshakhanbeh, whose website Little Sunny Kitchen includes over 50 recipes designed just for air fryers.

By way of example, traditional methods for cooking cod involve oven-roasting or pan-frying, which requires more oil, more attention and more time. Air fryer cod, on the other hand, takes a mere 20 minutes to cook in the background – just enough time to put on a pot of rice and chop up a side salad. The final result is a flaky, buttery filet of cod that isn’t too heavy or oily.

The best part? There are no greasy, encrusted pots and pans lurking in the sink after dinner. Air fryers are easy to soak and wipe down, and only need to be cleaned every few uses. As Alshakhanbeh puts it, “This new technology not only simplifies the cooking process but also ensures easy cleanup, redefining the way we prepare our favorite seafood dishes.”

Popular seafood dishes reimagined

Using versatile kitchen gadgets like Instant Pots or air fryers, it’s possible to reinvent any beloved seafood dish to suit individual tastes, budgets and time constraints. Some fish and shellfish can even be cooked directly from frozen, minimizing the amount of advanced planning needed.

For example, one popular twist on a classic shrimp cocktail is using an air fryer to cook frozen shrimp. Just scatter a bag of frozen shrimp in the basket of the air fryer, then drizzle some melted butter, lemon juice and spices over the top. To make sure the final result is perfectly cooked, use a meat thermometer to ensure that the shrimp has reached a temperature of at least 145 F.

Once cooked, the shrimp comes out savory, juicy and flavorful enough to enjoy with or without dip. Cooking frozen shrimp in the air fryer creates a perfect appetizer without any fuss. It’s also a great ingredient to add to seafood tacos or Vietnamese summer rolls. That is, assuming any shrimp actually makes it to the final dish – and isn’t just devoured still hot from the basket.

Another easy twist on a fine-dining favorite is Instant Pot crab legs, the perfect addition to a seafood boil or to enjoy as a main dish. Traditional methods for cooking crab legs, such as steaming, boiling or baking, involve lots of fiddling with hot metal and guesswork. An Instant Pot is not only simple to handle; it also allows for a greater degree of precision and timing, minimizing the chances of ending up with rubbery, overcooked crab. Plus, it’s a lightning-fast process: 10 minutes in the Instant Pot is all it takes to prepare this tender and buttery delight.

The future of home-cooked seafood

Seafood’s popularity, which hit a peak during the global pandemic, is on the rise once again. The seafood market is projected to continue its growth in 2024, propelled by consumers’ increasing commitment to sustainability and the rise of pescatarian and Mediterranean-style diets.

Despite the increasing popularity of trendy favorites like prepared seafood items and the tinned fish craze, there’s still one key fish that dominates American plates: salmon. A 2021 survey conducted by the National Fisheries Institute recently named salmon as the most popular fish consumed by Americans. The United States is the second-largest global market for salmon, with Americans consuming approximately 420,000 metric tons in 2022.

What’s so special about salmon? For many Americans, its relatively affordable price point and versatile nature make it the perfect addition to sheet pan dinners, creamy pasta, and, of course, Emily Mariko’s viral salmon rice bow that went viral on TikTok last year.

Salmon is also a healthy alternative to red meat that is still rich in high-quality protein. In fact, wild salmon has been dubbed a superfood due to its wide range of nutritional benefits. Ultimately, salmon is just one example of the ways seafood can bring together health benefits, convenience and delicious taste.

Dive into the world of seafood

Whether it’s through testing out new trends – like adding preserved fish to charcuterie boards – or celebrating classic favorites such as maple-garlic glazed salmon, 2024 is an ideal time to welcome seafood in all its forms and flavors.

As home cooks increasingly embrace air fryers and Instant pots to cook fish and shellfish of all kinds, we’ll likely see an explosion of new seafood recipes and ideas in the years to come. Kitchen pros will love crafting elaborate recreations of their favorite dishes, while amateurs will appreciate the ease and speed with which it’s possible to create lunches and dinners.

No matter your skill level, one thing is clear: You don’t need to blow your budget at an expensive restaurant in order to enjoy an indulgent seafood dish. So why not treat yourself to a seafood feast for dinner tonight?

*Samantha Erb is the owner ofEveryday Family Cooking, a food website focused on providing simple meals with few ingredients that still pack on the flavor. She is also an air fryer expert and the writer behind the cookbook Delicious Air Fryer Recipes.

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