Fish Poached in Olive Oil

Fish Poached in Olive OilJust when you think you’ve cooked fish in every possible way, along comes an intriguing recipe like this one. This cooking method for seafood isn’t a new idea; the Italians and French have been doing it forever and many chefs today use it to keep fish moist while it cooks. But have you ever tried poaching fish in olive oil?

It’s nothing like deep-frying and a whole different thing than poaching in water. Why do it? The fish cooks quickly, with less of a chance of drying out and the flavor of the fish stays pure and mild without turning fishy or becoming bland. The flavor of fish poached in olive oil is not oily, although you should use olive oil that you like the flavor of.

You should also choose fish with firm flesh like halibut, cod, salmon or tuna (shrimp can also be poached). Poaching in oil work best with small pieces of fish, both because the fish will cook quickly and because it allows you to use less oil. The thicker the pieces of fish are and the bigger the pot is, the more oil you’re going to need. Try to keep each piece of fish around 3 ounces, or even less by cutting the fish into small cubes.

Place the fish in a small pot or skillet and cover with olive oil. You can also add sprigs of herbs or cloves of garlic. Although they don’t add a whole lot of flavor to the fish, they do make the oil taste great. Turn the heat to medium-low and no higher. During the entire cooking process, the oil should be warm but not burning hot. You should be able to dip your finger in the oil and it won’t burn.

A 3-ounce piece of fish will cook in about 5-8 minutes, maybe a little bit longer, depending on how thick it is. When it’s done, the flesh should be moist, supple and pretty much melt in your mouth. The oil won’t have a fishy flavor. It can be strained and re-used for cooking or better yet, use it immediately to dress a salad or drizzle onto vegetables that you serve with the fish.



  • Pieces of boneless, skinless fish (pieces that weigh 3-ounce/85 gram or less work best)
  • Olive oil
  • Optional: sprigs of herbs like thyme and rosemary and peeled cloves of garlic cut in half


Place the fish in a small pot or skillet. Lightly season with salt. Cover completely with olive oil. Add herbs or garlic if you’d like.

Step 1

Set over medium-low heat. The oil should never get hot enough to boil and bubble, however, if bubbles start forming around the fish you’ll know it’s close or already done. Small chunks take around 5-8 minutes to cook. Tuna can take longer than other types of fish.

Step 2

So as not to waste oil, use as small a pot as possible and/or cut the fish into small pieces.

Fish Poached in Olive Oil

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44 thoughts on “Fish Poached in Olive Oil”

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  1. Yummy! And if the oil doesnt really heat a lot, as not to get too acidic, you can even use it again in other dishes or even dressing a salad, it’s probably very tasty…

  2. Wow, you’re right, I’ve never tried this & it sounds very yummy. Reminds me of the way I learned to prepare potatoes for a Spanish tortilla (the egg dish, not the bread), which was very similar low-heat simmering. Sigh… I do miss tortillas (both sorts) but it is great to have a new way to prepare fish!

  3. Poaching is a lovely cooking technique. Sous Vide makes poaching even easier because you can seal it any type of aioli and just “set and forget it”. The initial cost is high. Personally I do not have Sous Vide but I have experience with immersion circulators and they are a culinary cats meow.

    “[An immersion circulator] It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine” – Wayne form Wayne’s World as he looks at a Fender Strat.

    1. Here’s a great technique that doesn’t require spending a ton of money:
      Similar to oil-poaching, only the oil is in the baggie, so you don’t need to use as much. I also like how they pan-sear to finish for a little extra flavor. Of course, you could also skip the brine at the beginning of the recipe to save a little time.

      A lot of people are afraid of eating fish cooked at low temps, but this article also addresses safety concerns.

  4. This looks like another great way to prepare fish. I find myself constantly grilling or baking, glad to have another way to prepare seafood. Love the simplicity.

  5. I have some fish that just may be prepared like this for dinner tonight. Thank you Mark, as TomT, I too was getting bored with my normal way of preparing it. And thank you Paleo Bon Rurgundy for your suggestion – I look forward to your comments as well. However, I will not be preparing the fish with baby oil……

  6. Looks good and it’s definitely a way I’ve never thought of cooking fish before.

  7. Hallo there! I’m still relatively newer to all this blueprint shindwan and I realize that tofu is probably (VERY probably) not within the paleolithic diet. HOWEVER! I was wondering if any of you all have done anything similar with tofu; Do you think it’d taste VANDERBALL?

  8. Sounds like an interesting possibility, but the temperature mentioned, 200°F / 93°C “warm but not burning hot,” doesn’t make sense for me.

    200°F / 93°C is just shy of boiling water at 212°F / 100°C. Isn’t that indeed gonna be “burning hot” for the recommended finger dipping test?

    (“During the entire cooking process, the oil should be warm but not burning hot (less than or right at 200 °F/93 °C degrees). You should be able to dip your finger in the oil and it won’t burn.”)

    1. I did the fingerdipp test – and it was almost certainly a lower temp than 93C…. I worked on the feels hot (like a hot bath) temp… prob why my fish took longer to cook than in the gude..

      But it did cook and was wonderful!

    2. This was my thought, too. Water will produce severe burns at temperatures far below 200F, and oil seems like it would be worse since it sticks to the skin. Oil does have a lower specific heat, though, so maybe that mitigates the damage.

  9. Sorry to be a wet blanket, but I’ve eaten fish cooked (poached?) in low-temperature oil. It absorbed too much of the fat and was very greasy, completely inedible.

  10. So I tried it for dinner… 6 salmon pieces. I cooked them in oil that was just bearable for me to put my finger in (just little bubbles around the edges of the fish). I added some garlic, thyme and basil stalks (I used basil in one of the side dishes and did not want to waste the stalks!)…. and I seasoned the fish with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper before adding the oil.

    It took a little longer to cook than in this guide – poss because my oil was not so hot, or most likely because I live at a fairly high altitude… EVERYTHING takes longer to cook here! all in all it took around 20 minutes to cook.

    I found that by putting the pot with the oil and fish over the vent on the oven (I used the oven at 200C to cook the ratatouille) and the ring on at minimal heat was just enough to keep it ticking over and cook it…

    But it was delicious! not too greasy at all – a thin
    slick of oil on the fish itself and a little dribbled on the plate where it dripped when I served it. And the fish was perfectly cooked….

    amazing that you can cook fish in oil that is a bearable temperature for your skin! it felt hot, but not unbearably so – more like a hot bath….

    I served this with a salsa made from peach, mango, tomatoes etc and an oven roasted ratatouille…

    Absolutely delish!

  11. Nice! I saw Paula Deen make lobster shooters by poaching the lobster in butter and fell in love with the idea.

  12. I haven’t been eating a lot of fish recently because I’ve gotten bored with the same ol’ grilled or baked preparation, mostly because fish gets so dry so quickly. I might have to try this one. Plus, I like the idea of using herbs, since I have some growing that I haven’t made as much use of as I’d like.

  13. I do something kind of similar, allow me to share here:

    I buy frozen fish packets of salmon (also cod and halibut – let’s go with salmon in this case) and i put a small amount of canola oil in a pan, not a lot, probably no more than a tablespoon, then heat it up.

    I place the salmon, skin-side down, on top of the oil, sprinkle my spices (I use cayenne, garlic powder and black pepper) then cover the pan and put on very low heat (gas burner, flame not even touching the bottom of the pan).

    I don’t use a timer, but in what is approximately 5-10 minutes the fish is cooked, it’s moist, fully-cooked, and quite delicious. I do this when I can’t or don’t want to BBQ because I do love to BBQ, but that’s a different story.

    So this method is not really “poaching” because the fish is not immersed in oil, so it’s technically “frying” I supposed, but it sure acts more like steaming or poaching because there is also water melting from the frozen fish keeping things steamy and moist in the pan.

    I like this method because I can cook frozen fish quite quickly, without any thawing whatsoever which is good for busy people.

    I think I’ll try olive oil instead of canola to see if that makes any difference – I suppose it’s not really any difference.

    Hope that helps someone!


  14. A tip I picked up from Cook’s Illustrated magazine: Cut an onion in half horizontally and submerge in the pan. This displaces some oil so that you can use less overall.

    1. Good tip Brian! I was slightly put off by the amount of oil this would use but you’ve saved the day!

  15. For more accurate temperature control, use an oven-proof dish or pot, set your oven to the desired temperature, and place the dish/pot/oil in the oven to pre-heat to the desired temperature.

    Then pull it out, insert fish, and back in the oven until done. Save a lot of temperature management hassles.

  16. As I’m from a family who loves to eat fish, this is a another great way of cooking fish in a healthy way. Simple fried and grilled way of cooking fish can get be so boring at times.

  17. I had this in Spain (they used cod), served over caramelized onions. Amazing.

  18. I was just scanning the articles and caught sight of this one, just so happened I was having Salmon this evening. Used my fav Chilli Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Fish came out beautiful, moist and flavoursome.

  19. Cooks Illustrated magazine did an article about this recently, and they had a *really* good oil-saving tip – cut a big onion in half, and put one piece (or both, if they’ll fit) in the pan, cut-side down. This both flavors the oil AND means that you need less of it to poach the fish.

    (They also recommended *not* submerging the fish in oil, but rather half-submerging it, basting the top occasionally, and flipping the filets mid-cook, if I’m remembering right.)

  20. Seems like a waste of oil..
    I can’t see how this can make more sense ( from an economic point of view) to pan fry or grill in the oven with a little oil.

  21. This is fried fish, no matter how you look at it, and it’s being cooked at too low of a temperature to be sanitary and safe to eat. The flavor would be of oil! If I want that, and sometimes I do, I’d get a nice crusty bread loaf and some herbs and dip away.

  22. Just tried it w/ cod. Delish! I used a tiny Pyrex pot and put 3 small pieces of the fish in and it only took about 1/4 c or less of evoo. Now I can reuse the same pot of oil to do another batch. I did mine a bit hotter. The oil was bubbling a bit, but I’m really happy with the results. A light, quick meal.