How to cook fish in parchment paper

When the grill’s shut down for the year, baking your fish “en papillote” keeps the calories low and the flavour high.

Jodi Pudge

Photo, Jodi Pudge.

Cooking “en papillote” is a steam-cooking technique where food is cooked inside parchment paper (or foil) packets in the oven. This method is great for cooking delicate foods such as flaky fish and tender vegetables.

Steaming requires little or no added fat, which makes it an ideal low-fat cooking method. A little liquid is added to the packet along with your fish and/or vegetables, which converts to steam in the hot oven and quickly cooks all the ingredients. Any flavourful liquid can be used: broth, lemon juice, butter, even wine! Adding additional spices and fresh herbs will further infuse your fish with tantalizing aromas.

Here are some general rules to follow when cooking “en papillote”:

  • Use vegetables that will finish cooking at the same time as the fish. Therefore, cut slower-cooking vegetables into smaller pieces than quicker-cooking ones.
  • Avoid adding too much liquid. You want to steam your fish, not drown it.
  • If using an acidic liquid (such as lemon juice or vinegar) in your recipe, always opt to use parchment paper because the acid may react with aluminum foil. And, never substitute waxed paper for parchment!
  • Make sure your packets are tightly sealed to prevent any steam from escaping during cooking.

I love using this method to steam fish because all the ingredients get added to the parchment packets, which means no fussing around with pots and pans. It’s quick enough to throw together for a weeknight dinner and — when served in its parchment packet — pretty enough to serve to guests. And best of all? Clean-up is a snap!

Try some of our tasty fish “en papillote” recipes:

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