How to Cook Fish Like a 5-Star Chef [With Chef Ryan of K Restaurant]

By: Joseph Simonds on July 18, 2018
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Snapper with soy sauce glaze

Do you want to make delicious meals with the fish you catch?

Want to get fish cooking tips from an award-winning chef?

One of the best parts about fishing is cooking fantastic dishes with the fish that you catch. However, a lot of people don’t feel confident about how to cook fish the best way.

We are constantly getting questions about the best way to prepare different fish species. We decided to talk to an expert on the matter, Chef Ryan from K Restaurant in Orlando, to find out how the best chefs cook fish and how you can use these techniques at home.

Chef Ryan McLaughlin of K Restaurant

Chef Ryan grew up in Michigan. He liked fishing for walleye and got introduced to cooking by making eggs for himself while his parents were at work.

After graduating high school, Ryan moved down to Gainesville, Florida to attend Santa Fe College (and so he could avoid shoveling snow).

He started to cook more in college and found that he had a real love for it. Ryan also started fishing the saltwater while in school and was driving to Cedar Key, Florida a couple times a week to catch redfish, trout and black drum.

He would often keep what he caught on his fishing trips and cook his catch for his friends. His friends loved his cooking and Ryan really enjoyed making people happy with his food.

After graduating from Santa Fe College, Ryan decided to forego going to the University of Florida and opted to attend culinary school instead. He kept fishing throughout culinary school and refined his cooking craft at the same time.

Ryan graduated culinary school at the top of his class and has worked at some of the best restaurants in the country since that time.

He now is the chef at K Restaurant in Orlando, Florida — a multi-award winning restaurant that is completely farm-to-table. He regularly incorporates fresh fish dishes into the menu at K Restaurant, which changes daily based on what the freshest ingredients at their farm suppliers are.

Check out Ryan below ready to cook up a mangrove snapper:

Chef Ryan of K Restaurant

In this podcast episode, we go over the following fish cooking topics:

  • Ryan’s top fish to cook
  • The biggest fish cooking mistakes
  • Determining how to cook fish

Do you like to cook fish you catch? What’s your best recipe?

Let me know in your comments below!

Note: Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to the Fish Strong podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

Chef Ryan on the Fish Strong Podcast

How to cook fish like a chef

A dish by Chef Ryan at K Restaurant

Click the play button to listen right here on our site or click either button below to go directly to iTunes or Stitcher to download the episode.

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stitcher fish strong podcast

Note: Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to the Fish Strong podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

The Best Fish to Cook

Ryan breaks down his favorite fish into three different categories: inshore, offshore and underrated table fish. He shows us his favorite fish for each category below:

Best Inshore Fish to Cook 

Ceviche

Ryan is an avid inshore fisherman to this day and cooks a lot of what he catches. His top inshore fish to catch and cook are:

  1. Redfish – this is one of the first saltwater fish Ryan started cooking with and is still one of his favorite to this day.
  2. Speckled Trout – a favorite table fare wherever it is found, trout are some of the most sought out fish anywhere.
  3. Mangrove Snapper – this delicate fish requires very little cooking and is delicious in just about anyway prepared.
  4. Black Drum – a meatier inshore fish, the black drum produces awesome fillets that are great on the grill.
  5. Flounder – one of the best inshore fish to cook in the oven and enjoy.

Best Offshore Fish to Cook

Chef Ryan with scallops

As the chef at K Restaurant, Ryan uses freshly-caught offshore fish for many of his nightly special dishes. His top offshore fish to catch and cook are:

  1. Grouper – a favorite table fish throughout the southeast (or anywhere else you find it), grouper is a go-to for Ryan.
  2. Snapper – the many different kinds of snapper allows you to almost always find some fillets at the fish market.
  3. Cobia – a meaty fish excellent on the pan or grill. Also the fish Ryan uses in his signature dish – Crudo with cobia.
  4. Mahi Mahi – this gamefish is not only a blast to catch but also a great fish to throw on the grill.

Most Underrated Fish to Eat

School of amberjack

Ryan says that many fish that are considered bad to eat are simply not cleaned or prepared the right way. Some of his favorite fish to cook and eat are labeled as bad tasting fish, when really it’s the way you cook it that has the greatest effect on the taste. His most underrated eating fish are:

  1. Amberjack – these fish are beasts to catch. They can also be great when cleaned and prepared the correct way.
  2. Lookdowns – these inshore jack-cousins are fantastic to eat when you take the bloodline out while cleaning them.
  3. Stingrays – stingrays actually have textures close to scallops but are more fun because you can catch them on a rod.
  4. Jack Crevalle – another awesome fish to eat if you take out the bloodline while cleaning the fish.

Learn More About The Insider Fishing Club

Biggest Fish Cooking Mistakes

Cleaning a fish

Ryan also identified the biggest mistakes he sees people make when cooking fish. His biggest fish cooking mistakes are:

  1. Not Utilizing the Entire Fish/Wasting Meat – most people who love to eat fish only take the fillets from the fish and throw the rest of it away. This is wasting some of the best meat — such as the cheeks, throats and collars. Ryan encourages everyone to use as much of the fish meat as possible to not waste any of the fish.
  2. Salt, Pepper, Butter – many people under-season their fish and give it a bland and fishy taste that’s underwhelming. Ryan says using good amounts of salt, pepper and butter is a simple yet great way to make sure your fish tastes awesome.
  3. Overwhelming with Seasonings – on the other end of the spectrum, many people overpower their fish with blackening and other seasoning rubs that make it so you don’t even taste the fish. While these types of seasonings can be used to make some tasty dishes, it is best to use them sparingly to make sure you don’t overpower your fish.
  4. Too Much Cooking Time – possibly the most common fish cooking mistake, many people overcook their fish and dry it out. No one likes dried out fish, so be sure to monitor your fish through the cooking process. Remember, less is more – especially with cooking time for fish.
  5. Cooking More Fish Than You Can Eat – many people will keep every legal fish that they catch and cook it up, despite the fact that they’re never going to be able to eat all the fish they’ve kept. Fish does not hold it’s quality as leftovers in the refrigerator and therefore only keeping what you can eat while it’s fresh is a great way to make sure your fish is quality through every bite.

Learn More About The Insider Fishing Club

Conclusion

K Restaurant Fish Dish

Catching and eating fresh fish is one of the most fun and rewarding parts about fishing. Following the advice Ryan gave us is a great way to improve your kitchen skills and impress others with your fish cooking.

The links below show you some of our favorite recipes for various types of fish.

Check out our 10 favorite recipes for redfish here.

You can also see our top red snapper recipes here.

See the Salt Strong favorite grouper recipes here.

Don’t forget to visit Ryan at K Restaurant next time you’re in Orlando!

What did you think of this episode? Have any fish recipes you want to share?

Let us know in the comments!

To learn more about the Insider Fishing Club, click here now.

P.S. – To see all of the past podcast episodes, click here now.

Tight lines!

Related Posts:

1. The Best Way To Cook Mahi Mahi [TOP RECIPES]

2. How To Grill Snook To Perfection [VIDEO]

3. How To Clean & Cook Cobia Like A Pro [VIDEO]

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Gregory RamkoJsherer1 ShererRyan McLaughlinWilliam DeWeese Recent comment authors
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Gregory Ramko
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This podcast had me thinking about a post from Capt. Peter Deeks where he talks about brining freshly caught baitfish. Would brining freshly caught fish to take home and freeze it in brining solution aid in keeping fish fresher in the freezer for longer

Joseph Sherer
Member

Hey Ryan, do you have any recipes for largemouth bass and/or bluegills?

Joseph Sherer
Member

Hey Ryan, I used to be a bar manager in northern Wisconsin and people would come from far and wide to eat our walleye and perch. The cook told me his biggest secret was to take the fish out just b/4 they finished cooking. He told me they would finish cooking on the way to the table. BTW, I just returned from the boundary waters on a 75 mile canoe trip with my brothers and sister. I haven’t shoveled snow since 2000 and I hope I never do again.

William DeWeese
Member

Great episode. Excellent points. Grilling is great, but I like a simple sear for most fish with minimal spices. Salt, Pepper and finish with a brush of butter, but I do usually add a light dusting of paprika for both flavor and color. Most homes have lost the simple art of making and using clarified butter for searing and that makes a big difference for developing a great crust.

If Salmon is on the menu, I toast small-diced onion and garlic in butter and then add maple syrup to make a glaze after searing.

I’d love to hear if he has a great base or full recipe for fish chowder.

Ryan
Member

I can definitely help you out with chowder if you’d like or if you have any questions pertaining to chowder. It’s very often said and very often true that soup is a very accurate measuring stick to let you know how skilled a chef or cook really is. I’m really glad that you enjoyed the information and hope that you learned a few new things as well. Beyond an exact recipe for chowder there’s a few good tips to start with, like using the fish carcass, scraps and so on with any vegetable scraps and making your own fish/seafood stock for your chowder. We briefly touched on utilizing as much as we possibly can with our catch and soul is always a great vessel for just that.