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No-Fear Fish: Cook It in Foil

Roasting fish in a foil packet makes for moist results and fast cleanup.
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Published Feb. 23, 2023.

Fish should be an easy, achievable weeknight meal: It cooks quickly, and it’s endlessly pairable with all sorts of sides and seasonings.

But it has a tendency to dry out easily, and cleaning it up can be a messy affair—ever gotten fish skin stuck to your favorite pan?

Thanks to a little French technique, you can have amazingly tender, no-mess fish in just about 30 minutes. The name of the game? En papillote.

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This cooking method refers to steaming food inside a sealed packet of foil or parchment paper. You may know it by its Italian name, “al cartoccio,” or you may be familiar with the banana leaf parcels that are popular in parts of Latin America, Southeast Asia, and beyond.

Whatever wrapper you reach for guarantees perfectly tender fish every time—as the moisture in the packets heats up, it turns into steam that gently cooks the fish through. 

Any seasonings you add to the foil packets perfume the fish beautifully. We like to use fresh thyme, lemon zest, and a pat of butter, but you can raid your pantry and fridge for some fish-spiration (how about a sun-dried tomato topping?).

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Plus, it’s a great way to get kids in the kitchen—creating their foil packets will almost feel like crafting. The fun of it all might even encourage picky eaters to try fish for the first time!

You can even make an entire meal en papillote by serving halibut on a bed of couscous with a savory coconut sauce. Don’t limit your foil packets to fish either; try chicken or asparagus.

And when you're done eating, just toss the foil packets right in the trash and your dishes right in the dishwasher—no prerinse needed.

How to Make Fish in Foil

  • Cut 4 large pieces of aluminum foil.
  • Place 1 fish fillet on 1 side of each piece of foil. Top with seasonings.
  • Fold empty side of foil over fish. Fold up edges of foil and pinch together to create sealed packet. Transfer packets to rimmed baking sheet.
  • Bake at 450 degrees until fish reaches desired temperature.
  • Transfer packets to plates and carefully open.
Recipe

Easiest-Ever Fish in Foil

Young chefs can make this simple baked fish recipe flavored with lemon, herbs, and butter for family dinner. 
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