Skip to main content

Do You Have to Rest Fish After Cooking?

Meat should always be rested, but fish plays by its own rules.

Published Apr. 14, 2023.

There’s a host of ways to cook fish, from grilling a salmon filet to roasting a whole branzino.

But cooking fish can be riddled with dry attempts, especially if you use traditional meat techniques.

For example, resting meat makes it better—think about how juicy that herb-roasted turkey tastes after a 30-minute rest. It’s a vital step after a long roast in order to avoid turkey juice all over the cutting board. If you do the same 30-minute rest for baked halibut, however, you’ll probably be disappointed.

So, you can’t rest fish the way you rest Cast Iron Cowboy Steaks or an Updated Beef Wellington. But should fish be rested at all after cooking?

Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter

Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!

Do You Have to Rest Fish After Cooking?

Fish simply doesn’t need the long, slow rest of other meats. If anything, the rest should be proportional to cook time. 

Fish with a higher fat content and more connective tissue can tolerate a 5- to 10-minute covered or sauced resting period. Most other fish, such as cod, will dry out and even lose liquid while resting. 

Typically, carryover for fish is a mere 5-degree difference on an already lower cooking temperature (135 degrees F). Too long of a rest and the fish will cool down past a comfortable eating temperature. 

If the recipe doesn’t call for a rest, skip it.

IACP Award Winner

Foolproof Fish

Fresh, modern flavors, 175+ recipes that accommodate multiple kinds of fish, and plenty of fish facts will inspire you to dive into seafood cookery with confidence.

What Types of Fish Can You Rest After Cooking?

Firm-fleshed white fish with a dense, meaty texture can rest for a short period to improve texture (such as pan-roasted monkfish). Fattier fish like salmon can cook for an extended period of time and can tolerate a rest of 510 minutes. 

What Types of Fish Should Not be Rested After Cooking?

Consider carryover cooking when it comes to fish that should not be rested. 

  • Lean white fish does not have enough connective tissue to remain intact. For example, if you let a cod fillet sit, it will start to flake apart and cool down faster.
  • Tuna steaks are seared and ideally raw in the center. If you let a rare tuna steak rest, it will be overcooked.
  • Thin fillets (like tilapia) cool quickly. Eat these types of fish right away to ensure they don't get cold.

This is a members' feature.