Tilapia is the common name for over a hundred species of freshwater fish belonging to the family Cichlidae. It is a popular fish for fish farming because it grows quickly and it's omnivorous, which means it eats both meat and vegetables. It is currently the third most farmed fish behind salmon and carp. Tilapia is a good source of protein but a poor source of omega-3 fatty acids. It is subsequently high in omega-6 fatty acids. There is a possibility that omega-6 fatty acids taken in conjunction with omega-3 fatty acids may increase the probability for some diseases and conditions such as depression.
The good news is that tilapia is very low in mercury because it grows so quickly and eats primarily vegetation. My favorite way to cook tilapia is over or under high heat. The flesh reacts very well to caramelization and may even be good blackened like catfish. I chose to broil the tilapia instead of grill it because it was late and the grill is 14 floors away.
1. Because tilapia is so popular you should be able to purchase it fresh somewhere in your town. But if you wind up getting frozen, thaw it in the fridge overnight. Fish does not respond well to accelerated defrosting (i.e., the microwave). I cut my fish into two pieces so it would be easier to handle and to flip. I cut it down the spine, which had been removed by the butcher.
2. Tilapia responds well to citrus flavors, but it isn't limited to them. Tilapia may also taste good with Cajun flavors or some coconut milk or whatever else you can think of. The marinade I have been putting my tilapia in for the past 4 years is in the upper right-hand corner. It is lime, olive oil, garlic, cilantro, parsley, salt, and sugar. I mix everything but the olive oil together and let the acids break down some of plant walls before whisking in the oil. I do the same thing with vinaigrettes, which this almost is except the vinegar acid is replaced with citric acid. Pour the marinade over the tilapia in a shallow dish or in a zip-locking bag. Flip or rotate the fish every 8 minutes for 30 minutes.
3. Heat up the broiler to high and move a rack 2 slots down from the broiler. Let the broiler heat up for at least 20 minutes to ensure that it gets really hot. About 3 minutes before broiling the tilapia, I put my broiling pan under the broiler to heat it up. This helps sear the fish and keep it from sticking to the broiling pan. Since the marinade has oil in it, you won't really need to spray the broiling pan. Put the fish on quickly and push the pan back under the broiler. Tilapia fillets can vary in size, so some may cook quicker than others. Close the door and check it after 4 minutes.
4. Check the tilapia and see how the first side is cooking. If it is getting brown, flip it over and cook the other side for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, take the tilapia out of the oven and check the internal temperature. It should be at least 155 degrees F. Realistically there is enough acid in the marinade that you could actually serve the fish ceviche style, which is raw in an acidic dressing. It is tasty, especially with sea bass. Well, that's it. This fish is really good with beans and rice or mashed potatoes. Enjoy!
The meat that covers the belly will get very dark and crispy because it is so thin. This is tasty, and don't be shy about eating it. You will enjoy it.
Almost all tilapia is farm raised, and this is a good thing. It has been an important addition to many struggling countries' economies. So eat tilapia and be a steward of the world.
There are 4 or 5 popular species of tilapia that are farm raised. They taste similar to each other, but they vary in size. I have eaten both big and little ones, and I like both. But the smaller will cook quicker and more evenly.
Because tilapia is so good when it gets crispy, it would respond well to pan frying or even shallow deep-frying. Just make sure the pan is really hot before you put the fish in, and also make sure not to touch the fish until the crust forms underneath or it will stick and fall apart when you try to flip it. Use either vegetable oil or clarified butter to cook the fish. Olive oil will burn at high temps. Try a Cajun blend of seasonings and blacken the fish. Then let me know how it turns out.