The Real Reason You Should Cook Fish Over Citrus

Fish and citrus fruits are a classic combo that instantly summons back memories of summer days. There are plenty of great recipes out there that make the most of this flavorful duo. Citrus fruits and fresh fish go well together for a few reasons. In the case of ceviche, the citric acid in the fruit causes a process known as denaturation in the proteins of the fish, per Edible Northeast Florida. This causes a chemical reaction similar to what occurs when fish is exposed to heat. The flesh of the fish turns firm and opaque, and resembles something that was cooked over a gentle heat.

The other reason the two pair well together is because the citrus also helps eliminate the less-appetizing aspects of the fish. According to the Seafood Nutrition Partnership, citrus is often used in recipes to "brighten flavors." In the case of fish, it also helps to neutralize the fishier, briny flavors present in some cuts. The natural salts found in saltwater seafood are neutralized by citrus juices, and balance each other to elevate the best flavors of each. Using citrus in dishes like ceviche not only allows the fish to cook safely, but it is also elevating all of the most desirable flavors.

Ceviche might be one of the purest ways to experience a fish's flavor, but citrus can help out just as much on your backyard grill.

Cook fish over citrus to keep it from sticking

Real Simple recommends using the power of citrus to help your fish cook more easily on the grill. Cook your fish on a layer of thinly sliced citrus to save yourself some trouble, and season your food at the same time. Cooking fish on a grill is a tried-and-true method, but one that also comes with its fair share of issues.

There are a number of tips out there for keeping your fish from sticking, falling apart, or coming out overcooked. Even the most firm fish can struggle when it's cooked under the wrong conditions. They have shorter muscle fibers and less connective tissue than other meats which leaves them prone to breaking apart. There are plenty of solutions out there. Celebrity chef Eric Ripert recommends using a slate cooking surface, while Fine Cooking recommends cooking your fish at the edges of the heat source.

But we're big fans of this solution brought to us by Real Simple. They say that grilling fish on a bed of thinly sliced citrus fruit, like lemons or oranges, removes the need for special equipment or methodology. It will also help to season your food as it cooks. The fire will help release some of those citric acids for your fish to cook in, and the grilled fruit can be added as a beautiful garnish when it comes time to serve.