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How many times have you tried to cook halibut but found yourself overcooking it? I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that cooking halibut is really tricky.
Or is it?
Well, it turns out cooking halibut to the perfect internal temperature may not be as hard as you thought.
All you have to do is learn the proper techniques to cook it to the right temperature.
In this article, I’m going to show you the perfect temperature for serving up a moist and delicious piece of fish. No matter if it’s a halibut steak or fillet, I will show you the perfect preparations for the stovetop, the oven, and grilling halibut outdoors. Let’s get started!
The Internal Temperature of Halibut When Done is……
145 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the suggested safe temperature. However, don’t cook it to this temperature unless you want a dry piece of fish.
Remember when I said cooking halibut is tricky? Why is that? Let’s figure this out.
If you do a search of meat temperature guides for the proper final temperatures for halibut you will discover a bunch of articles citing 145 degrees Fahrenheit. That is the government’s guideline for proper serving temperature for fish. This higher-than-desirable temperature is due to a few factors, most beyond the scope of this article.
If you are the type who likes to go down rabbit holes you can read more about that here.
But, for the sake of time, you can rest assured that a lower temperature will be more than adequate.
Halibut has lower fat content than most fish. If you cook it to 145 degrees Fahrenheit it will be dry. For a fish such as a halibut, you will find the best results in the 125 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit range using an accurate digital meat thermometer.
Don’t have one?
Read our review of the best digital meat thermometers.
It is in this range that halibut is at its juiciest, with perhaps 130 degrees Fahrenheit being the optimum temperature taking into account texture and moistness.
How Long to Cook Halibut?
Now that we’ve determined the proper internal serving temperature for halibut, let’s discuss how long you should cook halibut. I am not a fan of using time by itself as a factor in determining when food is done cooking and ready to consume.
Why is that? There are too many variables involved to say that one specific time is the correct time to cook anything. Take halibut for example. You could have a really thick piece or a smaller piece of fish. The larger piece would obviously take longer than the smaller piece to finish cooking to the proper internal temperature.
I see this all the time in recipes and it infuriates me. This is what leads to dried-out fish. The best way to ensure that you’re not overcooking or undercooking your food is by checking the temperature with an accurate food thermometer.
Now, I don’t want to totally exclude time from the equation. You can use time as a general guideline for when to start checking the internal temperature of your halibut. However, using time by itself as the determining factor is not a good method.
One of the best cooking techniques for halibut steaks and fillets is pan-frying and finishing them in the oven. A general rule of thumb is for every inch of thickness of your fish, allow for 10 minutes of cooking time, starting on medium-high heat in a skillet then finishing in the oven.
- First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Heat an oven-proof skillet with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil on your stovetop on medium-high heat.
- Salt and pepper on both sides of the halibut fillets if they are skinless. However, I like to leave the skin on the halibut and cook it with the skin side down to start.
Here’s a time-lapse video of pan-frying pistachio-crusted halibut fillets and then finishing them in a 400-degree oven:
- Once your pan is hot, this should take 5 minutes, place the halibut fillets skin-side down. If you want to preserve the skin for presentation then press down on the fillets for the first minute to keep the skin from shrinking.
- After 2 minutes, add a tablespoon or two of butter to the pan. Using a spoon, tilt the pan slightly to spoon up the butter and baste the top of the halibut fillets.
- At around the 3 to the 4-minute mark, transfer the halibut fillets to the oven, with a thermometer probe inserted in one to track their temperature.
- Pull the halibut fillets from the oven when they reach the 125 to 130°F range. They should reach this temperature range after 10 to 12 minutes in the oven depending on their size.
This cooking technique works great for halibut fillets. Preheat an oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Salt and pepper both sides of the halibut, and drizzle some olive oil on top.
Place two tablespoons of olive oil in an oven-proof dish, and place the halibut in the dish in the oven.
Cook for 10 minutes and start checking the temperature periodically. Pull the fish out of the oven when it reads 130 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read digital thermometer.
Halibut on the grill
Halibut on the grill can be a little tricky. If you are doing halibut on the grill, there are a few things you can do to ensure your halibut doesn’t stick to the grill grates.
- Make sure your grates are hot, clean, and well-oiled. Also, make sure your fish is oiled on both sides as well.
- If you have a halibut fillet with the skin on, you can cook the fillet with the skin side down against the grill grate. This will protect the fish.
- If you want to cook your halibut meat-side down to start, place them on the grill with the grain of their meat perpendicular to the grill grate. This will help keep them from flaking apart between the grill grates. This isn’t foolproof, but it helps.
- Another method you can employ to keep your halibut from falling apart on the grill is brining it to firm up the fish, as well as flavor it.
- Dissolve 1/3 cup salt in 8 cups of water and soak your fillets for 1 to 2 hours. This will firm up the flesh and make it easier for it to hold together on the grill.
- If you have time, after brining, you can also let the fillets air dry in the fridge a bit to form a nice pellicle on the outside for browning.
When your grill is hot enough and you can’t hold your hand three inches above the grate for more than two or three seconds, you’re ready to grill your halibut.
When the grill is hot and properly oiled, place the halibut on the grill and cook for 4 minutes. Carefully flip the fish over and grill for another 4 minutes or until the halibut reads 130 degrees on an instant-read digital thermometer.
Sous Vide Halibut
Sous vide is a cooking method that has exploded in popularity recently. And for good reason. You can pre-cook pretty much any piece of food to a safe temperature and then finish it to your liking in a hot pan.
Fish such as halibut are perfect for sous vide cooking due to their firm flesh.
- Preheat your sous vide water bath to 129 degrees Fahrenheit/ 54 degrees Celsius. Place your halibut fillets (seasoned with salt and pepper and whatever else you choose) in a zip-lock bag, making sure they aren’t too crowded. You can also use more than one bag if you need to ensure proper cooking all around the fillets.
- Once the bath is ready, submerge the bags and clip them to the side of the container. Cook 20 minutes. Check the halibut’s temperature, it should be over 125 degrees Fahrenheit.
- While the halibut is in the sous vide bath, prepare a non-stick pan with a tiny bit of olive oil on your stovetop.
- Pull the halibut fillets out of the bath and place the fillets on a paper towel-lined plate. Heat the non-stick pan over medium-high heat.
- When the oil in the pan is shimmering, place the halibut fillets gently down and sear for a minute on each side. Your halibut is ready!
Cooking halibut doesn’t need to be tricky or hard. Just remember to remove the halibut from the heat at around 130 degrees Fahrenheit and you should have a juicy and tasty piece of fish.
For more great tips and ideas on the proper cooking and serving temperatures of all types of food, check out our other articles here. Enjoy your halibut!