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Broiling is a technique typically used with richer fish—those with more luxurious and healthful fats, such as salmon, tuna, or swordfish— but it also can be used on leaner varieties such as tilapia. Simply put, broiling is the direct application of high heat. But because broiling cooks from one side, cooking the fish evenly can be a challenge. The key is to manage the heat by moderating its intensity and the distance of the fish from the heat source.
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Thicker fillets are best cooked under medium to medium-high heat a couple of inches below the heat source, whereas thin, lean seafood such as tilapia is best placed directly under the withering heat of a broiler set to high. When done properly, this gives fish the nuanced and complex charisma of a slight char while preserving the succulence and moisture of the underside of the fillet, resulting in a satisfying duality of textures. Fear not—broiling is actually an easily mastered technique that with a little practice (and a few tips) you’ll be able to apply to nearly any seafood.
Try It: Broiled Tilapia with Yogurt and Herbs
Parcook the tilapia before slathering on the sauce to brown it slightly. Look for fillets with even thickness, but if you can’t find them, fold the thin end of the fillet under itself to encourage even cooking. Serve this with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or American Pinot Gris—both pick up on the floral and herbal notes and accentuate the topping’s acidity.
View Recipe: Broiled Tilapia with Yogurt and Herbs
Barton Seaver is chef and director of Harvard's Sustainable Seafood and Health Initiative