RECIPE: The broiler makes quick work of flavor-packed tilapia fillets

Super-Quick Broiled Lemon-Butter Tilapia. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)



Super-Quick Broiled Lemon-Butter Tilapia. (Chris Hunt for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

One of the best — and easiest — ways to prepare fish is by using a broiler. Especially when cooking thin fillets, such as tilapia, the intense heat of the broiler allows you to brown the fish and cook it through quickly without flipping it around in a pan. Yes, you need to keep a close eye on the fish to ensure it doesn’t overcook, but the method is otherwise hands-off. And it offers plenty of room to experiment with your favorite flavors.

Think of the dish below as a template rather than a proscriptive recipe. Tilapia is a very lean fish, so you’ll want to use a generous amount of fat. This recipe calls for butter but olive, canola or coconut oil would all work in its place. The rest of the ingredients should all be dry. Adding liquid will cause the fish to steam rather than brown under the broiler. Herbs, alliums and citrus are all great candidates. If you use a solid fat like butter or coconut oil, mix it with the herbs and spices to make a compound butter (or oil) before spreading it on the fish. If you use a liquid oil, brush the fish with the oil and then sprinkle the seasonings on top. And you’ll want to season the fish with salt before topping it with the flavoring mixture to ensure it all stays on the fish and doesn’t run onto the sheet pan.

Some ideas: Take the dish in a piccata-like direction by swapping capers for the thyme. Drizzle the fish with chili crisp instead of compound butter and serve with fresh cilantro. Brush the fish with sesame oil and top with finely minced ginger, garlic and scallions; serve drizzled with soy sauce. Smush together coconut oil, garam masala and lime zest to flavor the fish and serve with lime wedges. Any way you flavor it, serve the fish with a big bowl of steamed rice and a quick-cooking veggie on the side.

Super-Quick Broiled Lemon-Butter Tilapia

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated

1 lemon

4 tilapia fillets, thawed if frozen

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

On the side: Steamed rice and broccoli

Heat a broiler to high with a rack in the position nearest to the heat.

While the broiler is heating, combine the butter, thyme and garlic in a small bowl. Zest the lemon over the butter, then mix thoroughly.

Thoroughly dry the fish fillets with paper towels and transfer to a sturdy sheet pan. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the butter mixture over the fish. Transfer to the broiler and cook without flipping until the fish just begins to flake, about 8 minutes.

While the fish cooks, slice the zested lemon into wedges.

Serve the fish with lemon wedges and rice and broccoli on the side.

Serves 4.

Per serving: 217 calories (percent of calories from fat, 55), 23 grams protein, 2 grams carbohydrates, trace total sugars, 1 gram fiber, 13 grams total fat (8 grams saturated), 87 milligrams cholesterol, 271 milligrams sodium.

Sign up for the AJC Food and Dining Newsletter

Read more stories like this by liking Atlanta Restaurant Scene on Facebook, following @ATLDiningNews on X and @ajcdining on Instagram.