Mario Batali's Oven-Poached Halibut in Olive Oil

Total Time
1hr 45mins
Prep 15 mins
Cook 1 hr 30 mins

I finally took the plunge and tried this odd recipe. It was the most delicious fish I've ever tasted, moist and silky texture. It is NOT oily tasting at all, and you can even eat the lemon slices. Yum! Next I'll try it with salmon. Poaching fish in oil may seem like an unusual cooking method, but it's actually a little like confit, the traditional preparation in which meat is cooked in its own fat. The idea comes from a guest television talk show appearance by Mario Batali, the chef of New York City's Babbo, and the technique he demonstrated is adapted here for home use. The fish fillets stay extremely moist, but without any taste of oil, and the layers of lemon slices, which lose their tartness when heated with the oil and salt, infuse the dish with wonderful citrus notes. Another bonus: the oil doesn't pick up any fish flavor (believe it or not) - it tastes lemony and slightly salty - and only a small amount is served with the dish, so the rest can be used again in a vinaigrette, or added to mashed potatoes, or saved for cooking. This recipe takes only about 15 minutes to prepare for cooking - but then the slow poaching method adds an hour or more to the total time from start to finish.

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. Put a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Pat the fish fillets dry, then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Allow the seasoned fish to stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Chop half of the capers.
  3. Arrange half of the lemon slices in one layer in an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Arrange the fish fillets in one layer over the lemon slices. Top with all of the capers, the remaining lemon slices, and the 3 tablespoons of parsley, then pour the oil over the composed fish.
  4. Bake, covered, until the fish just flakes and is cooked throughout - 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Serve the fish with some of the lemon slices, capers, and oil spooned over. Sprinkle with parsley leaves.
  6. To reuse the leftover olive oil, strain it through a paper towel-lined sieve and allow it to cool to room temperature. It will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 week.
  7. Recipe adapted from: the website of The Jane Pauley Show (on which the technique was demonstrated).


Most Helpful

I used a really nice lemon infused olive oil. This was superb. Next time, I'll try it with salmon. Thank you, hoosfoos and thank you, Mario. It's amazing how he simplest recipes can sometimes be the best. It's all in the quality of the ingredients.

Vicki in AZ February 03, 2009

I did this with two 4oz talapia filets, stacked and one 8oz salmon filet in the same baking dish. Both were excellent. Cooking time was 1hr 20min.

TheRealSerac January 30, 2006

This was delicious! I cooked a one-pound fillet for just over an hour, until the temp was 145F. It was flaky and flavorful, but not fishy! I did not use capers, so I increased the salt by a couple dashes.

margaret.timm October 27, 2005

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