Whole Tilapia/temp and time

Can anyone give me cooking time and temp for a whole tilapia? I’ve searched the net and recipes call for fillet.



OK Jean, i thought i would leave your question for someone else to respond to but there seems to be no takers today. I have been on a lengthy mission to protect diners from tilapia, but have obviously been on the losing side.

You could give those internet tilapia recipes you discovered some thought and realize two fillets are pretty near a whole fish minus skin and bone when stacked. That skin thickness is negligible and the bones just hold two fillets together in a neat little package. See where i am going? Try one of those recipes and double the time, plus a little more for good measure. It won’t hurt.

Your request presents a few challenges. First, how big ( ie. thick) is the whole fish. Around here the stores have live tilapia that run up to a kilo in weight before cleaning and 3 cm thick. Most are smaller. Sound familiar?

Next, you don’t disclose how you like your tilapia cooked.
Would it be just barely as in a soft sushi-like texture? Or more solid as in firm but moist?
If i cooked tilapia, i would cook the fish at either 122F or 132F respectively and give it thirty minutes unless you have a lot of other material packaged with the fish, which would probably improve it. If the whole fish is only about a pound, then 20 minutes should do.

For the edification of our community it would be useful to the tilapia lovers among us for you to advise on your cooking details and outcome. Thank you in advance.


I try and avoid farmed fish as much as possible. I am willing to pay for wild caught whenever possible. I do not eat tilapia mainly because a large majority of it comes from China and I do not trust their quality control and control over what the fish are fed.

If you try it I would not disagree with @chatnoir’s recommendations.


Got to be honest, and say I don’t know Tilapia at all. Just had a bit of a look and it seems it was introduced here as an aquarium fish in the 1960s and idiots let them go in the waterways. So, they’re an invasive pest species. I don’t think they’re eaten here, much like the other major pest species European carp.

I can happily say I’ve learned my new thing for the day, and I’ve not even finished coffee yet.

Lucky Ember.
One taste was enough for me.

In my neighbourhood a lot is bought by people of Chinese heritage, both fresh, as in alive and swimming, and in restaurants where the whole fish is wok-fried in a myriad of ways or flour-dusted and deep fried, and served whole.

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The fresh tilapia I get usually are as thick as 4 cm., thicker when it’s deep fried. Yes, I prefer my tilapia deep fried but due to health reasons I’ve decided to use my trusty sous vide. I have tried them frozen and fillet but lacks a certain je ne sais quoi.

Now you mentioned cooking it at 122/132F for 30 minutes, filleted… Right? I will give this a try and post the outcome. Thank you chatnoir. :slight_smile:

In my neck of the woods, farm raised is the only thing that’s available. Unfortunately.

I don’t think they are normally available any other way but farm raised. I do not trust that the Chinese farmers are properly feeding the fish and I am worried about those that use banned chemicals and feed the fish feces. While this is not true of all farms I will not eat tilapia sourced in China just to be safe. I realize the world has severely over fished the planet and farm raised seafood is everywhere. For me it is a personal choice and I am not on a crusade to change anyone else’s mind.

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Right Jean, temperature depends on the degree of doneness you expect.

That certain je-ne-sais-quoi you refer to might also be known as flavour. You are likely missing the crispy fried taste in the deep fried fillets.

It is my understanding that fast growing tilapia are raised to be bland tasting due to their diet of soy and corn meal along with sides of antibiotics and the growth hormone methyltestosterone which you might not want in your diet unless you are a Russian Olympic athlete.

You give health reasons for your switch to SV cooking. If so you should be aware that tilapia contains very little healthy omega-3 fatty acids, only about 7% that of salmon. Worse, they are very high in harmful omega-6 fats.

If cost is an important decision factor, compare the cost of a 3-oz. salmon fillet to the cost of the tilapia. A 75g / 3 oz. serving provides all the protein an adult needs.

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My apologies for the long wait, still nursing a sprained ankle. :frowning: Had the hubster pick and chose the fish at the local Asian market 2 days ago.

Anyhoos, just cooked the 2 inch thick (4 1/2 - 5 cm), bone-in, head and all, tilapia. I seasoned only with salt, pepper and a bit of olive oil and sous vide the fish at 162 Fahrenheit for 2 1/2 hours (I found one video that sous vide a whole grouper, I believe, for that amount of time and temp…). Pat it dry, mist it with olive oil and finally pan seared it. The outcome, meat was dry but the seared skin came close to that je ne sais quoi taste. Next time I will lower the temp and cook it for about an hour.

Oh and believe me, I’ve done some research on the health risk of this particular fish, it’s not something I indulge in on a daily basis so I think I’m okay. Hubby and I primarily consume a huge amount of vegetables and fish, an alkaline diet.