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I've successfully prepared one whole fish using a roasting pan and conventional oven, and now would like to make four to six of them at once for a gathering. Is there a rule of thumb to adjust my cooking time and temperature when cooking several fish? The first fish was a 1.5 lb sea bass, cooked at 450 degrees for 5-8 minutes per side.

My gut tells me to use two large roasting pans, raise the oven temperature to 500, and just dutifully watch over the fish and flip when they look ready. But I have no idea if this is appropriate, if I should expect to flip in 5-8 or 15-18 minutes, or if cooking up to six whole fish at once is simply unrealistic in a conventional oven.

Thanks in advance!

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That depends on how large your oven is. I certainly couldn't do 6 whole fish in mine, but then I have a 24" wide oven. If you have a 36", it would be completely possible (these are standard US sizes; no idea what the equivalent would be in other countries).

Your main adjustment will be dealing with the extra mass to be heated by the additional fish, which will cause the oven to take some additional time to reheat. Again, this depends on how hot (BTU) your oven is; a hot oven would overcome the extra mass in a few minutes, but an underpowered (for this purpose, anyway) oven might take an additional 15 or more minutes, which would not be good for the texture of the fish.

So, It Depends. If you have a fairly powerful, large, high-end stove, I'd be ready to flip them at 10 minutes. Less powerful ovens will take longer.

Also, if the fish are individually closer together than 1", you'll have the issue that the edges of each fish will be soggy from the moisture of the fish next to it, and they won't get good texture. If they're touching even slightly, they will stick together. You'll also want to try to ensure some drainage in the pan, lest all of the liquid runoff collect under one fish and make it slimy.

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Thanks for the tips - very helpful. I'll leave my experience here for anyone else interested. I ended up doing three fish in my 24" oven - two 2 lb black sea bass and one 4 lb red snapper. The red snapper was on the top rack and the two sea bass on the bottom. I tried keep the oven as hot as possible as you mentioned and kept the sea bass a couple of inches apart. All three cooked in 30 minutes or so at 450 - I used wire racks in roasting pans so I didn't have to flip the fish which was nice. –  Hakan B. Aug 11 '12 at 6:20

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