Crispy Pan Fried Fish is a thing of beauty, with its beautiful golden crust and juicy flesh inside. And if it takes you longer than 5 minutes to cook, you’ve over cooked it. So it’s perfect for a super duper QUICK DINNER!!!
If you ever had a fleeting thought that my mother was a submissive little Japanese woman, banish that from your mind. Because after she dropped by to (quickly!) make this recipe video, she headed off for golf, grumbling about how she always plays badly if she comes here beforehand, claiming I stress her out. And shortly thereafter, I received a lovely text message from her.
“I’m playing #$%*”
BA HA HA!!!!
It’s the same conversation every time. I always insist that it’s a “really quick simple recipe, I promise!” and that “you’ll finish waaaay before golf, you can just sit down and relax until you have to go!”.
And without fail, every single time, she is dashing off in a mad rush to make it on time, and I’m sniggering because it’s like Ground Hog Day, and I wait patiently for the grumpy text message that she always sends through. Te he he!!!!
So. This is the fish that cost her a golf game. I think it was worth it! 😉
Crispy Pan Fried Fish is one of those things that is so simple, so quick and so satisfying, but unless you know a few little tips, you can end up with a disappointingly soggy fish fillet or, even sadder, all that golden crispy goodness stuck on the pan.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just about using a non stick pan. A thin, cheap non stick pan will cause the fish to be in closer and harsher contact with the stove, causing the fish to brown unevenly in the few minutes it’s on the stove. Some crispy patches, some not so crispy ones.
Using a heavy duty skillet, like pictured above (that’s a Lodge cast iron skillet) or a good quality non stick fry pan (I love my ScanPan, shown in the video) really helps to get an even, golden, crispy crust.
Other than that, my other tips are very straight forward recipe steps: pat the fish dry (especially important for thawed frozen fish), coat well in flour but vigorously shake off excess (too much flour = crispy crust falls off) and finally, a tip that made all the difference for me when I first learned it:
Heat the pan first before adding the oil
In particular, this makes all the difference when using a non non-stick fry pan to stop the fish from sticking to the skillet. 🙂
The one catch with Crispy Pan Fried Fish is that it doesn’t stay crispy for that long. Hence the reason why I had to make this four times before I was happy with the photos. Faffing around with photos = fish goes soggy = wrinkled totally un-crispy looking skin. Err – I guess it also doesn’t help that I’m a bit fussy about my photos. Not so much about the photo being pretty, I just want it to capture the recipe as it should be. All I cared about was that crispy skin. 🙂
Though given it literally takes 5 minutes to make, it wasn’t exactly a big deal to keep making it again and again. Nor did the homeless man grumble when I gave him fish 3 days in a row, including today (yes, that first photo was taken this morning!). – Nagi xx
PS With well seasoned crispy skin and juicy flesh inside, I don’t need anything more than a squeeze of fresh lemon. But I have provided a few sauces in the notes, including the recipe for the Asparagus, Peas and Beans in Lemon Butter Sauce pictured below. It’s really good!
3 key tips to ensure your pan fried fish comes out beautifully golden and crispy every time: pat the fish dry, press flour on well but shake excess off well, and heat the pan first before adding the oil or use a heavy duty non stick pan (crispy skin isn't as good in flimsy non stick pans). With a good fish, well seasoned and crispy skin, I don't need a sauce....but I've added a couple in the notes just in case! 🙂 Recipe Video below.
- 2 thin fish fillets, around 150g/5 oz each, 1 cm / 2/5" thick, skin on or off (Note 1)
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup / 35g flour (plain/all purpose, wholemeal)
- 1 tsp paprika , optional (Note 2)
- 1 1/2 - 2 tbsp oil, enough to mostly thinly cover base (I use vegetable or canola)
- Lemon wedges
- Finely chopped parsley or dill , for garnish, optional
Use scrunched up paper towels to pat the fish dry on both sides. This is especially important if you are using thawed frozen fish.
Season the fish well on both sides (key!).
Mix the flour and paprika on a plate.
Coat fish on both sides with flour, pressing down firmly so it adheres, but shake well to remove excess. (Note 3)
Heat a heavy based skillet (normal or non stick) over medium high heat until you see wisps of smoke. Add oil and swirl to coat the pan - it will heat within seconds.
Add fish - it should sizzle straight away. Shake the pan lightly to move the fish. Cook for 2 minutes until golden and crisp, pressing down gently, then flip. If it's browning too quickly, just remove from the stove briefly. Cook the other side for 2 minutes until crisp then remove.
Serve immediately with lemon wedges and garnished with dill or parsley, if using. It starts to lose crispiness after 5 minutes.
1. This recipe will work with any fish fillet but I tend to make it with thinner fillets - more crispy skin to flesh ratio, more evenly golden and crispy. I used silver dory in the video and half the photos. I can't remember what I used for the other photos! You can see that the thinner flatter fillet is more evenly golden than the slightly thicker one.
Make sure your fish has been pin boned (i.e. bones removed) and if there is skin, that the scales have been removed. Shop brought fish should come already prepared.
2. I like adding a touch of paprika to the flour because it adds a hint of warmth in the flavour and a deeper golden hue. I use sweet paprika, but hot or smoked would both be lovely too. To RAMP UP THE SEASONING: decrease the paprika to 3/4 tsp and add 1/4 tsp each onion powder, garlic powder, thyme and oregano. Yum.
3. Shaking off excess flour is important for crispy skin because otherwise, the excess flour crisps but then falls off when flipped. Also, excess flour burns in the pan and you get black bits on the fish.
4. I don't need anything more than a squeeze of fresh lemon with this dish, however, here are a few sauce options:
a) Lemon butter: In a small saucepan, melt 50g/3tbsp salted butter over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (or to taste) and bring to a gentle simmer for 3 minutes until slightly thickened. Keep warm until ready to serve, serve on the side (protect that crispy skin!).
b) Quick Tartare Sauce: Mix 1/3 cup mayonnaise, 2 tsp lemon juice, 2 tbsp finely chopped dill pickles, salt & pepper to taste.
c) Asparagus, butter beans and peas in lemon butter sauce (pictured in post): Use a) above and add 3 tbsp water. When it comes to a simmer, add 2/3 cup drained canned butter beans (or other white beans), handful of asparagus cut into 5 cm / 2" lengths, 1/4 cup frozen peas. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until asparagus is just cooked and liquid is thickened. Stir through 1 tbsp chopped dill, adjust salt & pepper to taste. Spoon onto plate, place fish on top. The sauce doubles as sauce for the fish.
d) This Dill Sauce I use for salmon.
e) (Rich) Lemon Cream Sauce: In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup heavy cream to a simmer over medium heat, then add 1 tbsp butter, zest of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 tbsp lemon juice. Simmer for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened. Keep warm while you make the fish. Serve on the side (protect that crispy skin!).
It would also not be unheard of to serve this with tomato ketchup!
5. Nutrition per serving, assuming 1.5 tbsp oil is used and all consumed (which it is not), skinless fish fillet.
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
Crispy Pan Fried Fish recipe video! The Dozer cameo is meant to be about his built-in food alarm clock, but all I can see is the puff of fur he leaves behind when he moves….
LIFE OF DOZER
Dozer eyeing off Crispy Pan Fried Fish packed and ready to go to the homeless man…. #Shameless