Pan Fried Fish is a thing of beauty, with its beautiful crispy golden crust and juicy flesh inside. It’s a super quick dinner because cooking fish fillets on the stove takes less than 5 minutes!
Wondering how to stop fish sticking to the pan? It’s easy: use a heavy based skillet (doesn’t need to be non stick), heat the pan before adding oil, and most importantly – do not move move the fish until it naturally releases from the pan!
Crispy Pan Fried Fish
I think that cooking fish on the stove is the BEST way to cook fish, especially when you invest in really good fish fillets – or you’ve caught your own! Crispy and golden on the outside – with or without skin, though I do love shatteringly crispy skin like Crispy Skin Salmon – and beautifully juicy on the inside. Pan fried fish is one of those things that is so quick and so good, we wonder why we don’t make it every night.
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. So today I’m sharing my tips to nail pan fried fish perfectly, every single time.
How to cook fish fillets in a pan – perfectly!
Use a heavy based skillet – it doesn’t need to be non stick, but it needs to be a heavy pan;
Heat the pan before adding oil;
If it sticks a bit, do not move until it naturally releases;
Pat fish dry before cooking; and
Shake off excess flour very well.
I go through each of these points in a bit more detail below. 🙂
How to cook fish on the stove – perfectly every time!
1. Use a heavy duty skillet – it DOES NOT need to be a non stick 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.
Use a heavy duty skillet, like a cast iron skillet (pictured) or a good quality, heavy non stick fry pan (I love my ScanPan, shown in the video). It heats better, and more evenly, which really helps to get an even, golden, crispy crust.
2. Heat the pan first before adding the oil – I have NEVER had problems with fish sticking to the pan since I adopted this technique. It’s just an easy way to ensure the oil is hot enough but not too hot (a common mistake people make).
To do this, just heat a dry pan, and as soon as you see small wisps of smoke, add oil, swirl to coat base, then immediately add the fish.
3. Do not move until it releases naturally – Most fish fillets will initially stick to the pan as they start to cook (unless you’re using so much oil you’re basically shallow frying them). But it naturally releases once the surface is cooked and golden.
So give it a nudge, and if it doesn’t want to move, then it means that it’s not ready. So just leave it and try again in another 15 seconds or so!
4. Pat fish dry – dry fish = crispier surface. Especially important for thawed frozen fish.
5. Shake off excess flour – coat well in flour but vigorously shake off excess (too much flour = crispy crust falls off)
Love big, bold flavours?
Try this Cajun Blackened Fish – seasoned with Cajun spices then pan fried to perfection!
Sauces for fish
With well seasoned crispy skin and juicy flesh inside, I don’t need anything more than a squeeze of fresh lemon. But I am a sauce person, so I never turn down a sauce even for fish! Here are my favourite Sauces for Fish:
Lemon Butter Sauce for fish – this is an absolute ripper. Totally restaurant worthy, 2 ingredients, the secret is to brown the butter;
Creamy Dill Sauce – traditionally thought of for salmon but equally good with other fish;
Cocktail Sauce, Marie Rose Sauce, or Tartare Sauce – recipe in this Prawn Dipping Sauces post
Lemon Cream Sauce (see recipe notes)- A richer cream sauce with lemon;
Simple Lemon Butter Sauce* cooked with the pictured Asparagus, Peas and Beans, as pictured. It’s really good!
The one catch with Crispy Pan Fried Fish is that it doesn’t stay crispy for that long. Once the fish cools, the surface loses crispiness. So eat it fresh off the stove! – Nagi xx
Try these on the side:
Paris Mash – for a true fine dining experience! Tip: It’s so soft and creamy, it is practically a sauce in itself.
Zucchini Fennel Ribbon Salad – for something different!
And more fish recipes:
Crispy Pan Fried Fish
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….
Crispy Pan Fried Fish
- 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)
- 2 - 3 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 with salt and pepper (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 2)
- 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. Cook the other side for 2 minutes until crisp then remove.
- If it's browning too quickly, just remove pan from the stove briefly. If it's stuck, don't move - it will release naturally once golden.
- Serve fish immediately with lemon wedges and garnished with dill or parsley, if using. It starts to lose crispiness after 5 minutes.
- Killer Lemon Butter Sauce - very fine dining restaurant worthy!
- Creamy Dill Sauce
- Cocktail Sauce, Marie Rose Sauce, or Tartare Sauce - recipes in this Prawn Dipping Sauces post
- Simple Lemon Butter Sauce: Melt 50g/3tbsp salted butter, add 1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (or to taste).
- (Rich) Lemon Cream Sauce: Simmer 1/2 cup cream over medium heat, add 1 tbsp butter, zest of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 tbsp lemon juice. Simmer for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened.
- Asparagus, butter beans and peas in lemon butter sauce (pictured in post): Use Simple Lemon Butter above and add 3 tbsp water. Bring to simmer, add 2/3 cup drained canned 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.
Originally published June 2017. Updated for housekeeping matters in March 2019, no change to recipe.
LIFE OF DOZER
Dozer eyeing off Crispy Pan Fried Fish packed and ready to go to the homeless man…. #Shameless