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!
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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.
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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!
Read more: Air Fryer Frozen French Fries
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:
Fresh Garden Salad with Balsamic Dressing, French Dressing or Italian Dressing
Broccoli Salad with Lighter Creamy Dressing
Cauliflower Cheese – A rich, creamy, cheesy and rib-sticking British classic
Paris Mash – For a true fine dining experience! Tip: It’s so soft and creamy, it is practically a sauce in itself.
Fresh Lemon Potato Salad or Greek Lemon Roasted Potatoes
Zucchini Fennel Ribbon Salad – For something different!
Potatoes au Gratin or Mini Potato Gratin Stacks
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….
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