Pan Fried FishHow To Pan Fry Fish Filets

Pan frying fish is, perhaps, the most delicious way to cook any non-fatty fish. The coating protects the flesh from direct heat and helps keep the fish moist, while also providing a browned and crispy or crunchy crust. Yet, the method avoids the large amount of oil (not to mention the mess) required for deep frying.

The steps here show how to do a full three-step coating, but the basic idea can also be used to simply coat the fish once with flour to improve browning for pan fried fish.






Fresh Filets Start with Fresh or Freshly Frozen Fish Filets

Whether you catch and fillet your own fish or buy them from a fish monger or at a fish counter, always cook with only the highest quality, impeccably handled fish. Look for firm, uniformly textured flesh and a clean smell of ocean, river, or lake. Fish should never smell fishy or have soft spots or bruising.









Breading FiletsSet Up Breading/Coating Station
The most complete and thorough way to coat fish (or anything for pan frying) includes three steps: flour, egg, final coating of bread crumbs, cracker crumbs, cornmeal, or panko.

    On your left, set up a plate, shallow bowl or tray with about 1 cup flour for every pound of fish and mix in 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper and a dash of cayenne pepper, if you like.
    In the center, thoroughly whisk 2 eggs for each pound of fish in a swallow bowl.
    On the right, prepare a large plate or tray with about 2 cups of bread crumbs, cracker crumbs, cornmeal, panko, or other coating.





Flour Fresh FiletsFlour Fresh Filets
You can greatly reduce the need to rinse off your hands in the middle of the process if you use one hand for "wet" aspects of the breading process and the other for "dry" aspects.

Place a fillet on the flour, pat down, turn, and pat on the other side to thoroughly coat the fillet with t thin layer of flour. Shake off any excess flour.

For an extremely lightly coated fish, you can go directly to Step 10 to Cook the Fish Fillets.






Dip in Egg Dip Fish Fillet In Egg
Dip fish fillet in egg mixture, turning as necessary to coat completely. Lift fish fillet out of egg and let any excess drip off.








Lay Filet in CrumbsLay Fish in Crumbs
Lay fish in the plate of crumbs or whatever final coating you're using.








Coat Filet with CrumbsCoat Fish With Crumbs
Use dry hand to cover fish with crumbs or pat down and then turn over to coat other side – the method you use depends on how many bread crumbs or cornmeal you have and how well they are sticking to the fish.







Shake off ExcessShake Off Any Excess
Lift fillet out of crumbs or cornmeal and gently shake off any excess coating.









Breaded FiletsCoated Fish Fillets
Lay coated fish fillets in a single layer on a baking sheet or tray. Fish can be coated, covered, and chilled up to several hours before cooking.







altCook Filets
Heat a large heavy pan over high heat. Once pan is hot, reduce heat to medium hot and add enough vegetable oil to thoroughly coat the pan. Add fillets to pan, being sure to leave space between fillets. Depending on fish and pan size you may be able to cook anywhere from one to four fillets at once. Fillets should sizzle the moment they touch the pan, if they don't remove them and wait for pan to get hotter.

Cook fillets until browned on one side, about 3 minutes, flip them over and cook until browned and the second side and fish is opaque and flaky in the center.

Remove fillets from pan and hold on a warm baking sheet or tray. Repeat with remaining fillets, adding additional vegetable oil between batches if necessary. Serve hot with wedges of lemon or the sauce of your choice.

Recipe: Local Foods

Photo © Molly Watson