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)
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!