Perfectly Pan Fried Fresh Fish

February 8, 2012

As an occasional fisherman, and a northwest florida native, I love fresh fish. In my world, there is nothing better than a fresh pan-fried filet that was caught only hours earlier. In this post I am going to tell tell you how I to prepare perfect pan-fried fish and I guarantee you will like it too.

Now, I can’t claim any rights to this method as I learned it from good friend and chef, Phillip McDonald, owner of Table Five Chef catering service. I can tell you that anyone can do it.


1. Prepare the filet.
Take your freshly caught fish filet and make sure it is clean of any scales. Cut the filet into manageable sizes and remove any blood-line that remains on the filet. For those that don’t know, blood line is the dark red flesh that is usually found on the skin-side near the lateral line of the filet. The blood line tends to have a lot stronger flavor that most refer to as ‘Fishy’. For this method, thickness isn’t so much of an issue and thicker pieces can actually have better results.

2. Dry the filet.
For best results, you want to make sure you start with a dry filet. Use a paper towel to dry off each piece of fish thoroughly. Moisture that remains will turn to steam while cooking and you don’t want that. I will often place the filets on an open plate in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes to help dry them out.

3. Seasoning the filet.
Less is more. Remember, this fish is fresh and you don’t want to cover up the flavor with a ton of spices. Sprinkle a little bit of Sea Salt or Hawaiian Salt over both sides of each piece of fish. Do the same with some fresh cracked pepper. Take care not to over saturate with either of these spices.


4. Pan and Oil.
Heat up a large frying/saute’ pan with a thin layer of canola (or other heat-tolerant) oil on medium-high heat. You want to wait until the pan and oil are hot before placing the fish in the pan. You may see trace amounts of smoke coming off the oil, which is a good sign that it is ready. If the fish doesn’t sizzle when it touches the oil, it’s not hot enough.

5. Cooking the fish.
Now this is the counter intuitive part, at least for me. Place three to five pieces of fish in the pan making sure they don’t touch. Then don’t move them. You want to let them cook on one side until they cook almost all the way through to the other side. The underside of the filet will get crispy as it cooks. This is a good thing.

The fish will turn white as it cooks. So once there is only a very small amount of uncooked fish on the side that is up, you will flip the filet and let cook on the other side for about 30 seconds.


6. The Finish.
Place the cooked filet, crispy side up onto your serving plates. Squeeze some lemon over the top and viola’, your fish is ready to eat. Sometimes I will drizzle herb-infused olive oil over the cooked filets for a subtle hint of seasoning.

As for the sides, I recommend cheese grits and garlic saute’ed spinach or grilled/baked asparagus. For a great twist on the cheese grits, try some different types of cheese such as Munster, Smoked Gouda or Creamy Dill Havarti.

I think I just drooled on my keyboard.

Related Links:
Joe Patti’s Seafood Market
Destin Ice Seafood