Pan-frying fish is one of the most delicious ways 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. The method avoids a large amount of oil 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. Here are the steps!
Prepare Fresh Fish Fillets
Whether you catch and fillet your own fish or buy them from a fishmonger or at a fish counter, always cook with only the highest quality, impeccably handled fish. Look for firm, uniformly textured flesh and clean smell of ocean, river, or lake. Fish should never smell fishy or have soft spots or bruising.
Set Up Breading/Coating Station
Set up a plate, shallow bowl or tray with about 1 cup flour for every pound of fish and mix in 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and a dash of cayenne pepper, if you like. In the center, thoroughly whisk 2 eggs in a shallow bowl for each pound of fish. On the right, prepare a large plate or tray with about 2 cups of bread crumbs, cracker crumbs, cornmeal, panko, or another crumb-textured coating.
Coat Fish Fillets
Place a fillet on the flour, pat it down, turn it, and pat it on the other side to thoroughly coat the fillet with a thin layer of flour. Shake off any excess flour. Dip the fish fillet in the egg mixture, turning it as necessary to coat it completely. Lift the fish fillet out of the egg and let any excess egg drip off of it.
Lay Fish In Crumbs
Lay the fish in the plate of crumbs or whatever final coating you’re using. Use a dry hand to cover the fish with crumbs or pat it down and then turn it over to coat the other side. The method you use depends on how much bread crumbs or cornmeal you have and how well they are sticking to the fish. Lift the fillet out of crumbs or cornmeal and gently shake off any excess coating.
Fry The Coated Fillets
Heat a large heavy pan over high heat. Once the pan is hot, reduce the heat to a medium-hot temperature and add enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan thoroughly. Add the fillets to the pan, being sure to leave space between the fillets. Work in batches if necessary.
Browned And Crispy Fish
Cook the fillets until browned on one side, about 3 minutes. Flip them over and cook them until they’ve browned on the second side and the fish is opaque and flaky in the center, about 3 more minutes. Fry the fish fillets until brown and remove the fillets from the pan and hold them on a warm baking sheet or tray. Serve pan-fried fish hot with wedges of lemon or the sauce of your choice. Homemade aioli is an easy and tasty choice.