A perfectly cooked, simple, pan fried fish fillet can’t be beaten. Pan frying is a great technique to learn as it's the basis for other fillet cooking techniques.
You can pan fry the fillets or steaks of most of the popular fish we catch around our shores, like snapper, blue cod, kingfish, kahawai, trevally, tarakihi, john dory, hapuku and others.
With a few tips from the head of the NSIA Culinary Arts school Tim Aspinall, you’ll be dishing out soft, succulent fish fillets every time.
Pat the fish fillets with paper towels to remove the excess moisture.
First, coat the fish fillet in flour. Completely cover the fillet and gently pat down the flour on to the flesh of the fillet.
Getting the right pan temperature
Put the element on a medium heat and place pan on. Put the oil in first, then the butter. The oil will stop the butter burning. Rotate the pan to mix them together. When it starts to bubble and brown slightly on the outside it’s time to add the fish fillet(s).
If the heat is too high the fish will burn as soon as it goes in.
For a medium sized fillet the first side will take approximately 1 - 1.5 minutes. Place your fillet in the pan laying it away from you.
Rotate and move the fillet in the pan. This will help to regulate the heat and cook the fillet evenly.
If the pan is getting too hot, lift it up until the fish cooks, don’t try to adjust the flame/element.
After about 30 seconds the butter will brown up and you’ll see the edges of the fish turn from translucent pink to white. This colour will rise up along the sides of the fillet and through to the middle of the fillet.
After a minute gently lift the pan fried fish fillet and check the colouring on the underside, it should be starting to turn light brown. Once it’s a lovely golden brown carefully turn it over. Flip it away from you so the hot oil doesn’t splash towards you.
The second side takes less time. Around the 50 second mark check the colour. Once it’s nice a golden brown take it out of the pan and place it on a rack or on paper towels to drain the excess oil.
The flour on the fish has a tendency to burn in the pan, so it’s best to wipe out your pan before cooking the next fillet. While you can cook multiple fillets at once don’t overcrowd the pan or the heat won’t distribute through the fillets slowly and evenly.
And there you have it! The perfect way to cook pan fried fish fillets.
Serving suggestions: Fresh salad and baked potatoes.