Last Updated on February 22, 2023
Perfect pan-seared fish should have moist and tender flesh, crisp skin, and fully-rendered fat. It sounds tricky — and it is without the right tips and tricks — but you can master the art of cooking fish in the pan once you know your way around and have the proper equipment. In this guide we’ll share the best pans for cooking fish any style.
Making the Best Fish Dish
At the Fish Market
One of the golden rules is that no one can clean and cut fish better than a professional. When you’re buying fish at the fish market, always have your fish cleaned by the person who sells it to you. Bonus: tell them to keep the heads and bones and make a delicious broth.
Dry the Fish
Before placing your cleaned fish in the pan — which should be very hot to sear the meat — dry the fish well with a paper towel. The drier the fish, the easier to cook. The skin will turn crunchy and keep the juices inside, which is especially important if you’re cooking a defrosted fish that still has the meltwater on it.
Oil It Well
Brushing the surface of the fish with oil is better than pouring oil directly into the pan. If you want to fry your fish, pick an oil with a high smoke point, such as peanut oil. And remember, a few drops will suffice.
Spray bottles also work, as they distribute the oil evenly across the surface. If you don’t have a kitchen brush or an oil spray, simply use your fingers or put a little oil on a plate and pass the fish through it, draining the excess oil afterward.
Cook the Skin-Side First
Get your pan hot and place the fish skin side down. While it’s cooking, you can season it with your favorite spice mix. Make sure the skin looks crispy — but not burnt — with a nice toasted color before flipping the fish over. The other side takes less time to cook, so be careful not to overcook it.
Don’t Be Afraid to Cook Fish in a Pan
Fish is full of omega 3 and omega 6, making it one of the healthiest meals you can make for yourself and your family, as long as you choose your fish according to the season and embrace a healthy cooking technique — in other words, stay away from deep frying.
Unfortunately, some people avoid cooking fish at home because of the unpleasant smell it leaves behind. But there are ways to prevent that smell, such as:
- Putting a couple of bay leaves in the pan
- Heating up lemon peels on the stovetop directly over the flame
- Boiling a mixture of lemon juice, cloves, cinnamon, and bay leaf
- Heating up dry coffee in the pan
Best Pans for Cooking Fish
When cooking fish in a pan, the first thing you need to do is sear the skin side. This will make the skin cook tenderly, bring a bit of color to it, and draw out the flavor. And for that, you need a hot pan that won’t stick.
For searing, stainless steel and cast iron pans with thick bottoms and non-stick enamel are ideal for reaching high temperatures.
Another thing to consider is the size of the pan. One of the worst things you can do to the fish — well, probably the second worst thing — is to overcrowd your pan. To avoid this, get a big enough pan to cook the perfect fish. However, don’t overdo it, as the bigger the pan, the longer it takes for it to heat up. So choose wisely, taking into account your household size and typical portions.
Here are the best pans for cooking fish you can find on the market.
This hard anodized fry pan helps you cook your fish to perfection. Thanks to its non-stick surface, you won’t be facing any trouble flipping the fish in one piece unless you overcook it. The wide flat bottom lets you sear the fish, and the curved corners let you flip even a whole salmon easily.
The hard anodized aluminum heats up pretty quickly and evenly. The T-Fal’s trademark thermo-spot heat indicator in the middle of the pan shows you when it’s time to start cooking.
But don’t worry, even though this pan is made from aluminum, its non-stick coating is PFOA, cadmium, and lead-free. And because hardly anything sticks to the pan, cleaning it is a snap. Just run it under warm soapy water and rub it gently with a sponge or wash it in the dishwasher.
This pan is also oven-safe and can endure up to 200C. The handle makes the lid a little less sturdy against high temperatures, but you can still leave it in the oven up to 175C.
If you have limited space in your kitchen, you’ll definitely love this pan. The ergonomic wooden handle is also foldable, so you can easily fit the pan in the dark corner of your cupboard. It also features a hanging ring, so if you have a rack, you’re all set.
The pan is made of cast aluminum with 2 layers of non-stick coating, protecting it from scratches. Aluminum heats up pretty quickly and evenly, and it’s resistant to high temperatures.
The only downside of this pan is that it’s not dishwasher safe, so you’ll have to wash it by hand after you’re done.
This carbon steel skillet from Lodge is a truly multipurpose tool. It’s almost industrial grade and ready to endure all kinds of conditions, from an open campfire to industrial grade stove tops and, of course, your kitchen. Plus, it comes preseasoned with soybean oil.
This heavy-duty skillet heats up very fast and retains the heat evenly. It also doesn’t retain odors, which makes it all the more perfect for cooking fish.
Carbon steel is one of the strongest materials you can make a pan out of. Damages and scratches will be a thing of the past! Even though it’s a bit pricey, it will be a long-lasting addition to your kitchen arsenal.
The Tramonita professional fry pan is a top-quality non-stick pan that you can use to fry just about anything. Whether it’s fish, chicken, meat, or veggies, you’ll have top-quality results. The pan is made of commercial-grade aluminum and lined with strengthened PFOA-free, non-stick enamel.
As expected, the pan heats up pretty fast and evenly, giving you full control over the cooking process. It can take up to 200C in the oven, just make sure you remove the silicone handle before you toss it in there. It’s a bit pricier than its counterparts, but at least it comes with a lifetime warranty.
Over and Out!
Now you know that with the right cookware, you can make delicious and savory fish right on your stovetop! It’s time to go to the fish market or a farmer’s market in your area, get the freshest seasonal fish, and throw it in your skillet for an insanely delicious and healthy dinner!