What you’ll need
Skillet, seasoned cast-iron skillet, nonstick skillet
Flexible spatula, fish spatula
Pan-frying is done in a shallow skillet with just enough fat to prevent the fish from sticking but not enough to fry it. The exterior is golden and has a pleasant crust, but is not crispy like batter-dipped or breaded fish. Look for oils with a high smoke point like canola, grapeseed, safflower, sunflower, coconut, avocado oil, ghee, or use equal parts olive oil and butter (the oil keeps the milk fats from burning).
1. Have your ingredients prepped and ready to cook before heating the pan; that includes any aromatics or liquids to create a pan sauce. A light dusting of seasoned flour keeps the fish from sticking to the pan, plus gives the fish a tender crust. Any residual flour from the coating also helps thicken a pan sauce.
2. Heat a few tablespoons of fat in the skillet over medium-high heat. If using equal parts butter and oil, allow the butter to melt and become foamy. Add the fish and cook, carefully turning once, until lightly browned all over. You may need to lower the heat to medium to cook the second side if your skillet is lightweight.
3. Carefully transfer the fish to plates and serve right away or cover loosely with foil if making a pan sauce.
4. For a pan sauce, add a tablespoon of oil to the skillet if dry along with a small amount of finely chopped aromatics like garlic, shallot, or onion. Cook until fragrant, then deglaze with ½ cup liquid, such as white wine, broth, acidulated water (lemon juice). Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer until reduced by half. Whisk in 1 tablespoon unsalted butter until creamy and melted. Season with salt and pepper and spoon over the fish. Garnish with fresh chopped herbs.