Pan-fried fish is easy to prepare and so incredibly easy to enjoy! But if you haven’t cooked it before, it might seem a lot harder than it actually is. So let’s talk some fried fish tips to help you on your journey to the ocean, the sea, and the rivers... and their excellent sources of nutrients.
Confession: I’m a total Pisces and that means that I am always drawn to sea-related things: ocean-scented candles, sand in my sandals, all the swimming I can ever get and... of course, having some nice seafood and fish. But despite that, up until recently, I almost always cooked with tuna cans and not enough with actual fish. It seemed intimidating somehow. I have this vision of my mom when I was a kid when she was prepping fish for frying (a dish that I truly loved) and it all seemed a bit too messy. Not to mention smelly.
Well, it’s time to be a grownup now, so I’ve started to cook with fish myself. I fried those tiny fishes (I call them that, but they’re in fact called whitebait) and I enjoyed them crunchy, with some lemon juice and a very full-of-garlic-sauce. But then I was ready to graduate to more intense fishes. Here are some of the fried fish tips I have for you!
Ready for something a bit more complicated? Try this pan-fried sea bass with white wine sauce.
7 fried fish tips for the beginner
1. How do you pick them?
If you’re not buying your fish frozen and already prepped, here is how you can tell the fish at the market is good to eat. It should have a slimy coating, a vivid color and a nice sheen to it. Its belly should be round. If the belly looks deflated, then the fish is probably a few days old and you don’t want that in your kitchen or on your plate.
Squeeze the fish you plan on buying. If it feels firm in texture, then it’s good to eat. And don’t forget to look at the fish’s eyes: if they’re transparent and shiny, then you’ve got a good one for cooking!
2. Dry your fish
Once you’ve cut your fish into a fillet, it’s time to grab some paper towels and pat it dry. Don’t forget to dry the insides, too. Extra water might ruin the cooking process because it lowers the temperature of the oil. And you know that oil and water truly don’t mix, right?
3. Don’t go for fatty fish
Choose smaller fish or types without too much fat, because you can pan fry them much simpler and without making a batter for them. Sure, I love batters, but they tend to make a mess out of my whole kitchen. Sometimes I still find dried up flour and egg bits in places and I have no idea how they got there. So, if you hate cleaning up as much as I do, forego the batter altogether.
Pick fish like anchovies (tiny, tasty fish for the win!) or black seabream. The result will be crispy on the outside and moist and delicious on the inside.
Anchovies make for a great snack or appetizer. Try these anchovy skewers with olives.
4. Use enough oil
No matter how much healthier it is, remember that olive oil is not really meant for frying. So, use vegetable oil or another type with a higher smoking point. Cover the fish about third way through its thickness, because it tends to absorb the fat and you don’t want too much of that. Especially since it’s not the healthiest fat you can work with.
5. Pick the right temperature
Use medium to high heat on the oil, to make sure that the fish turns out crispy. How do you know when the oil is hot? You can look at the pan and see tiny bubbles forming in the oil. Another great way to see is to put the end of the spoon in the oil and if it forms bubbles, you’re good to go. Drop the fish in with the help of a pair of thongs.
6. Don’t keep flipping it
I can be very impatient in the kitchen and that sometimes manifests as continually flipping food that’s frying to check on it. But if you want your fish to turn out the crispiest it can be, then restrain yourself and flip it just once. The cooking time should be about three minutes on each side. You’ll know it’s ready when the meat comes off the bones very easily.
This is not just one of the fried fish tips. It's an all-food-all-the-time tip. Never ever forget to season your food. Rub the fish with the salt on both sides, before you take it to the pan. Also, drizzle it with a little bit of oil. And add some pepper, too. As for herbs you can use, you can never go wrong with rosemary!