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How to Pan-Fry Fish

Created January 10, 2017
Learn to pan-fry fish in three steps for perfectly flaky fillets in 30 minutes.
how to pan-fry fish

Looking for a flavorful dinner ready in 30 minutes? Follow our step-by-step guide for pan-fried fish fillets that are tender and flaky on the inside and golden brown and crispy on the outside. Plus, try any of our mouth-watering toppers for pan-fried fish after you’re done.

What you’ll need:

  • Ingredients for Pan-fried Fish Fillets
  • 12-inch nonstick skillet
  • Small bowl
  • Shallow dish
  • Wire whisk or fork
  • Slotted spatula
  • Paper towels
How to:

1.  Pour about 1/8 inch oil into skillet; set on medium heat. Cut fish into 6 pieces and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. In small bowl, beat egg and water with until blended. Place flour in shallow dish; dip fish into egg.

dipping fish in batter

2. Next, coat fish with flour. The wetness of the egg will help hold the flour on the fish. During cooking, the protein in the egg binds the flour to the fish to help keep the coating attached.

dipping battered fish in flour mixture

3. Fry fish in oil 6-8 minutes, turning once, until fish flakes easily and is brown on both sides. Fish cooks very quickly, especially the thinner tail sections, so be careful not to overcook. Remove with slotted spatula; drain on paper towels.

testing for doneness of fish in pan

Expert tips: 

  • Use vegetable oil or shortening for frying fish. Other oils can smoke before they get hot enough to cook the fish, resulting in a burned flavor.
  • Check for doneness. When the fish is done, the outside will be golden brown with no parts that are dark brown, and the inside will be firm but flake easily with a fork.
More Ways to Make Pan-Fried Fish:

Brown-Butter Pan-fried Fish: Omit oil. Use flour for coating. Heat ¼ cup butter in skillet over medium heat 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until light brown. Add fish; cook as directed.

Garlic-Butter Pan-fried Fish: Omit salt. Substitute crushed garlic-butter-flavored croutons for the flour. (Place croutons in resealable food-storage plastic bag and crush with rolling pin.) Continue as directed.

Parmesan-Herb and Lemon Pan-fried Fish: Omit salt and pepper. Substitute Italian-style panko crispy bread crumbs for flour and decrease to 1/3 cup. Mix bread crumbs, 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel; continue as directed.