Pan frying fish fillets but how can you tell if the fish is fresh?

Much of the information below has been provided by Sydney Seafood School at Sydney Fish Market. For lots of extra information & easy recipes go to http://www.sydneyfishmarket.com.au.

Pan frying fish fillets should be one of the quickest and easiest ways to cook fish fillets.

 

King Salmon cooked fillets

Firstly, start with fresh fish, but How can you tell if the fish is fresh?

King Salmon fillets

 

  • The flesh should be firm with a good sheen or lustre, should not look dried around the edges or be oozing any excess liquid and should have a good fresh sea smell, not smell ‘fishy’.
  • Put the fish into a chiller bag or get the shop to pack ice in the parcel, especially important in hot weather (an hour out of the fridge can take a day’s shelf life off your seafood).

 

Preparation

  • Remove fillets from the fridge 10-15 minutes before cooking to allow them to come to room temperature.
  • Pat fish fillets dry with paper towel.

Cooking Tips

King Salmon fillets cooking skin side down

  • Cook fillets with the skin on. Even if you don’t want to eat the skin it helps hold the fillet together and provides a protective layer between the flesh and the pan.
  • As the fish skin cooks it can curl and lift off the pan so there are 2 suggestions to stop this happening:
  1. Make 2 or 3 diagonal slashes across the skin before cooking.
  2. Place fish skin side down in the pan and gently press the fillets with an egg slice until the fish starts to cook, about 1 minute.
  • Cook fillets in a single layer in a clean, heavy based frypan.
  • Cook the fillets skin side down first. Cook for about 70% of the cooking time then turn and cook briefly on the other side.
  • Sprinkle sea salt onto the skin side for added flavour and crispness.
  • There are 2 suggested methods for panfrying, to lightly brush the food with oil or brush the pan with oil.
  1. Preheat the frypan on moderate to moderately high (depending on the thickness of the fillets). Brush the fish with oil to stop excess smoke when cooking and pan fry OR
  2. Preheat the frypan on moderate to moderately high (depending on the thickness of the fillets).  Add oil to the pan and heat for 1-2 minutes before adding the fish. A common mistake is not to allow the oil sufficient time to heat before adding the fish or if extra oil is added when cooking multiple batches.
  • Remeber, the thicker the fish fillet the lower the temperature should be so it does not overcook on the outside before it has cooked through to the centre.
  • Always use an egg slice to turn the fish not tongs which can break the delicate flesh. Slide the slice under the fish fillet with tongs on top to gently hold the fillet on the slice.

How do I make the fish skin crispy?

King Salmon crispy skin fillets

  • Cook the fillets skin side down first. Cook for about 70% of the cooking time then turn and cook briefly on the other side. Alternatively, the fiish fillet could be cooked briefly flesh side first then turned and cooked remaining time skin side down so it crisps well.
  • Sprinkle sea salt onto the skin side before cooking for added flavour and crispness.
  • Some fish skins will crisp more than others, especially if the fish has a higher oil content such as Atlantic Salmon, King Salmon or Ocean Trout.

How long do I cook fish fillets for?

Insert the tip of a knife into the thickest part of the flesh to the middle of the fillet. If the flesh ‘flakes’ or separates easily and has turned from transparent to opaque the fish should be cooked.

A common mistake when cooking seafood is cooking time.  Cooking time is dependent on how thick the fillet is and remember the fish will go on cooking after it is taken off the heat. So remove the fish just before it is fully cooked so the residual heat will finish it off perfectly.

Posted on January 26, 2010 at 8:53 pm by Brigid · Permalink
In: Cooking Tips & Hints, Seafood · Tagged with: , , ,

4 Responses to “Pan frying fish fillets but how can you tell if the fish is fresh?”

  1. Robert Golledge - January 25, 2010

    I have bought crimson snapper fish fillets on two occasions from a local supermarket.I have tried to pan fry them on both occasions, but on both occasions they were basically not edible. Can you help?

  2. Brigid - January 26, 2010

    There could be a couple of things that might be causing problems: pan or oil not hot enough before the fish is added so the fish sticks to the pan, cooking over too high a heat or one of the most common mistakes is simply overcooking so the fish dries out and becomes inedible. We often see this at the Seafood School because people say they are worried the seafood is not cooked through.

    How can you tell if the fish fillet is cooked? Insert the tip of a knife into the thickest part of the fish and part the flesh gently to see that it has changed from transparent to opaque. Seafood cooks surprisingly fast and what people often forget is that it will still go on cooking when it is removed from the heat. So remove the fish fillets just before they are fully cooked so the delicate flesh will continue cooking from the retained heat.

    If you’d like some more information have a look at the Pan Frying Fish Fillets post I put up today or go to http://www.sydneyfishmarket.com.au. Hope this helps and if you get a chance let me know how it goes. B

  3. Steve - February 18, 2011

    Thanks heaps, a no nonsence way to cook fish, straight to the point. I’m off to cook some Ocean Trout – I’m interested to see the difference between that and Samon fillets. (Trout was on sale for less that half the price of Samon)

  4. Brigid - February 21, 2011

    Thanks Steve, be interesting to see if you find there’s much of a difference. Please let me know if you need any more information. B

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