How to Pan-Fry Fish

No deep fryer necessary.

Fish fillets fried in pan
Photo: Blaine Moats/Meredith

Pan frying is a quick and easy method for getting super crispy fish fillets. You don't need a deep fryer, and you don't have to use excessive amounts of oil either. Here's how to get moist, crispy pan-fried fish every time.

How to Pan-Fry Fish in 5 Steps

This step-by-step tutorial is based on Jeannie's Kickin' Fried Fish recipe from Allrecipes Community Member crabbyjean. However you can change up the type of fish and seasonings to suit your taste. Consider this a guide, but get creative with your choices!

1. Pick Your Fish

Not all fish was made for frying. You're going to want to go with more of a neutral-flavored fish that isn't overly oily — most types of white fish will do. Some common choices include, cod, tilapia, catfish, halibut, trout, striped bass, flounder, and perch. For tips on how to pick the freshest fish, refer to our guide. You can go with fresh or frozen, just factor in thawing time if you're using frozen.

2. Prep the Fish

One pound of skinless fillets, or four 4-ounce skinless fillets, (about ½-inch thick) is the perfect amount for serving a family of four. If you're starting with frozen fish, start by thawing them in the refrigerator for 24 hours ahead of time.

If your fillets are thicker than ½-inch thick, go ahead transfer them to a cutting board and cut them lengthwise to get the desired thickness — this will give you crispier fish in the end! Rinse the fish and pat dry with paper towels.

3. Make the Breading

Here's where you can really get creative! We're going to be following Jeannie's Kickin' Fried Fish recipe, but feel free to omit, add, or replace ingredients as you wish.

  1. In a shallow bowl, beat an egg with ⅓ cup milk.
  2. In another bowl, mix together ½ cup bread crumbs, 2 teaspoons roasted onion flakes, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1 teaspoon blackened seasoning (such as Old Bay®), 2 pinches crushed red pepper flakes, ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground sea salt.

4. Coat the Fish

Next, dip each fillet into the egg mixture, and then gently press it into the crumb mixture on both sides. Transfer the coated fillets onto a plate and refrigerate for about 15 minutes to help the crumbs set.

5. Fry the Fish

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F — you'll see why in a second.

Heat 1 ½ teaspoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat (cast iron is best since it heats evenly and gives you an even, crispy crust). Lay the two fillets into the skillets, and pan-fry on each side until golden, or about three minutes per side. Use a pair of tongs ($12; Amazon) to safely flip the fish over. Remove with tongs and drain on a plate lined with a layer of paper towels. Repeat with the remaining two fillets.

To keep the first two fish warm while the last two are frying, transfer them to a baking dish and place in a preheated oven until you're ready to serve.

Favorite Pan-Fried Fish Recipes


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