Pan Fried Fish in a Cast Iron Pan

Pan fried fish has never been as easy or as enticing as with these seared fish fillets with crisp skin. Easy and works with halibut, snapper, salmon, trout, and virtually any other fish.

Cast Iron Pan Fish

This easy pan fried fish recipe is as easy as it gets. We understand that it’s easy to be timid about cooking seafood, but this technique works perfectly to put a sear and a crisp skin on any fish fillet.

  • 4 to 6 (5-ounce) fish fillets, skin on and bones out (such as halibut, snapper, flounder, salmon, or trout from the Carolina Meat & Fish Co)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, ghee, coconut oil, or extra-virgin olive oil (1 oz)
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced, for serving
  • Chopped fresh herbs, for serving (optional, clip from our farm)
  • Homemade Tartar Sauce (optional or we sell)

DIRECTIONS

  • 1. Using the tip of a sharp knife, score the skin side of each fillet with shallow incisions, being careful to cut through the skin but not through the fish. This will help prevent the skin from curling at the edges. Pat the fish completely dry.
  • 2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet or sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the fat to the skillet and let it warm.
  • 3. Salt both sides of the fish. Add the fish to the pan, skin side down, and let it cook undisturbed until it’s cooked about 2/3 of the way through. The exact timing will depend on the thickness of the fish fillet but figure about 3 minutes for thin fillets such as flounder and about 7 minutes for thick fillets such as salmon. You can baste the fish with the fat as it is cooking if you want but do not move the fish or else the skin will not crisp. You can tell how done the fish is by looking at the side of the fillet and watching where the fish is opaque.
  • 4. Once the fish is cooked most of the way through and the skin is golden brown and crisp, flip the fish. (If you think the fish is ready to be flipped but try to coax the skin from the skillet with a slender metal spatula and the skin sticks to the pan, give it another 30 seconds or so and try it again.) After you flip the fish so it’s skin side up, cook just until the fillet is cooked through. This should only take a minute or two for thin fillets and about 4 minutes for thick fillets. Keep an eye on the fish as you cook it, as overcooked fish loses its delicate flavor and can become “fishy” tasting and dry.
  • 5. Arrange the fish on plates and garnish with lemon slices and herbs, if desired. (These seemingly unnecessary garnishes go a long way in imparting flavor to the fish. They also come in handy to cover any blemishes that may have occurred when you stuck the tip of a knife into the fish to check for doneness or where the skin stuck to the skillet.)
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