What Is The Best Fish To Pan Fry (Freshwater & Saltwater)?

As a lean meat, fish is extremely healthy, and it contains many nutrients, omega fatty acids, and proteins that are good for the body.

However, fish also tends to be notoriously tricky to cook, particularly for newbies. When cooked well, fish fillets are delicious, flaky, and very flavorful.

However, when cooked poorly, these very same fish fillets can be rubbery, greasy, and extremely distasteful to eat.

So, if you want to add fish to your diet, learning how to cook them first is a good idea. So, if you are wondering, what is the best fish to pan fry, we have prepared a comprehensive guide to help you out!

What is the Best Fish to Pan Fry?

A good rule of thumb when it comes to picking fish for pan-frying is to opt for fish with white flesh.

Furthermore, when you’re getting fish for pan-frying, you have the freedom to choose between two major categories, freshwater and saltwater fish.

The following is a breakdown of which fish to pick from each category:

Freshwater Fish

The best freshwater fish for pan frying are:

  • Catfish
  • Trout
  • Bass

Saltwater Fish

The best saltwater fish for pan frying are:

  • Tilapia
  • Alaskan Cod
  • Catfish
  • Halibut
  • Striped Bass
  • Spotted Sea trout
  • Perch
  • Shrimp

There is a difference between trout, catfish, and bass found in freshwater and saltwater, but they are perfect for pan-frying.

Avoid picking fatty fish like tuna or salmon for pan-frying. The meat tends to have too much oil and is very dense, which makes it difficult to cook it properly.

Related read: Is Pan Frying Actually Healthy?

Why Should You Pan Fry Fish?

If you’re eating fish for its nutritious value, pan-frying it is one of the best and healthiest cooking methods. Pan-frying, also known as sautéing, is a high-temperature cooking method.

Studies have shown that deep-frying fish converts the healthy omega 3 fatty acids found in fish to the omega 6 fatty acids.

Fish meat is also delicate, and exposure to too much oil and too much heat can also ruin the nutrients in the meat. Given this aspect, pan-frying is the healthiest alternative.

The method uses high-temperature, but it does not expose the meat to as much oil as deep frying would.

Pan-frying is also easy and takes minimal time to get the dish ready. If you want to have a quick, nutritious meal that is ready within 15 minutes, pan-frying the fish is going to be the best method for you.

What Difference the Type of Fish makes when pan-frying?

Focusing on the different types of fish is necessary because not all fish are made equal. Some are fatty fish that contain a lot of oil, whereas others are leaner and can have no flavor.

Similarly, each fish type also has a distinct flavor to it that sets them apart from the rest.

It also makes them more suited for individual cooking styles more than others.

For pan-frying fish, you should opt for neutral fish flavors that are not too oily. Additionally, only use freshly caught fish or properly frozen fish fillets for pan-frying.

Other cuts of fish tend to be trickier to cook and are more likely to fall apart. Similarly, fish with skin needs to be adequately prepared before you cook it. Pan-frying them improperly can mean that they end up getting stuck to the pan.

The high heat of the pan-frying cooking method can also mean that delicate fish can get overcooked.

In comparison, with dense, oily meat, there is a higher chance of improper cooking and uneven texture. By picking fish that we have listed above, you can ensure that you get a delicious, pan-fried fish fillet every time.

How to Pick the Best Oils to Pan Fry Fish

Apart from picking the best fish type, you also need to focus on the oil type you use.

The oil used for pan-frying does a lot more than just cook the fish. The oil you pick affects the taste of the fish, how well it cooks, and the texture of the fillet as well.

This is why; you need to pick the oils you use very carefully. A good idea is to consider the following three major points when you are making your selection:

The Flavor of the Oil

First, you need to make sure to pick an oil that has a neutral flavor. Fish is a delicate meat and tends to absorb the flavors of the oils and spices that it is cooked with.

Heavy oils will become overbearing and overpower the natural flavors of the fish you pick.

The Smoke Point of the Oil

The smoke point refers to when the oil reaches maximum temperature. At this temperature, it starts to break down and will be unusable.

It gives an acrid taste and is more likely to burn faster than the meat can cook. Make sure to pick oils that have a high smoke point for this reason.

By focusing on these, you can pick an oil type that complements the fish and the pan-frying cooking method. The end result will be a delicious fish fillet if you pick oils based on these factors.

Also read: Can You Season a Cast-Iron Pan with Olive Oil? + Best Oils to Season

What are the Best Oils to Pan Fry Fish In?

If you don’t know what kind of oil is the right choice, we will make things easier for you by narrowing down your options.

The following are some of the best oils that you can use to pan-fry the fish in. To help you out, we’re also listing down some benefits and their smoke point too:

Peanut Oil

Smoke Point – 450 degrees

Peanut oil is a good choice because it has the following benefits:

  • Easily available
  • Neutral flavor

Canola Oil

Smoke Point – 400 degrees

Canola oil is a good choice because it has the following benefits:

  • Easily available
  • Neutral flavor
  • Contains healthy fatty acids

Coconut Oil

Smoke Point – 450 degrees

Coconut oil is a good choice because it has the following benefits:

  • Very healthy
  • Easily available
  • Has a neutral flavor
  • Contains healthy fatty acids

All of these are great oils to use when you want to pan-fry fish. However, make sure to keep your food and nut allergies in mind. Peanut oil and coconut oil can trigger food allergies in people.

Moreover, never use olive oil for pan-frying.

Despite being a healthy oil, it has a very low smoke point and is more likely to burn and stick to the pan. This can make pan-frying extremely difficult.

What is the Best Pan for Pan Frying Fish?

If you’re cooking fish and your fillet is falling apart, you may be using the right type of pan.

Instead of using a non-stick pan, focus on other aspects as well. The best options are stainless steel pans and cast iron skillets or pans.

Cast iron skillets and pans are favored mainly because they are seasoned and regulate heat pretty well. This ensures that the fillet is cooked correctly, has good flavor.

It also makes sure that the fillet does not stick or break apart in the pan.

Stainless steel pans are a good option, but they can still be a bit tricky to use. You need to make sure that you heat up the pan thoroughly before you try to pan fry on it. If the pan isn’t warmed properly, the fish fillet will stick to it and break easily.

Tips to Keep in Mind When Pan Frying Fish

Now that you know that oil type, fish type, and pan type too, you can get started on pan-frying your fish fillets today!

However, there are a few other aspects to keep in mind. The following are our top suggestions to keep in mind when you are pan-frying fish:

Be Mindful of the Heat

Pay close attention to the heat.

Even though pan-frying is a process that makes use of high heat methods, fish is still delicate.

If you overcook it, it will tend to become leathery and be tough in texture.

Coat the Fish with Batter

For pan-frying, it is always a good idea to coat the fish in some batter. The batter works as a protective barrier against the high heat, helping to keep moisture in the meat and preventing the fish from getting overcooked.

You can also add spices to the batter, which enhances the flavor of the fish.

Prep the Fish Properly

Apart from the pan, you also need to make sure that you prep the fish properly.

However, make sure that you de-bone and clean all fillets properly. Leaving the skin on is a matter of personal preference since some enjoy the crispy skin.

Be Careful When Cooking in Batches

Pay attention to the temperature of the pan when you’re cooking more than one fish fillet. You want to make sure that you don’t have to continually bring the pan or the oil up to temperature as you take out the fillet and add more.

Temperature fluctuations can make a difference too.

With these things in mind, you don’t just learn what is the best fish to pan fry but can also figure out how to pan-fry well.

I hope you found this article useful!

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