Pan-frying, also called shallow-frying or sautéing, is one of the quickest and simplest ways to prepare seafood – and one of the tastiest. The contrast of the moist flesh and crisp skin provides great texture and the butter or oil used to fry, plus simple seasonings such as salt, pepper and lemon juice, add great flavour.
Tips for Successful Pan-Frying:
- Remove seafood from the fridge 15 – 30 minutes before cooking to allow it to come to room temperature. This is particularly important if fish is quite thick or being served rare.
- Have garnishes, sauces and other accompaniments ready before you start to cook the seafood, so it can be served as soon as it’s cooked.
- Pat food dry on paper towel before cooking.
- Oil the food rather than the pan to prevent excess smoking.
- Season food with salt flakes, freshly ground pepper or other spices before cooking.
- Use a clean, heavy-based pan and preheat over a high heat – this will help prevent food from sticking.
- Arrange fillets in a single layer, with enough room to use a thin wide fish slice (egg lifter); don’t use tongs as they may break delicate fillets.
- Cook fillets with the skin on to help hold the flesh together and protect it from the heat of the pan.
- Cook skin-side down first for about 70% of the cooking time (until the sides are opaque), then turn and cook the other side briefly to finish.
- Thin fillets with skin on will sometimes curl as they begin to cook, to prevent this, press down gently with a fish slice or flat spatula until skin starts to cook.
- Remove seafood from the heat just before it’s fully cooked; the flesh is so delicate that it will continue cooking in the residual heat.
- Sashimi-grade fish can be seared and served rare in the centre.
- Add a knob of butter to the pan once the fish is turned and use this to baste, finish with a squeeze of lemon juice just before removing it from the pan.
- Chefs often pan-fry fish fillets or steaks to brown one side, then turn them and place the pan in a 200ºC oven for a few minutes to finish cooking; if doing this ensure the pan has a heatproof handle and remember that the handle will be hot for some time after it’s removed from the oven.
What to Pan-fry:
- Any fish fillets, steaks or cutlets.
- Peeled prawns.
- Yabby, marron, bug or rocklobster meat.
Whatever you have in the fridge or pantry can make a quick accompaniment to pan-fried seafood:
- Boiled or baked potatoes.
- Tomato salsa.
- Green salad.
- Canned white beans tossed with chopped herbs.
- Steamed vegetables.
- Whole-egg mayonnaise mixed with chilli paste, herbs, wasabi, horseradish or chutney.