Best Pan For Fish (Find The Right Skillet & Sear Like A Pro)
It's the fish cookery method beloved by chefs everywhere.
It's quick, ultra controllable, and gives the most amazingly delicious results.
In fact, pan-searing is the only way you’ll get that crispy skin on your fish and have dinner on the table in 5 minutes flat.
To do it all you need is a little knowledge, some practice, and the best pan for fish on your stove.
And if you're wondering which pan will give you the best results we've got you covered.
In this article we’ll take a look at some of the different materials used to make pans. Review some of the best skillets around. And give you a step by step guide on how to get those restaurant like results.
But before we get to it and if you’re in a hurry......
Below are 3 of our favourites.
A Quick Look At 3 Of The Best Pans For Fish
ProCook Elite Tri-Ply Frying Pan
SOLIDTEKNICS US-ION Wrought Iron Skillet
Manufactured from one single piece of sheet iron this pan has no rivets, welds, or week points. And if looked after will probably out live you. At 4.2 lbs in weight it' might be a little heavy for some. While the large 12 inch surface area means it's ideal for those larger fillets or even cooking whole fish on the bone
DeBuyer Heavy Oval French Steel Fry Pan
Every fish cook should consider investing in an oval pan. It's the only shape that will allow you to do a decent job sauteing large whole flat fish on the bone (think flounder, turbot, or the classic black sole meniere) This particular pan is made of carbon steel and at nearly 12 inches in length it offers plenty of surface area to get a nice golden color on mid to large size fillets or whole fish.
Best Frying Pan Material
Chefs love their copper and stainless steel pans for good reason. Their strong, durable, and able to withstand the frantic pace of the pro kitchen.
They also give the best results when it comes to pan-frying fish. There's a knack to using them though and you'll need practice and a little patience (more on this later)
But let's start off with a pan most people already own...
The Non-Stick Pan
Nothing is more heartbreaking than watching an expensive piece of turbot, bass, or snapper you've lovingly prepared get badly stuck to a pan.
And although you'll probably be able to salvage something to eat it won’t be the mouth watering result you'd hoped for.
If you want to be guaranteed this culinary disaster won't happen to you than non-stick is the way to go. It's just that you'll never quite get the same crispy result as you would with a stainless steel pan.
There's a bit of debate around non-stick pans. And whether you love or loathe them, there's some definite advantages to using one when your cooking fish.
Because their non stick you can use less oil (or none at all) when your cooking so it's a healthy option. The inside is also a breeze to clean, very often a quick wipe with a damp cloth gets the job done.
My main gripe with most non stick skillets is that their cheap, poorly made, warp easily, and don’t do well at high temperatures which isn’t great if your searing fish. (anything above 350f/175c tends to damage most of them)
A lot are just thin aluminum or some other low cost alloy coated with a slender layer of polytetrafluoroethylene (that's teflon to you and me)
Their generally not made to last. Metal utensils damage them. You can’t put them in the dishwasher or oven and most end up in the trash after just a couple of months.
There are some decent non-stick pans around made from stainless steel, with heavy bottoms, and a thicker layer of polytetrafluoroethylene thats been reinforced with ceramic and titanium.
Although their able to withstand a higher temperature their a lot more expensive and eventually that non-stick coating wears off.
Although every kitchen should have a non-stick pan and they are great for cooking certain foods (eggs anyone?) it wouldn't be my choice as the best pan for fish.
But if your into healthy eating and don't mind replacing them every so often then they are not as bad as many make out.
Iron skillets on the other hand are the polar opposites to non-stick. Their rugged, hard wareing, and will last a lifetime. Some manufacturers will give you a warranty to that effect when you get one.
They can also handle and maintain the high heat needed to sear fish and work great on gas stoves, BBQ's, hot ovens, induction hobs, or evan campfires.
Although some come pre seasoned, your pan is unlighty to be non-stick before its first use.
So, the best advice is to season it yourself a couple of times to help build up a non-stick layer.
This can take a while but it's not that difficult. All you need to do is rub it well with oil and stick it in the oven for around 30 minutes a couple of times before letting it cool down. There's a quick guide on how to do it here,
And one of the best things about iron skillets is the more you use them the thicker the non-stick coating becomes.
Be warned though, using detergent to clean them or sticking them in the dishwasher will wear away all your hard work. And you'll have to start to build up that non-stick coating from scratch again all over again.
Iron skillets are usually more expensive and need a lot more looking after than their non stick counterparts.
Rust can be a bit of a problem and even if you dry your skillet really well after every use its best to rub it with a little oil to stop any spots forming.(this also helps with your non-stick coating)
One of the downsides of many cast iron skillets is that their porous and can absorb the smell and flavor of any food you cook in them.
This won't be a problem if you keep it just for fish. But beware cooking anything else in it, nobody wants their morning eggs tasting like last night's fish supper.
Fish cooks should also note that anything acidic corrodes iron. So go easy on the lemon or better still remove your fish from the pan before you squeeze any citrus over it.
Stainless Steel Pans
Stainless steel is one of the most commonly used materials for making cookware including fish pans.
Normally cheaper than iron there's several reasons why this is the go-to material for many cooks.
Besides retaining heat well and giving excellent evan cooking results its durable and can withstand severe abuse.
If you have a stainless steel pan, you don’t have to worry that it will chip, rust, or end up with stains.
Heat it to the highest temperature. Put it in the hottest oven. Lob it in the dishwasher and use whatever utensil you like it makes absolutely no difference to the pan.
Remember though a stainless steel pan is not non-stick and never will be. But that's exactly why it's the best pan for fish.
Here’s the deal
Any fish you place in a stainless steel pan is probably going to stick...in the beginning.
Moisture from the fish will adhere it to the pan a bit like glue.
The trick is to control the heat, allow moisture and steam to evaporate, and as the skin dries out the fish will free itself from the surface of the pan.
This leaves you with a deep, golden brown, caramelized crispy result that you'll just never achieve with non-stick.
Searing fish in a stainless steel pan isn't easy the first time you try but once you’ve mastered the technique (follow the step by step guide below) you'll never look back.
Copper is a bit like the Rolls Royce of cookware and as your probably aware it's got a price tag to match.
A copper pan will heat up quickly and it will cool down just as fast. This gives you excellent control over temperature and the cooking process.
Highly prized by chefs for its excellent conductivity, copper is used in everything from electrical wiring to plumbing and car manufacture. And that's why it’s so pricey.
If your going to splurge on a beautiful golden copper pan the one thing you really need to pay attention to is what it's lined with.
Copper on its own is reactive, Acidic foods like lemon, vinegar, and tomatoes damage it and could cause it to leach into food.
Ingesting copper can be toxic and that's why most copper pans are always lined with some other material.
Back in the day this would have been tin. Which wasn’t a bad choice. It doesn't react with food and it also has some impressive non stick properties.
The downside to tin is its relatively low melting point of just 450 f / 230 c which isn't great if you want to sear fish or anything else for that matter.
Luckily these days most copper pans are lined with stainless steel which as we know is great for searing fish.
If you are considering copper pay close attention to how thick the pan is and look for something between 2.5 and 3 mm.
Anything above 3 mm will make it really heavy and it starts to lose its speedy reaction to heat. While if the copper’s too thin it won’t heat evenly.
So is a copper stainless steel lined skillet the best pan for fish?.....probably.
If the cost wasn't so prohibitive. Most of us just couldn't justify the cost.
Evan after 25 years working in kitchens I can count on 1 hand the amount of times I’ve been lucky enough to use a copper pan.
The Best Pan For Fish - 8 Top Picks
Below we’ve reviewed some of the best skillets around from cast iron to stainless steel, copper, and even a couple of decent non-stick options.
Hopefully you'll be able to find something to suit.
Here at Cockles n Mussels we hope you enjoy the products we recommend but we need to let you know that if you decide to purchase something through the links on this page we get a small commission. It helps keep the lights on round here.....Thanks.
ProCook Elite Tri-Ply Frying Pan
Manufactured from stainless steel with an aluminium core for excellent heat distribution and conductivity, this pan from procook boasts a broad flat uncoated surface ideal for searing fish.
A three layer construction makes the pan sturdy and durable. The handle is also stainless steel but specifically designed to stay cool during the cooking process.
The pan is oven safe to 250c / 482f so its ideal for cooking those larger fillets or evan fish on the bone. You can start them off on the stove top and then place the pan in the oven to finish cooking.
SOLIDTEKNICS US-ION Wrought Iron Skillet
Striking a good balance between features and price this wrought iron skillet by solidteknics is an excellent option.
This pan is crafted using locally-sourced American iron, which is very low in carbon steel. The manufacturer uses a patented manufacturing method that involves transforming a single flat sheet of iron into a whole pan.
The benefit of using this technique is that it eliminates the need to use welds, screws and rivets. This enables them to create a one-piece pan, which performs just as efficiently as cast iron. Thanks to this unique build, you’ll never have to worry about the handle coming off.
Another noteworthy feature regarding the pan’s construction is that it’s finished raw before being coated lightly with natural beeswax. This is done to prevent the pan from rusting over time.
The fact that it’s compatible with every source of heat is another aspect that makes it perfect for preparing fish. Whether you’re cooking on a camp fire, grilling, or baking in the oven, the iron pan’s excellent thermal conductivity makes it versatile. The only place you can’t use the Wrought Iron is in a microwave.
Cuisinart 722-30G Chef's Classic Skillet With Glass Cover
This is the only pan on the list that comes with a lid which makes it a little more versatile. Besides searing fish with it you could make soups, stews, or slow braises in the oven.
Covering with a lid allows food to cook more evenly by keeping the heat in the pan and the added benefit is that it drastically reduces cooking time.
To further improve its performance, the skillet’s base is reinforced with aluminum to facilitate an even and efficient cooking. The interior is mainly made of stainless steel so as to create a surface that doesn’t react with the food contents.
The pan has a diameter of 12 inches. So it’s big enough to allow you to cook several pieces of fish simultaneously. You can cook a variety of foods other than fish such as pancakes, pork chops, chicken and more.
One thing that sets this fish pan apart is that it comes with a lifetime warranty. which covers any defects in materials and workmanship, and it can be claimed at any time.
Mr Rudolf 18/10 Tri-Ply Bonded Nonstick Frying Pan Skillet
If you're looking for a pan for searing fish but are on a limited budget than this nonstick granite reinforced skillet wouldn't be a bad option.
It can be used on virtually any stove-top; be it gas, electric, glass or induction stoves. The only thing the manufacturer recommends is that you use a stove that corresponds to its size.
The exterior of the pan is stainless steel. While the inside is covered with three layers of nonstick coating, it's totally PFOA & APEO free.
The ergonomically-designed handle provides a firm grip and it’s heat-resistant to prevent burns when you’re handling the hot pan.
All-Clad 4112NSR2 Non-Stick Fry Pan
The All-Clad 4112NSR2 is another pan worth looking into. It’s designed with a wide flat base and an exceptional low-profile shape that makes it easy to flip fish over.
Like the Mr Rudolf pan, this one also sports a tri-ply bonded construction. It's made from stainless steel, with an aluminium core, and 3 layers of nonstick cover the interior.
The aluminum core conducts heat well and ensures that there’s an even distribution of temperature which helps your fish to cook evenly.
One thing we like about this pan is that it’s constructed from PFOA-free nonstick coating. This means that it contains zero traces of the PFOA chemical, which is an example of a harmful polytetrafluoroethylene material that has been linked to some diseases like cancer and kidney damage in humans.
Another good feature is the contoured ergonomic stainless steel handle which is comfortable to hold and firmly riveted to the base of the pan for added durability
The pan is compatible with any stove-top that you can think of; gas, electric, oven, and even induction.
Cooks Standard 02477 2 Piece Nonstick Fry Pan Set
If you're looking for value for money then this little fry pan set could be ideal because you're basically getting 2 skillets for the price of 1. Both pans are nonstick and you get a 9.5 and an 11 inch. So no matter what size fish you cook you'll have the pan to match..
Right off the bat, you’ll notice that both pans are well-built. This is because their surfaces have been anodized to make them more durable.
Anodization subjects the aluminum material used for their construction to a process that boosts the metal’s natural coating of oxide. This results in a very tough, non-stick and scratch-resistant surface that’s not too bad for cooking fish.
The handle is made of stainless steel and it’s attached to the pan using rivets. The rivets hold it firmly in place while the stainless steel build enhances its durability.
And like most of the pans we’ve reviewed, this one also works with a variety of stovetops including gas, electric, glass, halogen and ceramic. It’s also oven-safe, making it fit for those cooks who like to bake their fish.
Mauviel 6544.30 M'Heritage M250C Frying Pan
If you don’t mind splurging on high-end cookware, then you should consider purchasing the Mauviel M250C Frying Pan. Unlike other pans that are made of either nonstick material, anodized aluminum, or stainless steel, this one boasts a copper construction. This explains why it’s so pricey.
The 11.8-inch copper made pan offers several perks. For one, this material gives it a lovely appearance that cannot be compared to the conventional look of a stainless steel or nonstick fish pan.
Moreover, copper is revered for being able to warm up quickly and distribute heat evenly. Not only does this ensure that the fish will cook evenly but it also gives you superior control of the cooking process.
Essentially, you’re able to achieve precise temperature and maintain it, which is vital when you’re cooking fish with a delicate texture.
Another feature I love about this pan is that it also has a stainless steel interior. This hard wearing material is suitable for all kinds of cooking activities, enhances the pan’s durability, and as we’ve already discussed gives the crispiest results.
The handle on this pan is designed to stay cool throughout the cooking process. Made of stainless steel, you won’t have to worry about this handle getting too hot to hold when you’re preparing your favorite meal. Better yet, it’s reinforced with an iron electroplated finish that gives it a sleek design.
As you should expect from such an expensive investment, the pan works well with nearly all cooking surfaces. Whether you’re using a gas, electric, or halogen stove-top, you’re guaranteed to get a good performance from it.
DeBuyer Heavy Oval French Steel Fry Pan
Even though it’s not as common, carbon steel is another option when it comes to the material used for making fish pans. The DeBuyer Heavy Fry Pan is a good example of a pan made from carbon steel.
There are several reasons why DeBuyer chooses carbon steel for this pan’s construction. For one, it’s nonstick as long as you season it properly. And unlike Teflon if the coating wears off you can replace it by seasoning it again
Carbon steel also makes the pan one of the most durable options without driving its price too high. Carbon steel has a fairly similar composition to cast iron; it consists of 1% carbon and 98 to 99% iron. This alloy combination creates a really tough material; hence, guaranteeing you a long-lasting service.
Another distinct feature of the DeBuyer pan is its oval shape. Depending on the way you look at it, this design has certain disadvantages and benefits.
In terms of benefits, this pan is able to accommodate larger pieces of fish better. Whatever you’re cooking the oval shape will give you a wide surface area to work with.
Large oval shaped pans are the only type that allow you to cook large flat fish on the bone. Think turbot, brill, or the classic black sole meuniere.
That said, oval pans don’t fit as well as their round-shaped counterparts on stove-tops. A majority of stoves are tailored for cookware with a circular base. Unfortunately, this means that heat might not get distributed evenly on the pan.
This can cause some portions of the fish to under-cook and others to overcook. Chefs get around this in restaurants because we’ve got solid top burners.
At home just move the pan around for evan cooking or get the it going over 2 burners and monitor the cooking process closely.
Best Pan For Fish - A Few Other Things To Consider
Although the material used to make a pan should probably be your main concern.There are a few other things to consider when you're looking for the best pan for fish. First off...
Why Size Matters
As a general rule the bigger the pan the better. Even if you only cook a small fillet it needs plenty of room to swim around.
Using a big pan allows moisture and steam to escape. Overcrowding a small pan with too much fish nearly guarantees a soggy skin. Either that or your fish will be overcooked before the skin ever turns crispy.
This is the very reason why pan-frying fish for a big crowd is problematic. You'll never really get any more than 3/4 portions in the pan at a time no matter how big it is.
So, if you’ve got a large family or a big crowd to feed the best advice is to get 2 pans on the go.
A Really Quick Note On Handles
Never buy a pan with a wooden handle and don't touch anything plastic or rubber either because obviously they are not oven safe.
Sometimes after you’ve seared a piece of fish you'll need to move it to the oven to finish cooking, especially if it's on the bone or a particularly large fillet.
You might want to look for a pan with a short handle too. Or measure your oven before you buy to make sure the pan will fit inside.
Having the option to move your crispy fish, pan and all, from the stove top to the oven is a great one to have.
A pan that is overly lightweight is not only inefficient at heating and maintaining any temperature but it’s also a hazard.
Imagine having blisteringly hot oil in a light pan, and then accidentally knocking it over.
It happens all the time.
If you’ll be using the pan exclusively for frying, then you’ll want to invest in a reasonably-weighted pan that cannot be knocked over easily.
Cast iron or heavy bottomed stainless steel pans are much safer options, then lightweight,cheap aluminium non-stick. Especially if you’ve got kids around.
How To Sear Fish - A Quick Step By Step Guide
Whenever your searing fish remember that moisture is the enemy of a crisp, perfectly cooked, piece of mouth-watering fish.
And we’ll be doing all we can to neutralize the enemy.
Here's how it's done.
Using The Best Pan To Sear Fish - A Quick Primer
Wash and dry your fish really really well.
Cut incisions about 1cm deep every 2cm along the skin of the fish. This will stop it curling up like a banana when it hits the heat and keep it in contact with the pan.
Leave the fish outside the fridge skin side up for about an hour before you plan on cooking it. This brings it to room temperature which helps it cook evenly. It also dries out the skin a little more.
Heat a large stainless steel pan on the stove for about a minute than add a thin film of oil
Once the oil starts to shimmer, give the fish one last dry in a cloth, and carefully place it in the pan skin side down. Lay it in away from you so as not to get hit with any splattering oil.
Gently press the fish to the surface of the pan with a spatula to make sure it's fully in contact with the heat.
At this stage, the fish will probably be stuck to the pan and you'll start to panic.....Don't.
And don't be tempted to go poking at it either, just let it cook.
Keep watching the fish as it cooks. After what seems an eternity but was probably about 2 minutes you'll notice it turning brown around the edges. and the flesh starting to turn opaque,
When the flesh has turned opaque about halfway up the side of the fillet it's time to check if it's released itself from the pan. This will only happen when the skin has dried out and the proteins and sugars have started to form a deep golden-brown crust.
Gently rock the pan back and forth to see if the fish is free and gently slide a spatula under the fish. If you feel any resistance stop, wait, and be patient. If the fish is still stuck at this point, turn the heat down and let it cook on.
After another minute try again and once you can get a spatula under the fish gently flip it over.
Fry the fish on the other side for 1 to 2 minutes until cooked then remove it from the pan and rest for a little while.
Well done !
You’ve cooked the perfect piece of seared fish now it's time to gobble down your hard work.
Cooking fish isn’t an exact science at the best of times. And if you’re gonna pan fry like a pro you'll need patience and practice. But after you've done it a couple of times you get a real feel for it and be amazed at just how easy it is.
Final Word On The Best Pan For Fish
When you're searching for the best pan to sear fish there are certain attributes you should look for. Compared to other proteins, fish is far more delicate. So, you need a pan that gives you the best control.
Overall, A copper pan (if you can afford one) will always win hands down as the best material because of its superb heat conductivity. Just make sure it's lined with stainless steel to ensure you always get a crispy result.
However, stainless and carbon steel pans although not quite as efficient are much cheaper options than copper.
A good example is this Wrought Iron Skillet by Solidteknics. It sports a one-piece design that improves hygiene, durability, and makes it easy to clean. Personally, I love the fact that it’s nearly indestructible.
If it's out of your price range, the Cuisinart Chef’s Classic is a great alternative. It’s more affordable, made of stainless steel, and gives a great result.
Sole meuniere anyone?
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