Crispy Pan-Fried Fish

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If Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results then me pan-frying fish = insanity. For years, I’ve been consistently screwing it up, cooking it in such a way that the fillet sticks to the bottom of the skillet and turns into a sad, mangled mess when I try to remove it. I’ve made minor adjustments here and there hoping for a breakthrough: more oil, less oil, high heat, low heat. Every once in a blue moon I get lucky and achieve a beautifully golden, intact fillet but not often. And curiously enough, my go-to cookbooks, those penned by some of the world’s greatest chefs, don’t shed much light on a better way to cook it either. Their instructions for pan-frying fish are always some version of heat oil in pan, add fish, cook evenly on each side.

So I figured it was me. My skills. Or my equipment. I don’t own any nonstick skillets. Is everyone using nonstick skillets? Or what? What am I doing wrong?

A few weeks ago, I was pan-frying some tilapia for lunch — and I did what I always do and got what I always get: a beat-up piece of fish with the crispy, outer crust (the best part!) glued to the bottom of the skillet. I stared at the fillet on my plate, which was now staring back at me in separate, stringy pieces. Frustrated, I rose from my chair, stomped over to my computer and Googled, “How the $#%^#$& do you cook fish so it doesn’t #$&*^#$ stick to the bottom of the#@&$^*& pan?????”

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And Google gave me an answer.

The pan needs to be hot before you add the oil.

Add the oil to a hot, dry pan THEN add the fish. Voilà! No more sticking! Golden, evenly-cooked fish with a crispy exterior. Perfect every time. #@$@#$! Thank you, internets.

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One Response to “Crispy Pan-Fried Fish”

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