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Pan searing is one of our favorite ways to cook fish. Follow our guide for a crispy, golden outside, and a tender and juicy inside that produces the most delicious pan seared fish every time!

Pan seared fish on a plate.

Chicken, beef, pork, and the like are all classic protein options that we all know and love. But, if you don’t eat meat — or are simply tired of classics like roasted chicken or pork chops — seafood is another great option! Fish is one of those proteins that is so versatile. You can bake it, roast it, or grill it, and one of our personal favorite cooking methods is pan-seared. Many chefs have a tendency to feel intimidated when it comes to preparing fish at home. We promise you, this is easier than you think! Cooking fish in a pan is a simple and straightforward method. It’s also one of the fastest ways to cook seafood. You’ll need minimal equipment (just a pan and your stove!) and you can marinate and season it in a myriad of ways. You can transform any type of fish into a flavorful dish. It only takes a few minutes to prepare and the results are simply delicious.

How To Choose The Perfect Fillet:

Learning how to pan sear fish starts with learning how to choose the perfect fillet of fish. If you’re lucky and live near the water, we always recommend sourcing fish locally. There’s nothing quite like freshly caught fish! Otherwise, you can head to the fish counter at your local grocery store. Wherever you purchase yours, look for fillets with a mild smell. Fresh is preferable, though frozen and defrosted are very common as well. A strong “fishy” or ocean smell is an indicator that the fish is not fresh, so be on the lookout!

Different Types of Fish Fillets:

Fish comes in all shapes and sizes. It makes sense considering how many different types of fish there are on the market. Thin fillets, like tilapia or sole, will require less cooking time and are more prone to breaking when flipped. Thicker fillets like halibut, sea bass, or cod are much sturdier and will hold together better. Fish steaks like swordfish or salmon require much longer cooking times, about 8-10 minutes per inch of thickness. Choose your preference!

A Note On Frozen Fish:

Fish can be purchased frozen in single filets or larger quantities. Fish should thaw overnight in the refrigerator, or can thaw immersed in cold water only. Once defrosted, fish should be used immediately.

Should I Remove The Skin?

We’re personally huge fans of seared fish with the skin on it. It crackles and crisps up so nicely, and the added bit of fat from the skin can lend a lot of extra flavors. If you choose to cook your fish with the skin on, sear it skin side first. And, if you want to remove skin, make sure to do so carefully with a sharp knife before you get started.

Can I Marinate Pan Seared Fish?

Absolutely! Seared fish is delicious when it’s been marinated. An important point to mention is that you should never marinate fish for longer than 15 minutes. Unlike other proteins like beef or lamb, the acidity of the marinade will break down the fish if you leave it for longer.

Overhead view of a plate with pan seared fish.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

If you have any leftover seared fish, you can store it for up to 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge. We recommend that you reheat it in the microwave in 30-second increments until warmed through.

If you like this recipe, you may be interested in these other delicious fish recipes:

Watch the video below where Rachel will walk you through every step of this recipe. Sometimes it helps to have a visual, and we’ve always got you covered with our cooking show. You can find the complete collection of recipes on YouTubeFacebook Watch, or our Facebook Page, or right here on our website with their corresponding recipes.

Pan searing is one of our favorites ways to cook fish. Follow our guide for a crispy, golden outside, and a tender and juicy inside that produces the most delicious pan seared fish every time!
Ingredients
  • 4 (6 ounce) fish filets halibut, sea bass, cod, tilapia, sole
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon , juiced (about 1/4 cup)

Fish Seasoning Mix

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Instructions
  • Use a sharp knife to trim the fish of any undesired skin. Most fish can be eaten with the skin on. This is a matter of personal preference. If you choose to cook your fish with the skin on, sear the skin side first.
  • Season both sides of each fillet with your desired seasonings or immerse in a marinade for up to 15 minutes.
  • Heat a heavy skillet over high heat. Once heated, add in olive oil and let heat briefly until shimmering, about 1 minute.
  • Lay fillets carefully into the hot oil. Cook the fish 2/3 of the way through. Once fish is 2/3 of the way through cooking time, flip and continue cooking until done.
  • Check fish to see if it is cooked through. Actual cooking time will depend on how thick the fillet is. The fish should no longer be translucent and should flake easily with a fork. If it needs additional time, lower the heat to medium and continue cooking until done. Drizzle lemon juice over finished fish.
Notes

Sweet Honey-Garlic Marinade

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

Spicy Latin Marinade

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Thai Inspired Marinade

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 limes, juiced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons crushed garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
How to Pan Sear Fish
Pan searing is one of our favorites ways to cook fish. Follow our guide for a crispy, golden outside, and a tender and juicy inside that produces the most delicious pan seared fish every time!
Ingredients
  • 4 (6 ounce) fish filets halibut, sea bass, cod, tilapia, sole
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lemon , juiced (about 1/4 cup)

Fish Seasoning Mix

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Instructions
  • Use a sharp knife to trim the fish of any undesired skin. Most fish can be eaten with the skin on. This is a matter of personal preference. If you choose to cook your fish with the skin on, sear the skin side first.
  • Season both sides of each fillet with your desired seasonings or immerse in a marinade for up to 15 minutes.
  • Heat a heavy skillet over high heat. Once heated, add in olive oil and let heat briefly until shimmering, about 1 minute.
  • Lay fillets carefully into the hot oil. Cook the fish 2/3 of the way through. Once fish is 2/3 of the way through cooking time, flip and continue cooking until done.
  • Check fish to see if it is cooked through. Actual cooking time will depend on how thick the fillet is. The fish should no longer be translucent and should flake easily with a fork. If it needs additional time, lower the heat to medium and continue cooking until done. Drizzle lemon juice over finished fish.
Notes

Sweet Honey-Garlic Marinade

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

Spicy Latin Marinade

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Thai Inspired Marinade

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 limes, juiced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 teaspoons crushed garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
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