}?>We had some fairly thick fillets (about one inch) of catfish that I decided to pan fry (or saute, but I usually reserve this word for food that will actually be constantly moved on the pan). I always use a large non-stick skillet whenever I want to pan fry fish, but I had four fillets of catfish. I decided to do an experiment and cook all four at the same time - two on my non-stick skillet and two on my traditional saute pan.
I heated both pans at medium-high heat. While the pans were heating, I seasoned the four fillets simply with salt and pepper. I poured about a tablespoon of oil in both pans and watched the oil until it shimmered. Then I placed two fillets in the non-stick pan and two fillets in the traditional pan. I started with the skin side up.
Since the fillets were about an inch in thickness, I set my timer for 5 minutes. I let the fish sit there and cook, splattering oil everywhere for the duration before attempting to dislodge them. The non-stick was pretty straightforward. I picked up the pan byt he handle and gave it a firm jerk. The fish fillets slide about an inch on the pan. Then I flipped them over with a spatula and started another timer for five minutes. I then moved over to the traditional pan and gave it the same jerk. No movement. I prodded a little with my spatula and it seemed like the fish was pretty much sealed to the pan. I dribbled a little more oil in and let it cook for an additional thirty seconds. Then I tried the jerk again. Nothing. Not wanting to over cook the fish, I went in with my spatula and carefully wedged teh edge of the spatula under the fish. Working my way around the fillet, I managed to release it and flip it over. I did the same with the second. What surprised me was that the color of the fish on the traditional pan was a rich golden brown while the non-stick pan gave me a darker brown crust. It was kind of a pain to scrape the fish off the traditional pan without destroying the fillet though. I started a second timer for the traditional pan - also at 5 minutes.
Once the five minutes were up for each of the pans, I removed them promptly onto a serving plate. In both cases, the fish were perfectly cooked - crispy exterior with almost flaking (but not quite flaky) interior. Also, the color from the traditional pan was a little better than the non-stick (although I couldn't discern a difference while tasting). However, the non-stick pan provides that extra insurance that a flip will be quick, easy, and efficient. In addition, the extra oil used in the traditional pan made for a bigger mess to clean up. When I usually use a non-stick pan, I will actually brush the oil onto the fish fillet and then pan fry without additional oil. This creates very little sizzle or splatter and makes for quick kitchen cleanup.
}?>Pan Fried Fish Fillets
|1 Tbs. oil||heat||pan fry|
Pan frying time
|Fillet Thickness||Cooking Time on each side||Fat|
|Thick - 1 inch||5 minutes||1 Tbs. olive oil|
|Medium - 3/4 inch||4 minutes||1/2 Tbs. olive oil & 1/2 Tbs. butter|
|Thin - 1/2 inch||3 minutes||1 Tbs. butter|
The olive oil should have a high smoke point - use either high quality extra virgin olive oil for more flavor or light olive oil.
Update: Some people have mentioned that you should never sear meat with extra virgin olive oil because of the low smoke point. This is generally true, but high quality extra virgin olive oil typically has a lower acidity than regular extra virgin olive oil. As one example, Bertolli brand extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 406°F. I would not use a supermarket brand extra virgin olive oil for any type of cooking because it would be too easy to exceed the oil's smoke point.