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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

Best Pan for Searing Fish



Fish dishes seem tricky, but they're easier than you may think with the correct pan!
Fish dishes seem tricky, but they’re easier than you may think with the correct pan.

If you love to eat fish, but you don’t ever eat it at home because you feel like it’s too difficult to cook correctly, you are not alone in this world.

In a hurry? My favorite is this carbon steel pan from Lodge. See it at Amazon.

The truth is, I used to feel the same way about cooking fish, especially when it came to my favorite dish of all – salmon.

The good news is that fish is one of the easiest foods to cook once you get it down properly. It takes very little time, yet if you cook it right, people will assume you took a lot of time preparing it for them.

The trick to cooking a beautiful fillet of salmon (or any other fish for that matter) is to get a nice sear on it. It gives the outside of the fish a beautiful crunch and crispiness while locking in the natural flavor of the fish and keeping it juicy on the inside.

The only thing you need to do is make sure you get the best pan that offers you a great sear on the food you are cooking. Today we will look at three different types of frying pans for cooking fish that will all give you a great sear.

Best Pan for Fish SearingBest Features
Lodge 12 Inch Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet. Large Steel Skillet for Family Size Cooking.
1. Lodge 12 Inch Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet great heat retention; good for stovetop to oven cooking
T-fal E83407 Pre-Seasoned Nonstick Durable Cast Iron Skillet / Fry pan Cookware, 12-Inch, Black -2. T-fal E83407 Pre-Seasoned Nonstick Durable Cast Iron Skillet comes pre-seasoned; cast iron is best material for searing food
All-Clad BD55404 D5 Brushed 18/10 Stainless Steel 5-Ply Dishwasher Safe Week Night Pan Cookware, 4-Quart, Silver -3. All Clad BD55404 D5 Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Bonded Pan with Lid excellent heat distribution; deep design makes it great for cooking other foods
Matfer Bourgeat Black Steel Round Fry Pan, 11 7/8"4. Matfer Bourgeat Black Steel Round Fry Pan PTFE and PFOA free; excellent heat distribution
Amazon Brand – Stone & Beam Fry Pan With Lid, 12 Inch, Tri-Ply Stainless Steel5. Amazon Brand – Stone & Beam Fry Pan With Lid oven safe; great for a budget
TECHEF - Onyx Collection, 12-Inch Everyday Pan with Glass Lid, coated with New Teflon Platinum Non-Stick Coating (PFOA Free)6. TECHEF – Onyx Collection, 12-Inch Everyday Pan PFOA free; dual handles for safety
Cuisinart Dishwasher Safe Hard-Anodized 11-Inch Round Grill Pan
6. Cuisinart Dishwasher Safe Hard Anodized 11-Inch Round Grill Pan adds grill lines to food; easy cleanup

Lodge CRS12 Carbon Steel Skillet

Lodge 12 Inch Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet. Large Steel Skillet for Family Size Cooking.

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Carbon steel is great at conducting heat and will be useful in any recipe that calls for searing your food. This pan is made of 12 gauge carbon steel, giving you incredible heat retention and great heat distribution.

You can use it to cook fish on many different surfaces such as gas, electric, induction stovetops, open flames or on the grill.

The best aspect of this pan is that it already comes pre-seasoned, so you don’t need to worry about doing that yourself. The 12-inch cooking surface gives you enough room to sear even the largest fillets of fish (if you need an even larger surface, they have a 15-inch pan as well).

Should you get this pan?

Personally, I do not always like cooking with carbon steel. With that said, it is definitely an excellent surface for searing your foods, and it can go straight from the stovetop to the oven, which is great if you place your fish in the oven after searing.

Overall, if you don’t mind cooking with carbon steel, this is probably a skillet that you will enjoy using, and it can be purchased at a very fair price.

T-fal E83407 Pre-Seasoned Nonstick Cast Iron Skillet

T-fal E83407 Pre-Seasoned Nonstick Durable Cast Iron Skillet / Fry pan Cookware, 12-Inch, Black -

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T-fal makes very good cookware, and this cast iron skillet is just another one off of their long list of reliable products.

The E83407 iron pan has an extra long handle to make it easier to grip when you are cooking fish (but the handle does get hot, so you need to have oven pads nearby when you’re cooking). It comes pre-seasoned so that you can go straight from the store to the kitchen with it, instead of having to take the time to season before you start cooking.

Because the pan is made of cast iron, it can withstand temperatures of up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit and can easily be used on any cooking surface. Plus it will likely last you an entire lifetime if you maintain it properly.

It also has pouring spouts located on either side to help drain any unwanted fats or oils in the pan.

Cast iron cookware is a great material to look for when pan searing fish.
Cast iron cookware is a great material to look for when pan searing fish.

Should you get this pan?

Cast iron is known for giving you great sears on your food. Whenever you have a recipe that requires searing, cast iron cookware should be at the top of the list of acceptable materials. I love that this skillet has so much surface area on it, but this iron pan does have one huge downfall in my opinion.

While cast iron can be used on any surface you can think to cook on, if you have a ceramic or glass cooking top, I would not recommend using this cooking material. Because it is so dense and heavy, an iron pan will scratch your stove top.

All Clad BD55404 D5 Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Bonded Pan with Lid

All-Clad 440465 D3 Stainless Steel All-in-One Pan Cookware, 4-Quart, Silver

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Several people have told me that cooking fish using stainless steel cookware is a bad idea, and on the surface, they are correct. Stainless steel generally does not have non-stick properties, but I have found that putting enough oil on it will keep my fish from sticking to the pan.

The reason I love using stainless steel pots and pans is that I have found that they distribute heat better and more easily than any other cooking surface. Not to mention, stainless steel is shiny and beautiful.

This pan is made of 18/10 stainless steel construction that conducts heat and diffuses it consistently throughout the pan. This means that the pan will have no hot spots giving you an even sear on the entire surface of the meat when you’re cooking fish.

It has a deep design so that you can use it for more than just fish, and it comes with a lid.

And of course, it is made by All-Clad, so you can be sure that you are purchasing a top of the line product. But if you do ever have an issue with this pan, you can contact the manufacturer and claim your lifetime warranty.

Should you get this pan?

Some people do not like cooking fish on stainless steel, but this is a high-quality pan that your food will not stick to it as long as you season it first. However, because it is made of such high-quality stainless steel, this is a pan that you can expect to spend quite a bit of money on.

Matfer Bourgeat Black Steel Round Fry Pan

Matfer Bourgeat Black Steel Round Fry Pan, 11 7/8"

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Wow, I’m not going to lie. Even though I’m not a huge carbon steel fan, after I seasoned this frying pan properly (more on that below), I was amazed at how the nearly 12 inch Matfer Bourgeat perfectly seared my fish. This may become your go-to fish pan if you’re looking for a heavy and durable tool for pan frying.

The Matger Bourgeat weighs over four pounds and has a steel handle welded to the body of the pan. There are no rivets, so bacteria can’t be trapped in that area. It’s made of black carbon steel, a natural material that has no harsh chemicals or coatings; this long lasting pan for frying fish is PTFE and PFOA free, so if you like carbon steel and you’re looking for the best frying pan that promotes healthy cooking, this is probably the pan for you.

This is one of the types of frying pans that have top-notch heat distribution and temperature control. It can be used on all hob and stove types, including induction cooktops. As a plus, this frying pan is also oven safe up to 400 degrees or so.

Should You Get This Pan?

If you are like me and don’t love this material, then you would probably prefer another pan on this list. But if you’re a fan of, or neutral about, carbon steel, then I would advise you to give this pan a try. Its price is comparable to other pans with similar qualities. I also admit that I really do like the fact that it’s PFOA free, as I mentioned above.

I have to add that you absolutely must season this pan before you use it, and not season it as you would a cast iron skillet. You must first rinse off the coating that comes on the pan to protect it during shipping with extremely hot water, dish soap, and a bristle brush. Dry it by placing it on your stovetop at a low heat, then add 1/3 cup oil, 2/3 cup salt, and the peelings of two potatoes–this combination will pull up any remaining wax. Cook over medium heat for around nine minutes, stirring the peelings around. Throw away the contents and allow the pan to cool. Wipe clean with paper towels, and your new pan for fish will be ready to perfectly cook your next meal.

Amazon Brand – Stone & Beam Fry Pan With Lid

Amazon Brand – Stone & Beam Fry Pan With Lid, 12 Inch, Tri-Ply Stainless Steel

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If you’re on the lookout for great cookware for searing fish that can be used on both the stovetop and in the oven, look no further than this Stone & Beam tri-ply cookware. Constructed of an aluminum layer nestled between two layers of stainless steel, this 12 inch frying pan combines the best of two worlds: the durability of stainless steel and the even heat distribution of aluminum.

This is a great pan to use if you would like one for searing the outside of your fish on your stovetop and then placing it in the oven to finish cooking, as it’s completely oven safe. The handle stays cool on the stovetop, but be sure to use oven mitts if you do finish baking the fish in the oven! The Stone & Beam will work for frying fish on either a gas or electric stove. It’s also on the lower end of prices for any fry pan on this list, so if you’re on a budget, take a look at this one.

Should You Get This Pan?

One problem with this fry pan is that it’s not non-stick. The manufacturer also warns against using scouring pads and harsh detergents on this cookware. However, if your food does stick to the pan during cooking, it’s easy to clean if you use warm water and a plastic spatula to scrape off the offending contents. Also, this cookware is dishwasher safe which will save you time and effort in cleaning up.

A plus for this frying pan is that it comes with a vented lid, which is helpful when you want to keep in the heat and steam to make your salmon, flounder, or other fish extra moist and delicious.

TECHEF – Onyx Collection, 12-Inch Everyday Pan

TECHEF - Onyx Collection, 12-Inch Everyday Pan with Glass Lid, coated with New Teflon Platinum Non-Stick Coating (PFOA Free)

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If you’re searching for pans for searing fish that are PFOA free, this is a frying pan that you’ll probably like. The TECHEF fry pan is made of black aluminum with a stainless steel base and handles that stay cool on the hottest stovetop. It works well on induction and glass top stoves, as well.

This pan is coated with Teflon Platinum, a long-life non-stick coating and comes with a lifetime warranty. It has a 12 inch diameter and what I really like about this nonstick frying cookware is that it comes with a glass lid so I was able to keep an eye on how my delicate fish was cooking.

Another great thing about this frying pan is that it has two handles, making it so much safer and easier to remove from a hot oven when you’re using it for baking. It’s oven safe up to 450 degrees and is also dishwasher safe.

Should You Get This Pan?

Although I got really great results from the TECHEF fry pan and I loved the fact that it has dual handles and a glass lid, it does have a couple of down sides. Firstly, I couldn’t use my beloved metal utensils while cooking with it—the coating can be scratched too easily, so you must use a rubber or plastic fish spatula with this pan. That reminds me: while it’s dishwasher safe, you have to be careful when loading the dishwasher to determine that no other dishes or pots and pans are touching the inside of the pan so the coating does not get scratched during the cycle.

Also, I don’t cook with non-stick sprays, but if you do, be warned that they don’t do as well with pans with a Teflon coating such as this one. Using butter, margarine, or oil will provide much better results when you’re using this fry pan.

Cuisinart Dishwasher Safe Hard Anodized 11-Inch Round Grill Pan

Cuisinart Dishwasher Safe Hard-Anodized 11-Inch Round Grill Pan

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This Cuisinart frying pan will delight you because it adds grills lines without the hassle and cleanup that inevitably comes with using an outdoor grill. It makes for a nice, summery grilled aroma and taste to my Friday fish dinner that other pans don’t provide. It’s not just only for cooking fish–it also can be used to grill steaks, hamburgers, pork chops, and chicken for other nights of the week.

I must admit that I don’t have a lot of pots or pans made with hard anodized aluminum, but what I especially appreciate about this pan is that you can cook fish for dinner knowing you’ll have an easy cleanup; the Cuisinart 11-inch round grill pan is non-stick and totally dishwasher safe, and also comes with a limited lifetime warranty. It also costs a bit less than other, comparable hard anodized grill pans, so it’s good for those on a budget who want a quality pan for nonstick frying.

It’s also totally safe to use a metal fish spatula on the non-stick surface of this pan (my favorite set of utensils are stainless steel, so I love the opportunity to use them!), and I like the way the stainless steel handles stay cool while I’m cooking my favorite salmon dish. The pan gives an even distribution of heat which prevents hot spots, so it cooks nice and evenly. It’s almost two inches deep, so I can fry thick servings of tuna, salmon, or other fish (as well as thick-cut steaks or pork chops) with ease.

Should You Get This Pan?

One downside to the Cuisinart pan is that, because it’s aluminum, it won’t work on an induction cooktop. So, if your stove has an induction cooktop, then, no, this pan will not work for you.

If you really enjoy easy clean up and the pleasure that grilled meats give you without the hassle of firing up the charcoal grill and cleaning it up afterward, I would recommend this easy to clean pan for fish cooking.

Wrap – Up

If you are looking to increase your culinary skills, then you will have to learn how to sear your foods. To do that it is recommended you get either carbon steel, cast iron, or stainless steel because these surfaces can withstand the most heat.

I would recommend the stainless steel all clad skillet, but if you are not comfortable with the price of stainless steel cookware, or simply don’t like using them, then the T-fal is a great alternative.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is pan seared fish healthy for you?

Yes and no. I’ll be honest about fish cooking: broiling, grilling, or steaming your fish is a lower-calorie and healthier option. But sometimes you just want the extra deliciousness that frying adds to your fish.

The good news? Pan searing your fish is definitely healthier than deep frying it and is the best frying option. Frying pans that help you do this are a great option and pan frying uses much less fat than when you use your deep fryer. Also, you want to choose something in which to fry your fish that’s healthy. Olive oil is a great fat with proven health benefits that also is stable at the high heat necessary for pan searing.

Although I’m using non-stick pans, my fish is still sticking to the pan. How do I fix this?

If you’re using a pan that came with a non-stick coating, I’d first ensure that the coating hasn’t been scratched by a metal fish spatula or by other cookware scraping against it during washing or storage. If the coating is damaged, I’m sorry to say that you should definitely replace the frying pan.

One good tip is to be sure that your fish is completely dry before you place it in the frying pan to sear it. I would pat it dry with paper towels, especially if it’s been recently frozen and thawed, because you don’t want extra moisture sticking to it. You also may want to check that you’re not cooking at a much too high heat and that you’re using the best pan you have!

You also want to check that your oil is hot enough before you add the fish to the frying pan. I read a great tip online about how to make sure your oil is hot enough: drop a mustard seed into the oil. If it cracks, the oil is hot enough; if it’s not, wait a few minutes and try again until the seed cracks!

Additional Resources:

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: Ralph D. and Jeff P.

Kitchen Professor author
About the Author: David McLemore

David learned to cook at an early age after his mother told him that he couldn't live on pizza forever, Dave uses his modest kitchen skills to recreate sorely-missed recipes from home and to occasionally make new favorite ones from places he is visiting.

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