How on earth do I pan fry fish without it turning to hell?

For the fish: Stainless steel pan
Oil heated until it sizzles when droplets of water are thrown in
Plain fish, skin side down first
Try and flip, it falls apart...

Any advice on this?

  • you really need to break this into two question ... and you likely want to phrase the knife skills one differently, as it's not really answerable in its present form. (perhaps ask about how to improve your skills, but then people might think it's opinion-based, and vote to close)
    – Joe
    Jul 22, 2014 at 15:58
  • Sorry, but there are multiple problems here. First, please only post one question per "thread" (it is totally OK to ask two separate question short after each other if you want to ask two different things). Second, we only do objective answers here. The "how long" knife question has no objective answer, it is totally dependent on the person. So, it wouldn't fit if you ask it again. Third, the fish question is a good fit for the site by itself, but it has been asked before. So I have to close the edited rest as a duplicate.
    – rumtscho
    Jul 22, 2014 at 16:45
  • I am aware that this is a bit too much for a new user, and probably pretty disappointing, but we really function differently from a discussion forum, and so can't accept the same kind of question. We have a help center which explains the basic rules, cooking.stackexchange.com/help. The first 2-3 topics under the "asking questions" heading would be relevant here: cooking.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask, cooking.stackexchange.com/help/closed-questions.
    – rumtscho
    Jul 22, 2014 at 16:48

2 Answers 2


Fish is just so darned delicate and has so much protein. It sticks to everything and falls apart.

If I want my fish filet to stay whole I will do one of the following:

1- Use a higher fat fish that will hold together such as salmon or tuna
2- Poach the fish instead of frying
3- Use a teflon pan and don't try and get up to searing temps. I only use teflon pans for eggs and fish.

I suppose another alternative is to use enough oil that you are essentially deep frying the fish but I don't like it.

  • I'll have to look into poaching. How similar does the fish turn out in texture and flavor compared to frying?
    – user26090
    Jul 22, 2014 at 16:32
  • @user26090 The texture of the flesh is great, but you can't get a crispy skin that way. Don't even try.
    – Jolenealaska
    Jul 22, 2014 at 16:37
  • Poaching is great for very delicate foods. Fish is often poached in a flavor milk broth. As Jolene says- you can't cook it past the boiling point of water so the skin will never brown or get crispy. Jul 22, 2014 at 16:39
  • 1
    @user26090 Also- not that I mind the free rep- but it is generally considered good form to wait a couple days before accepting an answer to make sure you choose the best one. Jul 22, 2014 at 16:40

Some fish is simply too tender to stay together when flipped, even if you are very gentle. There's 2 ways you can deal with this:

  1. Use a different fish: some fish like monkfish are very steaky and you can flip them easily. Thick pieces of haddock or other white fish can also can work if you are gentle with them.
  2. Don't flip it: I typically won't flip most fish, what I do instead is fry it in a pan, then transfer the pan to the oven for a few minutes to cook the fish through. You'll need to use a pan which is oven-safe, cheapo non-sticks usually do not fit the bill
  • 2a. or set it under the broiler element to add color and texture to the top.
    – Michael E.
    Jul 22, 2014 at 19:07
  • You can as long as your pan is broiler safe. I wouldn't trust a non-stick but an all-metal pan would be fine that way.
    – GdD
    Jul 22, 2014 at 19:09

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