How to Pan-Sear Seafood
Pan-searing uses high heat to quickly brown food in a skillet. Perfectly pan-seared fish is moist and tender on the inside; golden brown and delicately crisp on the outside.
- Heat a heavy bottomed non-stick skillet on High.
- Season fish with salt and pepper, dust lightly with Wondra flour.
- When skillet is hot add 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil. When oil begins to lightly smoke, place fish in skillet and sear until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. (Searing requires high heat to quickly brown fish. Take care not to overcook.)
- Turn fish over and cook another 1 to 2 minutes or until inside of fish is milky white. (To estimate total cooking time for fish use the "10-Minute Rule" below. Start checking for doneness a couple minutes earlier.)
Check for Doneness - Just sneak a peak!
Cooked fish is milky white or milky pink in color. When you think the fish might be done, use the tip of a paring knife to gently probe the center of the thickest part of the fillet. Sneak a peak at the color. Don't cut the fillet open or dig a hole. Just slip the knife in the center of the flake to see the color.
Answers to your "Searing" Questions
"What is the best pan to use?"
We recommend a heavy bottomed nonstick skillet that is large enough to hold seafood in a single layer without crowding. The nonstick surface lets you keep your use of cooking fats to a minimum and still prevent sticking. Cooking for one? Choose a smaller (8 inch) skillet so that the fish fills up most of the space in the pan when cooking very thin fillets, or meat. Because Wondra flows smoothly, it's ideal for dusting seafood. The result is a very thin even coating.
Some cooks prefer not to use flour or other coatings on fish. Since the coating helps form a crust, unfloured fillets may fall apart more easily. Firmer fish (like salmon, tuna or swordfish) can hold up better without flouring than more tender fish (like sole or roughy).
"What's the problem with overcooked fish?"
Flavor and texture suffer. Perfectly cooked seafood is moist and subtle in flavor. Overcooked seafood is dry, hard, rubbery or mushy, and fishy flavored with a strong odor. We think overcooking is one reason many people don't think they like fish.
"Should the skin stay on fish?"
Some fillets are sold with the skin on. This can be helpful in cooking because the skin helps hold the fillet together while it cooks. And besides, seared skin is very crispy and tasty. However, fish cooked with the skin on can curl inconveniently. To avoid this, you can remove the skin or score it at 1 1/2 inch intervals. While the fish is cooking on the skin side, gently press it down with a spatula for 20 seconds or so until it lies flat.
"How is sautéing different from pan searing?"
Sautéing and pan searing are similar techniques. Both use skillets and only a small amount of fat. With sautéing the pan is frequently agitated, but seared fish is best left alone, since extra handling could make it more difficult for the fish to form a crust. Also, sautéing is generally with small pieces of food over medium or medium-high heat. Searing is over high heat.
"How much fat is actually absorbed by a pan-seared fish fillet?"
Nutritionists estimate that about 5 grams of fat is absorbed by a 3 ounce cooked fillet (started as 4 ounce raw) using the method described in this brochure. Remember that fish with thicker coatings, or cooked at lower temperature, will absorb more cooking oil.
The "10-Minute Rule" for foolproof fish!
- Measure thickest part.
- Cook fish 10 minutes for each 1 inch thickness (5 minutes for each 1/2 inch.)
- Always check for doneness a couple of minutes before you think it should be done.
- Example: a 3/4 inch thick fillet may take up to 7 1/2 minutes total cooking time. If the first side is golden brown in 3 minutes, check for doneness 2 1/2 minutes after turning the fillet over.