Sauté might sound like a very fancy cooking word, but I assure you that there is nothing extraordinary about the difficulty of this cooking method. Regardless if we are talking about sautéing fish, potatoes, or other vegetables and meat – the method is almost always the same. Of course, there are some special scenarios where you might need to use slightly different instructions. This is why I am going to give you an example of how to sauté fish the right way.
Apart from the sautéing part, we will also take a look at how fish preparation should be done, as well as what spices to use. While the latter is a matter of personal preference, there are situations in which less is more when it comes to fish and spices. But we’ll dig into these in detail in a bit – for now, let’s start with prepping your pan for the process.
Butter? Oil? What is the Best Choice for Sautéing Fish?
Picking between these two is mostly a matter of personal preference. As for our advice, I would suggest olive oil as it is by far easier to manage and is also much healthier. Regardless of what choice you make, you should know that there are some small details that you need to pay attention to while preparing your pan.
Let’s start with using butter. Ideally, you would want to do all the sautéing at medium heat – this keeps the melted butter flowing and prevents it from burning. You want to hear the butter sizzling just a little bit, but not too much – this is usually a sign that you have hit just about the perfect temperature. How much butter you should use depends on how many fillets you are planning to cook.
The medium heat applies for sautéing with olive oil as well. After your pan has heated well, you can add the olive oil – if you are wondering whether it is enough, then do not hesitate to put more. You can never go wrong when it comes to portioning olive oil. Do not use it sparingly when you are looking to sauté fish the right way. In this scenario, garlic lovers can do a little trick to infuse the olive oil with their favorite taste & aroma enhancer. You can add store-bought minced garlic or one you minced yourself and add about 1/3rd of a tablespoon to the pan. Shake the pan a bit to spread the bits, and return it to the heater.
Preparing the Fish for the Span and Using Spices
This part might just be the most important one of the whole process. Preparing the fish for sautéing is not that different compared to other meats. You want to rinse off the meat properly and then pat it dry using paper towels. Make sure to get rid of as much moisture as possible to allow the butter/olive oil & spices to properly stick to your future meal.
As for spices, it is up to personal preferences once again – but it also depends on the type of fish you are dealing with. For example, sautéing striped bass can turn out the tastiest if you keep it simple – salt and pepper are enough to give it an amazing taste.
Sea trout, on the other hand, can certainly handle a bit more spices. Of course, salt and pepper are almost mandatory, but you can spice things up with some hotter stuff such as Lawry’s Flavors or Tony Chachere’s.
Managing Heat Levels to Get the Perfect Sautéd Fish
Some sauté recipes require higher heat, but, as I already stated, you need to go with medium heat to sauté fish the right way. It will not take too long, and often 2-3 minutes on each side should be enough – of course, this is likely to change if your fish is a bit thicker in certain places. If you are using butter, make sure to keep an eye on the color – it should be a golden color. If it starts turning brown, then the heat is too high and you might want to tone it down a notch. If the damage has already been done, then you might need to clean up your pan and start over.
A fun little way to eat your sauté fish fillets is to pack them into tacos. Although it is fine to use the store-bought tacos straight up, I recommend to give them a bit of heat treatment to fluff them up. Use a more heated, flat pan to place the tacos and let them heat up for about 10-15 seconds before flipping them. Do this a few times until you start seeing brown spots, and then they are ready to consume! The reason why you do not wish to leave them on one side for longer is that this would make them crispy – ideally, they will end up being flexible but just a tad thicker.
Using the Stove to Sauté Fish the Right Way
Two-three minutes on each side is enough, but you might have a bit of trouble flipping the fish. It is normal for this to happen, especially if you are working with fish you filleted yourself. Use a spatula to work the edges of the fish, breaking the tension between it and the pan – the butter and olive oil should definitely help with this. After you take care of this part, flipping them over is just like flipping a pancake. As I already explained, do not worry if some bits and parts get separated – they might not look great, but they will certainly taste great.
As you can see, there is no clear-cut instructions on how to sauté fish the right way, but I hope these tips pointed you in the right direction. Just like with anything else in life, sautéing fish will become easier and easier with each dish you prepare. Eventually, you will get all the prep work, spices, and pan/stove work to be just perfect.