What type of pan is truly the best for cooking fish? When choosing the best pans for cooking fish take into consideration: pan shape, size, and material.
It really depends on a few different factors: what type of fish, how you are preparing it, and whether you’re leaving the skin on or off. Depending on the technique used, you can create a tasty fish filet that has crispy skin or a fillet of fish with no skin at all.
However, many people don’t know that selecting the best pan for cooking fish is half of the battle. You have to select the right pan in order to ensure that your fish turns out the best way. In this article, we dive deep into the key considerations that you should keep in mind when selecting the best pans for cooking fish.
If you love cooking fish (or you know someone who does) and you are looking for pans that will take your fish game to a whole new level, read on.
However, if you are looking for actual recipes to cook your fish, here are two fish recipes that you should check out:
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Best Pans for Cooking Fish, Key Considerations
The top three considerations for selecting a pan are pan size and shape, Material (including non-stick or not), and budget. Below we have broken down what you should be looking for with each consideration.
The size of your pan will mainly determine how many filets you can cook at once. Fun fact: the size of cooking pans and skillets is determined by measuring the diameter of the pan from one edge to the other edge.
As for the shape, cooking pans tend to come in two different shapes. Fry pans which have sloped sides and sauté pans which have straight sides. Since we are talking about cooking fish, a fry pan with sloped sides is a great starting point. A fry pan’s sloped sides allow for faster evaluating of liquids and easier manipulation of the fish filet.
As for sauté pans, due to their larger surface area they are great for when you need to brown and cook a substantial amount of food at the same time.
Pan Materials (Ex. Stainless steel, Cast iron, Non-stick, etc)
What your cookware is made out of is incredibly important. You want to optimize for food quality, durability, and safety. Below we have broken down some of the most common materials used to make pans that are used to cook fish.
Stainless steel is a great material for home chefs’ cookware since their sticky surface helps create favorable sauces, their amazing ability to go from the stove top to the oven, and their durability (they won’t wear out like a non-stick pan). Additionally, if you are cooking more acidic based foods, stainless steel pans won’t react to the acid, allowing you to avoid metallic tasting food.
That being said, great stainless pans have consistent layers throughout the whole cooking surface of the pan. In fact, top stainless steel pans tend to be fully clad pans (a multiple layer pan where two layers of stainless steel sandwich a layer of aluminum).
Avoid pans that only have clad bottoms (where they only have a stainless stainless steel/aluminum/stainless steel layered disc attached to the very bottom of the pan (see image below).
While they tend to be less expensive, it is harder to get a consistent cook temperature with these pans since the bottom starts of heating slower than the sides and ends with a cook surface that is much hotter than the side.
Look into most professional kitchens and you will see a series of aluminum pans and cookware. Aluminum makes a great cook pan surface since aluminum heats quickly and distributes heat incredibly well (although not as well as copper).
However, Aluminum is a very soft metal that scratches easily. Using soft utensils, such as wooden spatulas and spoons) is a must in order to boost the longevity of your aluminum cookware.
Due to the soft nature of aluminum cookware, we believe that fully clad cookware (as discussed in the Stainless steel section) is a better long term option for most home chefs.
Many professional chefs love copper pans due to the material’s heat distribution. Plus, copper pans can add to the visual aesthetic of your kitchen. However, the long term durability of copper pans tend to suffer since they scratch easily. Because of this, we don’t recommend that you select a copper pan (unless it has some kind of protective coating on it).
Cast iron pans are great for cooking fish. This is due to cast iron pans’ ability to distribute heat evenly and they have a natural non-stick surface. The only downside with these pans is that they sure are heavy!
As an added bonus, cast iron pans are easy to clean. Warning, do not use soap! Large amounts of soap will strip your cast iron pan of its seasoning, causing it to rust. Use a dish brush and hot water to brush the surface of your pan clean.
If the surface of your pan is still not clean, you can use a tiny bit (super tiny like a drop of dish soap) to help clean the surface. However, if you do use soap, make sure to apply a thin layer of cooking oil to the pan afterwards in order to help protect the metal.
Enameled cast iron pans are great since the enamel prevents the cast iron pan from rusting, helping to boost the durability of the cast iron pan. However, since enameled pans do not have seasoning, you will need some sort of fat (ex. Butter or oil) to cook with.
Non-stick surfaces help make cooking and cleaning easier.
There are pluses and minuses to using a non-stick pan to cook fish. When using a non-stick pan, fish that is cooked will be less likely to stick to the pan. This is good. However, this also means that it will be harder for you to get the skin of the fish to be extra crispy. For crispy skin lovers, this is bad.
So when deciding to go with a non-stick surface or not, consider whether you plan on leaving the fish skin on and whether the people that you are feeding love crispy skin. If the answer is yes to both, you should avoid using a pan with a non-stick coating.
Also, it is important to consider that the non-stick surface is made out of since some are safer than others. Non-stick coatings typically fall under one of the following categories: Teflon, ceramic, and proprietary technology.
Teflon is a common coating for non-stick pans. Teflon is a brand name for a coating made up of lab-made materials. The most common is polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).
While Teflon coated non-stick pans create pans that are easier to cook and clean on, Teflon coatings have had some controversies in the past. Starting in the 1940s, Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was a chemical used in the making of Teflon. However, PFOA has been linked to increased cancer risk. Because of this it has been phased out by 2015 by most U.S. manufacturers and replaced with PTFE. However, PFOA-based Teflon may still be used outside the United States.
Since no one likes cancer, the Daily DIY Life team recommends replacing your older (pre 2015) Teflon pans with newer Teflon ones or other non-stick surfaces.
Ceramic is a non-stick coating made of minerals and color pigments. It’s harder than Teflon and doesn’t scratch as easily.
Granitium ceramic cookware is made with granite and ceramic particles which give it a granular surface appearance. It offers improved heat distribution and resistance to mechanical damage compared to standard ceramic cookware
Proprietary Non-Stick Surfaces
Every year, more and more manufacturers release their own patented non-stick surface. Some are definitely better than others. Proprietary non-stick surfaces are used by other companies such as Green Pan, Red Copper, Circulon, Cuisinart and All Clad. These brands are trusted and use quality materials for their pans.
Best Stainless Steel Pan – All Clad Stainless Tri-Ply 12 inch Fry Pan
This pan is a long time favorite by many chefs and food review sites. This pan has three different layers of metal bonded together (two layers of stainless steel that sandwich a layer of aluminum). The Aluminum will allow for fast heat conduction and the stainless steels’ slower heat conduction will help disperse the heat throughout the pan.
Best Cast Iron Skillet – Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Iron Handle Skillet
Le Creuset is a classic cookware brand who is known for creating quality products that can last decades (that is with proper care of your Le Creuset pan). That is why this pan will always be our go to cast iron skillet. This pan can handle temperatures up to 500 degrees and has an enameled underside to help maintain the pan longevity while still having a traditional cast iron cooking surface. This pan is truly the best of both worlds when it comes to cast iron pans.
Best Non-stick Pan – Made In Cookware – 10″ Non Stick Frying Pan
This nonstick pan is a great baking or cooking option for those who don’t want to deal with the hassle of scrubbing away food residue. Additionally, this pan is PFOA-free, oven safe up to 500 degrees and can be used on all types of stove tops (including induction).
Frequently Asked Questions About Pans for Cooking Fish
What is the difference between a cast iron skillet and a carbon steel pan?
The main difference is the shapes of the sides. Cast iron skillets have straight sides while carbon steel pans have sloped sides. Besides that, they are the same.
What type of pan do I need if I want to fry my fish with the skin on? Skin off?
For frying your fish with the skin on, use a fry pan that distributes heat evenly. Using a pan made up of cast iron, copper, that is fully clad, or any non-stick pan that is decently heavy is highly recommended. If you are frying your fish with the skin off, any quality pan should work.
Have questions or suggestions? Leave them in the comments below. Until next time: Stay salty, and sweet 😉