Even a beginner chef can master a cod dish with the right tools and techniques. This delicate fish is light and flakey, which has a tendency to break while you handle it.Thankfully there are several simple ways to mitigate this dilemma and prevent your fish from coming apart in the pan. All you need to do is properly prep your cod, use the right skillet and the best cooking oils, and you’ll be set up for success.
Choose the Right Tools
Many culinary experts agree that it is best to use a super hot heavy-bottomed pan — to get it there, let it sit over medium-high heat for several minutes before you start cooking.” A black steel pan or cast iron is also perfect. And while a stainless steel skillet can also work just fine, your skin will never get quite as crispy.
Choosing Your Oil
Oils each have their own characteristics — some have stronger flavors and higher or lower smoking points. Generally speaking, if you want your oil to cook your fish and result in a crispy skin without infusing your fish with too much additional flavor, than a neutral oil with a high smoke point such as canola, vegetable or grapeseed oil might be best.
Peanut oil also has a very high smoke point, but your dish will ultimately have some nutty flavor, making it a great choice for Thai, Vietnamese or Japanese-inspired flavor profiles. And for all the olive oil fiends out there, you can also use it to pan-fry your cod, but make sure you choose light or refined olive oil, not extra virgin.
Prepping Your Cod Loins
Preparation of your fish is a crucial part of maximizing the flavor and achieving the perfect texture, especially with cod. Remember, this is a very delicate fish, so you need to take a little extra care. Always use paper towels or a clean kitchen towel to pat your fish dry and extract as much moisture as you can.
Next, you’re ready to season your cod, which means you’ll need your spices of choice, as well as some specific ingredients that can help hold your fish together.
The last thing you want is for your fish filet to break apart mid process, and there are a few tricks to help protect it.
Many recipes call for a whisked egg and milk mixture, which coats the fish and creates a barrier that actually holds the fish together. And no, it doesn’t make your fish taste like breakfast. The egg really just becomes a coating that lends itself to a crispy texture.
In addition to coating your cod in the egg mixture, using flour, breadcrumbs or some other breading can create a crunchy texture on the outside, while the inner flesh remains flakey and moist.
Don’t Overcook Your Cod
Three to four minutes per side should be sufficient. Of course, a thicker cut of fish might take a little longer. In the end, you want your fish to be slightly flakey in texture and the outside should be golden and crisp. The fish is cooked through when the color in the center is opaque, and not at all translucent.
Pan-Fried Cod Recipes We Love
This Pan-Fried Cod with Slaw takes about 30 minutes to make, and the crunchy, refreshing slaw goes perfectly with the fried fish.
Another easy but tasty option is this Pan-Seared Cod with Preserved-Lemon Aioli. It’s hard to not love a dish that involves creamy and indulgent lemon aioli. Plus, you can make extra sauce to serve with another dish.
And lastly, this Pan-Fried Cod is about as simple as it comes. And the key tip here, which actually applies to any fried fish recipe, is to drain the finished fish on paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper before you serve it.