The Easiest Crispy Pan-Seared Fish Recipe

A piece of pan-seared fish with a crispy crumb coating on top, sprinkled with chopped herbs.
A crisp panko coating on one side of the fish not only keeps it from sticking to the pan with minimal heat, but adds textural contrast as well.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Fish is notoriously tricky to pan-sear. It inevitably ends up sticking to the pan or turning tough and stringy on its surface. This method—breading it on just one side—solves both of these problems with one easy stroke, all while adding some textural contrast. Serve the fish simply with lemon, or with some tartar sauce, either store-bought or homemade.

Why this recipe works:

  • Breading the fish with a standard flour-egg-breadcrumb breading on one side ensures that it doesn't stick when you add it to the skillet.
  • The breading also insulates the surface of the fish, preventing it from drying out or turning tough as it cooks.
  • A crisp coating adds textural contrast to tender, moist, flaky fish underneath.

Note: You can find panko-style breadcrumbs at well-stocked markets, Asian food stores and online.

Recipe Facts



Active: 30 mins
Total: 30 mins
Serves: 4 servings

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  • 4 thick white fish filets or steaks (such as halibut, striped bass, sea bass, or swordfish), 5 to 8 ounces each

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 1/2 cups panko-style bread crumbs (see note)

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable, canola, or peanut oil

  • Lemon wedges or tartar sauce (either store-bought or homemade) for serving


  1. Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 300°F. Pat fish dry on paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper. Place flour, egg, and breadcrumbs in three separate shallow bowls or plates. Season each gently with salt and pepper. Working one piece at at time, lift fish and dip, presentation-side-down, in the flour, followed by the egg, followed by the breadcrumbs, pressing down firmly until a thick layer of breadcrumbs adheres. Place fish breaded-side-up on a clean plate and repeat with remaining fish.

    Pressing a fish fillet into a container of panko bread crumbs.

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

  2. Heat oil in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add fish pieces, breaded-side-down and cook, swirling and rotating them around the pan until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Carefully flip fish and transfer to oven. Cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the fish registers 140°F, about 5 minutes (a knife or a cake tester inserted into the fish should show no resistance). Serve immediately with lemon wedges or tartar sauce.

    Turning a piece of fish in a cast iron skillet with a fish spatula to show the crispy breaded side.

    Serious Eats / J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
432 Calories
15g Fat
40g Carbs
39g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 432
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 15g 19%
Saturated Fat 3g 14%
Cholesterol 108mg 36%
Sodium 483mg 21%
Total Carbohydrate 40g 14%
Dietary Fiber 6g 22%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 39g
Vitamin C 89mg 445%
Calcium 110mg 8%
Iron 3mg 17%
Potassium 1048mg 22%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)