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Pan-Fried Fish Fillets

Serves 4 to 6

This is a basic recipe for fried fish that can be used with any firm, white-fleshed fish, as well as shrimp, scallops and oysters, which is in the similar and related recipes. I must admit that the recipe has changed several times through the years as I tried different types of crumbs for the crust. Like most people, I started with store-bought dried breadcrumbs. They were okay, but the fish was not as crispy as I wanted. Then a friend told me to try saltine cracker crumbs. That was much better and what I used for several years. Later, when I started drying my own breadcrumbs, I found that they did just as well as the crackers, and I preferred the flavor. Finally, when Japanese panko crumbs became available, I tried those and I am hooked. The resulting crust is crunchy but very light. I have used white and whole wheat, both of which work beautifully. That being said, use any of the crumbs I mentioned and you will have a delicious dish.

One of the secrets to crispy fish, or anything fried with a dried crumb crust, is to coat the fish and refrigerate for thirty minutes to one hour so that the crumbs will adhere. After frying, drain the fish on a cooling rack, not paper towels. That ensures that both the top and bottom crusts stay crunchy until serving. Those two steps should be followed no matter what crumbs you use. Make this recipe in any amount needed.


Place flour on a plate or wax paper. Season with salt and pepper; mix well. Place breadcrumbs on a large plate or wax paper. Coat fish lightly with flour, shaking off excess. Dip into egg wash and let excess drip off. Coat thoroughly with breadcrumbs, again shaking off excess. Place on wire rack. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to help ensure that the coating will adhere to the fish when frying.

Meanwhile, heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil, about 1/2-inch thick, or thick enough to come about half-way up the sides of the fish. Heat oil until hot. Remove fish from refrigerator and fry, in batches as needed, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side depending on thickness. Remove to a clean wire rack to drain. Season with additional salt, if desired. Serve immediately with tartar sauce and/or lemon wedges.