How to cook in stainless steel pans and cook fish LIKE A BOSS!

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Some time back Honeycurls wondered how to cook fish in stainless steel and cast iron without having it stick. I thought I'd do a little picture tutorial to show that indeed, if you just have good technique, you can easily cook in stainless pans with no sticking whatsoever. This is all done in my mother's stainless steel pan, so no special restaurant pans or anything.

Let's start with salmon. First, your fish needs to be dry. Wet food sticks to pans. So, take your fish and put it on paper towels and pat it dry. Season it well. You only need to season on the non-presentation side, which is the flesh side. Your skin side is the presentation side. It goes in the pan first and gets the better browning. It's the side that's going to be up on the plate.


This is a thick piece of fish. You need a decent coating of salt. This is why kosher salt is important. You can feel it between your fingers and you can see it when you sprinkle it.
Salmon I put black pepper on. I do not put black pepper on white fish. Not just for looks, but because the flavor of white fish is delicate and sweet. Salmon can take stronger flavoring.

Get your pan hot for a couple of minutes. You'll be able to feel the heat if you place your hand above the pan. Hot pan, cold oil. No olive oil, no butter please. You need high smoke point, which these are not. Burnt olive oil tastes pretty gross. I use sunflower oil. When the oil goes in, it should shimmer and ripple. It should not produce any real smoke. At most, just a wisp of smoke. Use enough oil that the whole pan is coated, but not so much that you're shallow-frying. The oil should not be coming up any higher than maybe 1/8 of an inch of the product.


Your fish will want to curl up a bit when it hits the hot pan, especially if you heat the pan a little too long. So, push it down for a few seconds to keep it flat until you feel it flatten out. I use my hand, but of course, use a spatula if you prefer.


Because this is a thick piece of fish, you will want to lower the heat slightly, so that it's moderate and the skin browns at a steady pace. If your heat is too high, the skin will brown but not really crisp since the layer of fat underneath it doesn't really render. So, steady heat just and leave it alone for a while. Do, swirl the pan so the oil isn't all on one side of the pan. When the fish is ready to flip, you'll know by looking at it. The sides become opaque and keep doing so until when well done, the whole top of the fish is opaque.





I flip at this point and cook the fish to medium so that it carries over to medium well and is just barely opaque all the way through. I cook it by feel, but if you want more exactitude, use a cake tester. It will go into the flesh nice and easy with no resistance when cooked through. It will also be warm if you bring the tip of the tester to your lower lip (for meat, it will slightly burn your lip at well done). A thermometer will read 145, but I never use a thermometer for fish. If you like rare or medium rare salmon, you'll need to just barely cook it a few more seconds after flipping for rare, a bit more for medium rare. For those that like well done salmon, don't flip until the fish is opaque almost all the way through while it's cooking on the presentation side.

Look, no sticking! Crisp, completely intact salmon skin!



Last edited by Saria; 01-12-2012 at 04:47 PM.
Snapper:
Snapper has thin skin and doesn't really get all that crisp, so a little flour for this is what you want.
Flour only the presentation side. It's the only side you're really going to crisp up and cook. You're sautéing, not frying the fish.
Again, nice and dry and season your flesh side.



I used some Espelette pepper to season it because it's much nicer than black pepper for white fish.







Again, no sticking at all.
This could actually be even more brown, but I cooked it first and was lowering the heat like I would at work. My stove at home is nowhere near as hot, and thin fish like this needs to cook fast and hot, so hotter than a thick piece of fish like salmon.
At work we actually finish cooking this and most fish and scallops as well by tossing in a knob of butter and aromatics like thyme and whole garlic when the fish is mostly cooked on the first side. The butter cools down the pan and stops the browning. Then you baste the top of the fish to finish cooking it. Flip and let it sit in the pan for a few seconds, and done.
I don't do this at home much since I don't have quite as endless a supply of butter.

Last edited by Saria; 01-12-2012 at 04:44 PM.
Wow. That looks delicious.

I need to buy a new pan.

And do you buy your oil online? My grocery store only has the bare basics, sometimes not even that.
I need fish, and soon.

Great tutorial!




Byron,GA> Charleston, SC> Jacksonville, FL> Guilford, CT> Rohnert Park, CA! A southern drawl in sunny Cali! .
The amount of time from slipping on the peel and landing on the pavement is exactly one bananosecond.
I do have a secret yen for pink in unexpected places. ~ninja dog
I've decided that I'll never get down to my original weight, and I'm OK with that--After all, 8 pounds 2 oz. is just not realistic.
Thanks!

I buy Loriva oils at Kalustyans. It's hard to find their oils anywhere else other than online, but they might be more available in other parts of the country. I buy their safflower, and sunflower oils for cooking and baking and their roasted peanut and sesame oils for Asian cooking, Their oils are great because they're not as refined as most oils out there and actually have a nice flavor even when mild.
Grapeseed is also good. Nice high smoke point.
Canola is an overly processed product, so I tend to stay away from it, but it works as an all-purpose oil if it's what you find is available.
In restaurants we tend to use blended oil, which mixes olive oil with canola.

I might do some pan-roasted chicken at some point since I see the method for that made more complicated than it really is.
Also, any sturdy stainless or cast iron pan works just fine as long as you keep in mind that the pan has to be hot and your product dry. I pretty much cook all fish and meat on cast iron. I just wanted to show that you really don't need to cook fish on a Teflon or ceramic pan to keep it from sticking. It won't stick on stainless. So, I'm sure you already have a perfectly good pan available!
This is all good to know. I have some stainless but don't really use the pans because I grew up with mostly cast iron (which I can NOT get the hang of seasoning).
If your salmon has no skin, do you flour one side?


Siri types my posts for me.
Kiva! Microfinance works.

Med/Coarse, porous curly.
If your salmon has no skin, it's a sad little salmon! Heh, crispy salmon skin is just that awesome and tasty.

No, you can saute it without because salmon is fatty and not that delicate. You can use the flour to create a better crust, but it won't stick or fall apart if you don't use it.
I tend to bake, poach or steam salmon without skin, though, since it seems not worth sautéing if you don't have that crispy, crackly skin.
scrills and thelio like this.
Good to know. There's lots of skinless salmon here.


Siri types my posts for me.
Kiva! Microfinance works.

Med/Coarse, porous curly.
This is all good to know. I have some stainless but don't really use the pans because I grew up with mostly cast iron (which I can NOT get the hang of seasoning).
Originally Posted by CGNYC
http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/06/h...iron-pans.html


Just keep them dry and oiled between uses and you'll be good.
I don't have a cast iron pan. I only have a non stick one, which I don't like all that much. Although, I think I do have a stainless steel one. I just haven't been using it. I clearly need to fix that.
I really just want to replace my pots and pans!

Thank you for the great tutorial. I think you should have a cooking channel on YouTube .
Aww, thanks!

Yeah, it seems a lot of people don't use their stainless steel and in large part because of food sticking. My mother tossed the small stainless skillet I was actually going to use for this because she felt it had no use since things "stuck to it all the time". Heck, the topic of cooking fish in stainless came up because my mother told me she was going to buy a ceramic pan just to keep fish from sticking and I tried explaining to her that it was her technique and not the pan making the fish stick.
Finally, a use for my stainless saute pan (since I don't have a stainless skillet) I thought I'd use WAY more than I have.




Byron,GA> Charleston, SC> Jacksonville, FL> Guilford, CT> Rohnert Park, CA! A southern drawl in sunny Cali! .
The amount of time from slipping on the peel and landing on the pavement is exactly one bananosecond.
I do have a secret yen for pink in unexpected places. ~ninja dog
I've decided that I'll never get down to my original weight, and I'm OK with that--After all, 8 pounds 2 oz. is just not realistic.
You don't cook vegetables in it? A skillet is more versatile since the sides are lower and sloped and so you can flip the food in it with a shake, which doesn't work out so well with a straight-sided sauté. Still, a sauté pan is a pretty good all-purpose pan.
And hey, the sides can contain some of your splatter.
I tend to roast most veggies and the rest are frozen so I usually boil those in my pot with a strainer lid.

If I'm doing a big amount of veggies for a stir fry or something I use my Le Creuset buffet casserole pot...thing...pan...whatever it's called. I swear I use it more than I ever thought I would and if Mr. S hadn't gotten it for me I'd never given it a second glance.

Maybe this thread will help me reach for my stainless more often.




Byron,GA> Charleston, SC> Jacksonville, FL> Guilford, CT> Rohnert Park, CA! A southern drawl in sunny Cali! .
The amount of time from slipping on the peel and landing on the pavement is exactly one bananosecond.
I do have a secret yen for pink in unexpected places. ~ninja dog
I've decided that I'll never get down to my original weight, and I'm OK with that--After all, 8 pounds 2 oz. is just not realistic.
Thank you! Great tutorial! Now I won't hate my SS pans so much.

Would I fry trout with skin the same way? or do you have tips for that? We caught a lot of trout that we froze and we're waiting to cook up.

SF Bay Area, CA * "The Angel-Goddess-Guru of Haircoloring"
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Great tutorials!

What would you recommend for cooking frozen fish with? I have a few swai filets in the freezer, and I'm not sure if I should defrost them first or what.. I'm kinda lost.
"The challenge is to be yourself in a world that is trying to make you like everybody else."
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My staples: Mane n Tail (cowash), Garnier Fructis Sleek n Shine (leave in condish), Grapeseed oil or shea butter (sealing), Organic Root Stimulator Elasticitea (leave-in condish & light hold)
Yes, trout works beautifully. No flour needed since it has really nice skin that crisps up. It's the fish we're currently serving at work. The chef actually takes the fish, filets it, then uses Activa to stick them together so it's a single filet with two sides of skin.
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