Sauteing And Panfrying

As in meat cookery, the exact distinction between sautéing and pan-frying fish is impossible to draw. For many purposes, the two terms are used interchangeably.

A classic method for sautéing fish is called à la meunière (mun yair). In this preparation, the product is dredged in flour and sautéed in clarified butter or oil. It is then plated and sprinkled with lemon juice and chopped parsley, and freshly prepared hot brown butter (beurre noisette) is poured over it.When the hot butter hits the lemon juice,it creates a froth.The fish should then be served at once.

Other sautéed fish preparations may call for Standard Breading Procedure (p. 143) or for dredging the fish with a product other than flour, such as cornmeal.Also, a variety of garnishes may be used.

The procedures and variations just described apply to most popular sautéed and pan-fried fish recipes. In general, because most types of fin fish are so delicate, especially if filleted, they do not lend themselves to a great many sautéing variations. Rather, variety is created with accompaniments, sauces, and garnishes. On the other hand, firm shellfish, like shrimp and scallops, are easy to sauté, and there is a greater variety of recipes for them.

uidelines for Sautéing and Pan-Frying Fish and Shellfish

Lean fish are especially well suited to sautéing because the cooking method supplies fat the fish lack.

Fat fish may also be sautéed, as long as you take care not to get it too greasy. Sautéed fish is usually given a coating of flour, breading, or other starchy product before sautéing. This forms a crust that browns attractively, enhances the flavor, and helps hold the fish together and prevent sticking.

3. Fish may be soaked in milk briefly before dredging in flour. This helps the flour form a good crust.

4. Clarified butter and oil are the preferred fats for sautéing and pan-frying. Whole butter is likely to burn, unless the fish items are very small.

5. Use a minimum of fat. About 1/s inch (3 mm), or enough to cover the bottom of the pan, is enough.

6. Observe the guidelines for the basic sautéing procedure (p. 314). In particular, be sure the pan is hot before adding the fish to it. After the item has begun to cook, adjust the heat as necessary. Small items, such as shrimp and scallops, are sautéed over high heat. Larger items, such as whole fish or thick steaks, require lower heat to cook evenly.

7. Very large fish may be browned in fat and then finished in the oven, uncovered.

8. Brown the most attractive side—the presentation side—first. For fillets, this is usually the flesh side or the side against the bone, not the skin side.

9. Handle fish carefully during and after cooking to avoid breaking the fish or the crisp crust. 10. Sauté or fry to order and serve immediately.

Procedure for Cooking Fish à la Meunière


Collect all equipment and food supplies.


Heat a small amount of clarified butter in a sauté pan.


Season the fish and dredge in flour. Shake off excess.


Place the fish in the pan, presentation side down.


Sauté the fish, turning once with a spatula, until both sides are brown and the fish is just cooked



Remove the fish from the pan with a spatula and place on serving plate, presentation side up.


Sprinkle fish with lemon juice and chopped parsley.


Heat some raw butter in the sauté pan until it turns light brown. Pour it over the fish immediately.


Serve at once.

Continue reading here: Fillets of Sole Meunire

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  • Aden McIntyre
    How can the small items like shrimps and scallops be cooked evenly by sauteing?
    7 months ago