The Best Pans for Cooking Fish in 2021 – Be It Sear, Fry, Bake, or Sauté

fish on a pan over fire

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There are many reasons to be a fish-lover. For starters, it has low fat paired with high protein. It also has tons of healthy vitamins and minerals like vitamin B2, calcium, phosphorus, among others. You really don’t need more reasons to include more fish in your diet.

Since you stumbled upon and clicking into this article, I’m sure you love fish, and I’m sure you know of the many ways to cook and prepare it. Bake, steam, sauté, fry – both pan-fry and deep fry -, and sear, among the many techniques out there to serve fish.

For this reason, it’s a little difficult to keep track of what pan is best for each cooking style, and how to pick an all-around pan that does well in all of them, for flexibility. In this article, we talk about all that, plus how to pick one that suits your exact needs.


If you’re looking for the absolute best all-around pan for cooking fish, we recommend the Calphalon Signature stainless steel skillet.

For a more affordable option, the GreenPan is a great pan with ceramic non-stick coating – a safer alternative to the widely-available Teflon.

For a specific cooking style, e.g. pan-frying, searing, baking etc., we’ve listed our top pick for each, further in the article. Click here to skip straight to the list.

Best Types of Pans for Cooking Fish

To answer this question, we have to first consider the typical cooking technique you will employ.

For instance, the best type of pan for searing fish is one that has excellent heat retention, and can withstand high-temperature cooking. Immediately, cast iron or carbon steel comes into mind, and non-stick pans are out of the question due to their low heat tolerance. On the other hand, the best type of pan for frying fish might be one that has a big surface area, to make flipping easier.

searing fish on a grill pan
Searing needs a cookware with very good heat retention to effectively brown the food.

What kind of pan to fry fish in also depends on your specific frying technique. Is it pan-frying with some oil, or deep frying with a lot of oil? If you’re deep frying, instead of a pan, use a deep cookware instead. Examples are pots or Dutch ovens. In this case, cast iron is a great pick since you’re using a lot of oil anyway and do not need to worry about seasoning the cookware piece.

In short, all kinds of pan could practically work for cooking fish. What comes down to choosing a specific type to add to your cookware collection, is pinpointing your most common cooking style, and going from there.

In the next section, we go into specifics about how to go about picking the right fish frying pan for your exact use cases.

Shopping Guide: Choosing the Right Pan For Yourself

So you know you should look for different kinds of pans depending on your typical cooking technique. But what criteria should you look for in a pan? Here are some that we think are important to take note of.

Size

Without saying, size is the most important specification of just about any cookware.

For a pan used primarily for cooking fish, we would recommend around 12” across for maximum comfort and versatility. This not only allows you to cook a wide variety of fish regardless of size, it also gives you flexibility in any other cooking style.

With size, comes weight. If 12” is too big for you and you do not need such a large fish frying pan, it’s fine going smaller but we suggest going no lower than 10”.

Material

This is one that heavily depends on your cooking technique.

For most people and good for most cooking styles, multi-layered stainless steel with an aluminum core is the best bet. Lightweight, good heat conductivity thanks to the aluminum core, and relatively quick response to temperature changes. If you look for one with a steel handle, it can comfortably go to high temperatures in the oven too. Stainless steel really is an all-around great material.

stainless steel pot on a glass top stove
Hard to go wrong with any stainless steel cookware.

If you do a lot of searing though, you would want more heat retention. For this, cast iron and carbon steel are popular choices.

For sautéing, look for a material that responds to heat changes very quickly. The king in this regard is copper, but a quality piece would set you back several hundreds of dollars. The next best option is aluminum, as it is only second to copper in terms of temperature response.

Non-Stick Coating

Continuing on from the previous point, if you’re regularly employing high-heat techniques such as searing or sautéing, then it’s best to stay away from Teflon coating.

This is because while Teflon itself is largely harmless, it does start to break down and potentially release toxic fumes starting from around 500°F.

An alternative to Teflon – if you really can’t live without non-stick coating – is ceramic. As of recently, ceramic-coated cookware are becoming more and more common. It provides about as good of non-stick performance as Teflon, while able to go up to high temperatures.

Our top picks include one such example, the GreenPan Lima ceramic-coated pan.

Cookware Type

For most situations and use cases, you would still stick to a regular round pan or skillet for cooking fish. Cooking styles like pan-frying, searing, or even sautéing are well-suited for traditional pans.

Some cooking styles, though, require a little more creativity.

If you see yourself doing deep frying a lot, then it’s best to skip pans entirely, even those with tall sides marketed as ‘deep frying pans’. For the same amount of price, you could get better alternatives for this purpose, our favorite being Dutch ovens. Deep, yet sized to not take up too much space, there is no need to worry about oil splatters with the tall sides they offer.

Dutch ovens (the middle) are great cookware for some simple at-home deep-frying.

On the other hand, if you bake a lot of fish, we would suggest going straight for a lasagna pan instead. It’s simple to use for the purpose, and gets the job done well.

Our Best Pans for Fish

These are, in our opinion, the top picks for pans for cooking fish. Some are more specific to certain cooking styles, while others are generally great all-around pans.

Best Overall: Calphalon Signature 10” Stainless Steel Skillet

Top on our list is the US-made Calphalon Signature skillet. Even though we said to try and look for a 12” pan as much as possible, we’ve made an exception for this one. Reason being, although most pans’ sizes are measured across the widest opening of the pan, this one actually measures 10” across on the cooking surface, and 10.5” at its widest. For this reason, it offers more than enough surface for cooking even a large fish.

Moving our attention to the pan itself, it is as well-built as any pan could get! With five layers of construction offering great durability, it consists of three layers of aluminum core to provide exceptional even heating. The all stainless steel construction (including handle) is perfect for any cooking style, including baking as it does not have a ceiling to the oven temperature it is able to handle.

Did we mention it’s induction-compatible, and dishwasher-safe too? Unless you’re looking to do a lot of deep frying, this pan is an all-around great pan and pretty much, the best stainless steel pan.

Pros:

  • Three layers of aluminum core encased between two durable outer stainless steel layers, for a total of five layers, deliver exceptional heating and temperature control
  • Stainless steel handle stays cool
  • Oven-safe, and skillet itself (without the lid) has no temperature limit
  • Comes with tempered glass lid that is also oven-safe for up to 450°F
  • Compatible with induction stoves
  • Dishwasher-safe, although hand wash recommended

Cons:

  • Relatively heavy for a stainless steel piece, due to its durable construction

Best Value Pick: GreenPan Lima 10” Ceramic Non-Stick Pan

A pan that looks modern and minimalistic, is made of hard-anodized aluminum and durable, and has a safe non-stick alternative to Teflon. All at an affordable price. Where else can you find something like this? It truly is one of best nonstick pans for fish at this price point.

The brand, GreenPan, is one of the top names in the rising popularity of ceramic non-stick coating. With many aware of the temperature limits of Teflon, ceramic has quickly become a safer replacement, especially for a lot of high heat cooking.

As mentioned, the pan is made of hard-anodized aluminum. This makes it more durable and scratch-resistant than regular aluminum. The stainless steel handle also has an ergonomic shape that is comfortable to hold.

Pros:

  • Hard-anodized aluminum construction which is durable
  • Non-stick experience with ceramic coating, which offers significantly higher heat tolerance than Teflon
  • Oven-safe for up to 600°F

Cons:

  • Not compatible with induction stoves
  • Not dishwasher-safe

Best Pan for Frying Fish: Rachael Ray Cucina 14” Hard-Anodized Pan

For the best non-stick frying pan for fish, look no further than this Rachael Ray hard-anodized aluminum pan.

This contemporary-looking pan is made with hard-anodized aluminum, which makes it quite durable. Apart from the main handle, this pan also comes fitted with a helper handle which makes moving it easier. Anyway, don’t be put off by its size, it is already lightweight enough to easily be moved around in the first place. 3 pounds for a 14” pan, extremely manageable.

Having such a big cooking surface, this not only is the best non-stick pan for fish, this is an all-around great pan that is versatile for all sorts of cooking.

Pros:

  • Durable hard-anodized aluminum construction
  • Lightweight at below 3 pounds, even though it is big in size
  • Comfortable silicone handles
  • Comes with helper handle to make it easier to move this large piece around
  • Oven-safe for up to 400°F
  • Dishwasher-safe

Cons:

  • Some reports of slight warpage after months’ of usage so might be unsuitable for glass top stoves

Best for Deep Frying: Lodge 7-Qt Cast Iron Dutch Oven

If you’re looking for the best pan for deep frying fish, you’re searching in the wrong places. The best cookware for deep frying fish, in our opinion, is a deep one like a pot, or in this case, a Dutch oven.

Coming from a reputable brand known for their cast iron cookware, this US-made Dutch oven is tough and durable, and comes pre-seasoned. It features loop handles, so you’re able to hold onto it more securely.

We have seen quite a few reviews of the cast iron piece turning rusty after a few uses. While we don’t know what exactly happened, we suspect these were instances of human error. As always, remember to wipe it dry after every wash and apply seasoning again if it has worn off – true for every cast iron piece out there!

Pros:

  • Durable and tough as with any other Lodge cast iron pieces
  • Comes pre-seasoned with vegetable oil so you can start using it right away
  • Great heat retention due to its construction material
  • Oven-safe with no temperature limit
  • Compatible with induction stoves

Cons:

  • Pre-seasoning might be peeling off when you receive it – no worries, simply wash it off and season it yourself again
  • Not dishwasher-safe

Best Pan for Baking Fish: Crock Pot Artisan 13” Enameled Cast Iron Lasagna Pan

This Crock Pot-branded pan is quite possibly the best pan to cook fish in the oven. Although not as flexible and multi-purpose as a regular round pan, for the exact purpose of baking fish, this piece excels at it.

Made of cast iron with an enamel coating applied, it has most of the benefits of cast iron, and even more. It carries over the excellent heat retention of cast iron, but without the need of seasoning and wiping it dry after every wash due to fear of rust. The only downside, it’s not as durable as bare cast iron due to its delicate enamel coating.

But don’t get me wrong, with proper care, it’s made to last for a long time!

Pros:

  • Great-looking piece!
  • As non-stick as a well-seasoned cast iron piece – without the need of seasoning
  • Oven-safe for up to 500°F
  • Works on induction stoves

Cons:

  • Being a lasagna pan, not as versatile as a round skillet
  • Just keep in mind that enamel coating chips more easily than any other kinds of material
  • Not dishwasher-safe

Best Pan for Sautéing Fish: T-fal Heatmaster 5-Qt Sauté Pan

If you do a lot of sautéing, we recommend this 5 quart sauté pan from T-fal.

Deep and non-stick, this pan also includes a clear glass lid so it’s not only for sautéing, but also great for other cooking styles. The non-stick coating is supposedly sapphire-infused. Not sure how true that is or if it’s a marketing gimmick, but seems to hold up pretty well in its own right.

Our favorite feature of this is T-fal’s signature thermo spot indicator in the middle of the cooking surface. It lights up red when the pan has reached a temperature where you can start cooking, so no more guesswork!

The only shame is that it’s not made of hard-anodized aluminum, which makes it not as durable. However, minus this one drawback, it is quite the perfect pan for sautéing.

Note that the description of the product listing states the pan is only oven-safe for up to 350°F, but is in fact safe up to 500°F. The description is a mix-up with T-fal’s other cookware with plastic handles. This one is made of stainless steel, so it’s able to handle higher heat.

Pros:

  • Glass lid included
  • Durable 3-layer sapphire-infused non-stick coating
  • T-fal’s signature thermo spot turns red to signify the pan is ready to cook in
  • Stainless steel-plated base allows for cooking on induction stoves
  • Oven-safe for up to 500°F
  • Dishwasher-safe

Cons:

  • Small number of complaints of the pan warping to the extent of the lid not fitting – out of the exceedingly many number of positive reviews

Best Skillet for Searing Fish: de Buyer MINERAL B 12.5” Carbon Steel Pan

This French-made pan is possibly the best skillet you can get for searing fish. Having a history of close to 200 years, the reputable brand knows how to make quality cookware.

Being carbon steel, it shares many characteristics with cast iron pieces, including great heat retention, and the bad side, prone to rusting. It is comparatively durable and resistant to warping due to its sturdy 3mm construction. That being said, it is generally lighter than most cast iron cookware, at a little over 6 pounds. To combat the weight, a helper handle is included.

An obvious advantage of this over cast iron for the purpose of searing, is that it heats up more quickly. Having better heat conductivity, the temperature of this pan rises faster, while having about the same level of retention. This is exactly what makes increasingly more cooks – even skilled, qualified chefs – to switch to carbon steel.

The one we’re recommending is 12.5”. But if it’s too big for your needs and you would like a lighter option, de Buyer also offers 10.2” or 11” versions of this exact same pan, in the same listing.

Pros:

  • Thick 3mm construction provides warp-resistance
  • Great heat retention the level of cast iron while being more lightweight
  • Has helper handle to make carrying around easier
  • Induction-ready
  • Oven-safe for up to 400°F

Cons:

  • Requires seasoning like cast iron
  • Not dishwasher-safe

All About Pan-Seared Fish

Pan searing fish is one of the best ways to cook it. It is very similar to pan-frying, with the only differences being employing higher heat over shorter cooking times. This results in crispier skin, if you enjoy that.

Best Oil for Pan Searing Fish

As searing is a high-heat technique, you would look for oil that has a high smoke point. Canola oil, extra light olive oil (not extra virgin, as it has a lower smoke point), or even peanut oil are good candidates. Sunflower oil and sesame oil are also good choices due to their high smoke point.

Best Seasoning for Pan-Seared Fish

Honestly, the simplest procedures often yield the best results. Our favorite way of doing this, is to simply season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper. There’s a reason they’ve been the popular seasoning choices for centuries!

However, feel free to go more creative with it. We also like incorporating lemon, herbs, sometimes even soy sauce and vinegar. As a general rule of thumb, for delicate, mild fish, we would use something light like lemon or herbs to impart a hint of flavor. For stronger fish like tuna, it’s safe to go for heavier seasoning like vinegar.

Also, remember to not season the fish too early before cooking, and to only do so pretty much right before using the pan. This is to avoid the moisture from leaving the fish and making it feel almost cured.

Best Sauce for Pan-Seared, or Pan-Fried Fish

A mediocre fish can be lifted into the ranks of the best with a good sauce.

Our favorites include lemon butter sauce, and creamy parmesan. With most fish out there, these sauces will complement fantastically.

For more out-of-the-box ideas, check out these 5 easy-to-make sauces for fish that will guarantee a different experience than the typical.

One of the Best Pan-Seared Fish Recipes

cooked fish on a plate

Pan-searing fish is actually really, really simple. We’ve long been following this guide laid out over at Leite’s Culinaria and it’s been working out really well for us. The steps are as follows:

  1. Wash the fish fillet, and pat it dry with paper towels to get maximum crispiness of the skin when searing.
  2. Heat your pan over medium-high heat to build up enough heat for searing, about 3 minutes.
  3. While waiting for the pan to heat up, season both sides of the fillet with salt and black pepper.
  4. When the pan is hot, add some oil and roll it around to coat the surface. When the oil has heated up, place the fish, skin down, and use a spatula to press onto the fillet. This ensures even heating of all parts of the skin.
  5. Leave it cooking until the edge of the skin turns golden brown, and the edges of the flesh turns opaque, about 4 minutes. Then, flip the fish over, and baste it with surrounding oil and fats.
  6. After about 3 minutes, transfer the fillet to a plate, and squeeze a lemon on it, if so desired.

After which, simply enjoy your perfectly crisp fillet!

Wrap Up

To sum up, the best types of cookware for cooking fish differ, depending on which cooking style you most often employ. Generally, round frying pans or skillets are the most versatile ones, with the exception of a deep pot or Dutch oven for deep frying.

Depending on which cooking style you’re buying for, we have listed, in our opinion, the best for each type of cooking. However if you’re looking for an all-around great pan that does everything well, from pan-frying to sautéing, searing to even baking (well, maybe not deep frying), the Calphalon Signature stainless steel skillet is our top recommendation.

If you’re looking for a more affordable option, the GreenPan offers a safe non-stick alternative to Teflon, while offering the reliability and durability you would ever need in a fish frying pan.

Be sure to click through the links to check the latest prices!

And if you’re looking for something to go along with your fish, be sure to check out the best air fryers for some convenient fries. Or if you need a lighter side, a vegetable chopper might come in handy for your salad.


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