It can be really easy to overcook fish and really difficult to get a nice brown crust, but once you learn this simple technique you will always cook beautiful fillets. This recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Illustrated (the cooking geniuses), is complete in under 15 minutes, and will become a go-to technique for delicious fish.
To make this work, you need a thick fillet (thin pieces cook too fast) and a dusting of sugar that quickly produces a brown exterior while maintaining a moist and tender interior. Don’t worry, the sugar will not sweeten the fish. You will also need an ovenproof skillet – I use my cast-iron skillet. Thick, meaty fillets like cod, halibut, or red snapper work best.
- 4 skinless white fish fillets, at least 1 inch thick
- 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 425 degrees. Dry fish thoroughly with paper towels and season with S/P. Sprinkle a very light dusting of sugar (1/8 tsp.) evenly over 1 side of each fillet.
- Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over high heat until smoking. Place fillets, sugared sides down, and press down lightly to ensure even contact with the pan. Cook until browned, about 1 minute.
- Using 2 spatulas carefully flip the fillets and transfer the skillet to the oven. Roast fillets until centers are just opaque and register 135 degrees, 7 to 10 minutes. Immediately transfer to serving plates and serve with lemon wedges.