How much oil to use when pan searing? (mainly fish cooking technique)

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by nenox, Jun 8, 2012.

  1. nenox


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    Culinary Student
    With regards to pan searing proteins, fish in particular, what is the ideal amount of oil. I always thought you should have a thin film of oil covering the entire pan bottom so the oil will be able to reach parts of the protein that aren't in direct contact with the pan and therefore more even searing. Thomas Keller in ad hoc (p.40) and I think the TFL cookbook he mentions to use more rather than too little for the same reason and others. On the other I've been told I should only have small puddles of oil in the pan-not enough to cover the entire bottom. The reasoning behind this I'm told is you don't want the fish to taste/feel like it's been deep fried. With that method-using very little oil-I had trouble getting crispy skin-edges cooked faster and middle not crspy. I guess this way just takes more skill and constant observation? We weren't using non-stick pans so I guess it makes a huge difference? Maybe I'm focusing too much on perfect crispy skin (I admit I don't know exactly what is a perfectly cooked fish...)? 

    On the same subject when the fish curls up upon entering the pan, I just leave it alone until it relaxes slightly after a few minutes and then weigh it down gently until it holds its shape. Is that okay? Even so I'll still get softs spots where the skin didn't get crispy-this goes back to the amount of oil. 

    Also in prepping the fish I made sure to use the knife to run along the skin and remove xs moisture, seasoned the fish just before it goes in the pan and I was not using any wondra flour. 

    Can everyone comment on how much oil they use and why and any other tips/pointers? Thanks!
  2. koukouvagia


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    Home Cook
    You had me really thinking there for a minute, until I read the part where you "made sure to use the knife to run along the skin and remove xs moisture" and thus I have found your problem.  When searing anything, be it fish or chicken or any vegetable or protein, it's not just the excess moisture that will get in your way, it's all the moisture.  You must remove as much of the moisture as possible.  Place the protein between 2 paper towels.  Once the paper towels get soaked replace it with 2 other paper towels and so on until the paper towels come up dry.  Then sear, preferably in a nonstick pan, I don't think the amount of oil matters if you use a nonstick pan so use as little or as much as you like.  Sometimes if I don't want a lot of oil in the dish I simply brush the protein with oil and put none in the pan and that can be enough. 

    But the fish must be dry, must must must. 
  3. duckfat


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    Retired Chef
    Non stick pans make a world of difference in your technique as does the type of fish for searing. For most Salmon in a non-stick you really don't need any oil and at most just enough to coat the flesh before it hits the pan. Coating the entire bottom of the pan is quite a lot for searing unless you have a very thin coating of oil. You do not want your product to take on a "heavy" finish from XS oil. If your fish curls up in the pan you need to keep it flat with a spatula. Two minutes with out skin contact is a very long time with many types of fish.

    If your taking the step of scraping the skin with your knife to remove any excess moisture then unless you have a very wet product moisture should not be the problem. If you want crisp skin you must keep it in contact with the pan.

    I trust your using a Nenohoi. ;)

    Last edited: Jun 11, 2012