well-seasoned, crispy-skinned fish

So I am wanting to better educate myself in fish cookery, and to that end I have purchased some lovely skin-on grouper fillets. Here's my quandary: I want well-seasoned, crispy-skinned fish. I know to season the fish an hour before cooking, but I have tried this once before with grouper and still found the interior of my fish to be fairly bland (I think the skin was too thick of a barrier for the seasoning to penetrate much). I also know that scoring the fish can help the seasoning get into the flesh, but it also makes the fish cook faster and I am wondering if that might make it cook too fast for the skin to have time to get really crispy. I also know about "squeegee-ing" the skin with the blunt side of the knife to get the moisture off the skin before cooking, but if anyone has any other tips for perfectly seasoned, crispy-on-the-outside, moist-on-the-inside fish, I'd love to hear them.

Kristen W.


savorthis June 17, 2013
I imagine you've eaten your grouper already, but for next time you could also try resting (or blotting) the fish skin down on paper towels. We do this with salmon which is one of the only type of fish skin we tend to eat. Often I will just salt and pepper the fish on both sides and slowly cook it skin down to render the fat and crisp the skin. I then either do a quick flip or eat it as is with the skin crispy and the top flesh very pink and barely cooked.
Pegeen June 16, 2013
Sam1148, love "christening the fish in the pan" - exactly right
Sam1148 June 16, 2013
Wondra flour as mentioned. Works great.
Buy if you already purchased them--you probably aren't going to dash out to purchase wondra flour. A flour/cornmeal mix (seasoned with salt and pepper) will give you nice crisp. Not a batter--just a dust or dredge. And those should be common pantry items. (Semolina instead of corn meal could be if you keep that on hand). Christening the fish in the pan with a squeeze of lemon or line juice helps seasoning.
Kristen W. June 16, 2013
Thanks so much -- these are great ideas!
Pegeen June 16, 2013
The NYC restaurant Le Bernardin's crispy-skinned fish, from a Genius Recipes article on this site. You could mix any number of herbs into the Wondra flour.
healthierkitchen June 16, 2013
I am not a fish cooking expert by any means, but had great success, coincidentally, last night doing this on the grill. I had salmon and wanted a crispy crust, but it was a thick piece so I needed to cook it longer. I used a greased grill rack and cooked it skin side down, never flipping it. I put the rack over direct heat to make the skin crispy, then moved the rack to indirect heat to let the fish cook through. I had only seasoned it with salt and pepper and a quick rub of olive oil as I had a sauce to drizzle on it for serving, but you could add any seasoning you like, depending on the flavor profile you want. You would not need to either squeegee or dredge with this method.
Kristen W. June 16, 2013
Thanks, Pierino, this sounds excellent. One question: following your method, should I a) still season the fish an hour before, squeegee it off and THEN dredge in seasoned flour right before cooking; b) season the fish an hour before and NOT squeegee before dredging b/c the moisture will help the flour coating stick; or c) skip the pre-seasoning altogether b/c the seasoned flour will be enough? Thanks in advance.
pierino June 16, 2013
I don't think the squeegee think is a necessary step. You want fish to be moist rather than dry after the frying pan. An hour would be long time for seasoning unless you are making ceviche. You can do the dredge step while butter is browning. To get more seasoning into the flesh make some very slight cuts into the flesh side---VERY slight. But that step is not necessary. Grouper by the way is a good cut to poach but that doesn't sound like what you are after here.
pierino June 16, 2013
Kristen W, continue doing what you are doing but grouper is a rather firm fleshed fish so it's going to take longer than say sole in the pan. I would do this, in a pie pan mix a blend of toasted rice flour (Asian section of the supermarket), cayenne or pimenton, black pepper, salt and dredge making sure that the skin gets plenty of the flour/spice blend. Heat up a beurre noir (brown butter) and start skin side down. Remember, I'm not a flipper, so turn only once---with fish it's going to come apart if you do. How long in the pan depends on thickness and how hot your pan is. Personally I like the fish flesh to be mild but for the skin to be spicy crisp. It does takes some practice so good luck!
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