Skillet-Roasted Fish Fillets
Why This Recipe Works
Pan-roasted fish seems like a simple dish, but in reality it is usually only well executed by practiced chefs. At home, the dish often results in dry, overbaked fillets. We set out to develop a foolproof recipe for producing succulent, well-browned fillets. From an initial round of testing, we knew we needed thick fillets; skinnier pieces end up overcooked by the time they’ve achieved a serious sear. We then turned to a common restaurant method to cook the fish: Sear the fillet in a hot pan, flip, then transfer it to a hot oven to finish cooking. The technique was sound, but to brown the fish quickly before the hot pan had a chance to dry out the fish’s exterior we turned to a sprinkling of sugar. The idea is that sugar commingles with exuded juices from the fish, accelerating browning and giving the fish a rich color and deep flavor that’s anything but sweet. We dusted a few fillets with a touch of granulated sugar and placed them in a hot skillet. A well-browned crust formed almost immediately, leaving no time for the interior to dry out. And after a short stay in the oven to finish cooking through, the fish emerged well-browned, tender and moist, and best of all, not one taster detected any out-of-place sweetness.