Why does fish stick to pan when frying: Surefire Tips to a perfect Fried Fish

  • By: Emma
  • Date: May 19, 2022
  • Time to read: 6 min.

Table of Contents

Why does fish stick to pan when frying?

Fish is one of the most complex dishes to master in the kitchen. Many things can go wrong, and if you do not know what you are doing, you can look like a disaster.

The most common problem while cooking is the fish sticking to the pan. With this problem, almost 50% of the people taking up cooking fish give up.

The main reason for fish sticking to a frying pan is that it is composed of protein along with water contents. Sulfur, which is present in the amino acid chains of the proteins, reacts with the frying pan surface forming a bond. However, this bond weakens at a specific heat level, and the fish detaches from the frying pan.

In case you find fish is sticking to the pan no matter what you do, then follow these tips below:

Choice of Fish

The first and foremost thing that you need to take care of while frying any variety of fish is the choice of your fish. All types of saltwater fish work well with frying as they easily get detached from the pan.

Freshwater fish can be used too, but it has to be oily fish like salmon or tuna, unlike what people commonly buy, i.e., catfish, which is rarely oily; hence becomes difficult to get it off the pan while cooking.

How to choose your desired kind of fish for frying?

You need to know to choose the right kind of fish for frying. The best types of saltwater fish that you can use with frying are:


This is one of the healthiest and tastiest fish you will find in any supermarket. It is an oily fish with more omega-3 fatty acid than other fish. This acid is very beneficial for your heart.

The healthiest thing about salmon fish is that almost 95% of its calories are gone when cooked. It contains only 5 grams of calories per 100 grams.


This fish has two different kinds, red meat tuna, and white meat tuna. Both are equally healthy but which is preferred by you,

The healthiest thing about tuna is that it contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help you fight diseases like cardiovascular problems and nervous system disorders.


This fish works best with frying as it becomes straightforward to get off the pan while cooking. It tastes delicious too. But this fish has high mercury contents, so before cooking it, you should consult your doctor first.

Learn more about how to use a frying pan on a bbq?

Heat of the pan

Another important thing that you need to keep in mind while making fried fish is keeping in mind the heat of your pan. Generally, medium to high heat is preferred when frying anything because it helps with cooking faster.

But what most people do not know is that if they use very high heat for frying their fish, it will burn out on the outside and turn black very fast but will remain raw inside hence stick to the pan when cooked. So always make sure you fry with moderate-high heat only.

Learn more about how hot does a skillet get!

Quality of Oil

Oils are another most important part of cooking any variety of fried fish. Traditionally oils used for frying are vegetable oil, olive oil, or canola oil. Vegetable oils are the cheapest and most common in every household, but this is not advisable to use them for frying fish because it has a lot of ‘bad fat, which does no good for the health.

Keep moving the pan

Another important tip for cooking any variety of fried fish is to keep stirring the pan while cooking because if you do not stir, your fish will stick to the bottom of your pan.

Moving the pan allows the uniform distribution of heat and prevents the meat from sticking to the pan’s surface.

Letting your Fish Rest

The most important tip you need to take care of while making any variety of fried fish that I want to mention here is letting your fish rest.

Your fish will stick to the pan if it does not have time to cool down, as there are proteins in the meat that contract when heated and expands back once cooled. So constantly give your fish at least 3 minutes before lifting it from the surface.


After resting for some time, the tapping method is another very helpful tip that you can use to see if your fish is cooked by shaking its head part. If it separates easily, then go ahead and lift your pan with the help of a spatula or tongs and turn off the stove.

Using cooking oil spray

An excellent tip for making any variety of fried fish is using cooking oil spray on your pan instead of pouring it from a bottle. You need to keep the spray 15 cm away from the surface and press the button.

Using a Frying Pan

A frying pan or a skillet that is deep enough to hold all your fish pieces without piling up on each other with about half an inch thick walls will be excellent. It should have thick walls because if there are thin walls, then too much heat loss occurs as the outer surface starts cooling down, which means you will not get crispy fried fish as compared to when it has thick walls.

Learn more: Can you use a frying pan on a gas grill?

Cooking Temperature

Another essential tip that I want to mention here is that you should not cook on high heat. This is because cooking on high heat will burn the surface of your fish if it is kept for too long, so always keep in mind to have medium to low temperature. So, it would help if you had an idea of different cooking temperatures to get the perfect taste.

Cooking time

Cooking time also matters when it comes to frying any variety of fried fish because if you keep the fish for too long, it will start getting brown on the outside but raw inside, which will be full of blood when cut. So always cook your fried fish for a small amount of time.

Of course, if you’re frying fish for the first time, you may feel some trepidation. But after this article, there will be no more mysteries surrounding fish frying, which is one of the most rewarding cooking methods.

Is it harmful to health if fish sticks to the pan when frying?

Yes, it is harmful to health if fish sticks to the pan while frying. When oil boils over, it messes your oven, and this oil can splatter up onto your face. If you’re less conscious about your diet, you should be more concerned about this.

Besides, all of that burnt food gunk has to go somewhere – usually down the drain or into the garbage disposal, where it’ll end up stuck on plates and dishes.

Learn more: 9 reasons why shouldn’t you crowd the pan

Final thoughts

The key to making sure your fish does not stick is to keep moving the pan while cooking.

Letting your fish rest for a few minutes after cooking will allow it to cool off and contract back into shape, increasing its chances of staying intact.

Tapping your fish is an excellent way of determining if it’s done cooking on the inside without cutting into it first. Also, make sure you are not over-cooking your fish or using too high heat.

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