Things You'll Need
Coating fish fillets with flour gives them a crisp, golden outer crust that helps protect the moistness of the meat inside. It is not necessary to deep-fry coated fish to get that delectable blend of crisp and tender textures. Pan-frying floured fish in hot oil ensures a brittle, crunchy, golden crust. Add a sprinkle of fresh lemon or lime juice while the fillets are hot for a fresh and tangy treat.
Rinse the fish in cool running water and pat it dry with paper towels. This is not strictly necessary, but it can help remove any little bits of skin or stray scales left behind when the fish was cleaned and filleted.
Pour 1 inch of flour into a pie plate. Season the flour with salt and pepper and any other seasonings you prefer. Table salt and finely ground pepper will do, or get exotic with pink lava salt and a mixed peppercorn blend. Lemon pepper is good with fish, as are curry powder and paprika, or chili powder and thyme. You can also use a packaged seasoning mix.
Lay a fillet onto the seasoned flour. Press it down lightly, flip it over and press it down again. Place the coated fillet onto a clean platter. Flour the rest of the fillets and place the platter in the refrigerator to help set the coating.
Coat the bottom of a skillet with 1/8 inch of oil. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it develops a shimmer across the top. Canola oil and vegetable oil work best for this, but you can also use olive oil because it will not be heated past its smoking point.
Place the coated fillets into the skillet, making sure not to crowd them. Cook them for 5 minutes per every 1/2 inch of thickness. Turn the fish with tongs and cook them for an equal amount of time on the other side.
Check the doneness of the fish by poking an instant-read thermometer into the thickest fillet. The fish is done when the coating is golden brown and the thermometer reads at least 135 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the fish to a platter lined with paper towels and let it rest for 3 to 5 minutes so that its internal temperature can rise to at least 145 F.
Dip the fillets in a milk-and-egg mixture or beer before flouring them for a thicker crust, especially when flouring and frying a strongly flavored fish like catfish.
Do not use the same platter or utensils for both raw and cooked fish to avoid cross-contamination.