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Old 02-25-2008, 02:00 PM   #1
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Crumbly Fish Filets - Please help! :(

Hello guys, first time posting. I am hoping you can help me with a favorite recipie of mine which I can't quite get to come out right.

When I was little, my father used to make this for me. So I know it CAN be done right. I have even, on one or two occasions, had it come out right. But usually I have problems (elaborating below).

The basic recipie is you take a filet fish (Grey Sole is my favorite) and seperate it, and you let it soak in milk for a few hrs. Then pat dry and salt/pepper and dredge in flour for a light coating. Then they are fried in butter. Here is where the problem lies.

I have a REAL hard time turning the fish. Usually I wind up scraping the "golden brown" part up with the spatulas I use. Using a nonstick pan is out of the question (The fish is finished via a sauce deglaze which wouldn't work well at all in nonstick). This means at the end of my fry, I have more of a "Grey Sole Hash" then nicely browned filets.

My dad has suggested I "season" my pans more using salt and a high oven, but I have found over time that while this did work 2 times, the pan eventually becomes more used and fish continues to stick.

So I need a special spatula? A dedicated fish pan? Some nifty gadget that he can't remember? Any and all comments are appreciated. Thanks for reading :)

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Old 02-25-2008, 02:23 PM   #2
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Try it with oil instead of butter, or at least turn the heat down a notch.
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Old 02-25-2008, 02:33 PM   #3
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Your dad had it right now, you have to keep the pan well seasoned or it will stick like crazy and drive you nuts.
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Old 02-25-2008, 02:39 PM   #4
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I'm not sure if this would help, but I use half butter and half oil when I pan-fry fish; I have no problems with sticking. I also have a large spatula made especially for turning fish. HTH.
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Old 02-25-2008, 02:43 PM   #5
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You can buy a fish spatula. That would probably help.

What kind of pan are you using? Stainless steel needs no seasoning and you shouldn't go after it with salt and heat.

Cast iron does need seasoning but you season it with fat not salt. Salt is used by some people to clean the pan, but never to season it.

Also, it sounds like you are overcooking the fish if it is falling apart on you that much.
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Old 02-25-2008, 03:00 PM   #6
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Um.. you season cast iron with fat...
  1. Heat the oven to 250o - 300o
  2. Coat the pan with lard or bacon grease. Don't usea liquid vegetable oil because it will leave a sticky surface and the pan will not be properly seasoned.
  3. Put the pan in the oven. In 15 minutes, remove the pan & pour out any excess grease. Place the pan back in the oven and bake for 2 hours.
Use a paper towel and wipe clean after it cools.
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Old 02-25-2008, 03:54 PM   #7
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Thanks guys!

I am using a "heavy" skillet, it is stainless steel. However, there is small amounts of residue on them which I can't clean off. I think it may be due to my water (its super hard). Usually I can clean them by doing the Kosher salt/350 degree oven for a few hours thing, which is the only time Ive gotten it NOT to stick.

"Try it with oil instead of butter, or at least turn the heat down a notch. "

The butter is an intregral componant to the recipie, says dad, otherwise you can't get the right flavor, nor can you get the right kind of sauce at the end. What I have always done (when cooking with butter) is use a few Tbs of olive oil to heat it up, and prevent the butter from browning too fast.

Fist spatula - I will google that. I assume its wider and longer or something? That may be my problem.

The goal for me would be to just cook the fish till its a golden color. I can get it that color, but then when I try to flip it thats when the problem happens. The outer/flour layer is sticking to the pans I am using. Ive tried two pans.

So far from your replies Im going to try and really aggressively "salt clean" my pans, and also try looking into a fish spatula.

Regarding overcooking - how long do you think a small filet should cook, over med high heat to be done? Im using gas so its really an "eye" thing as to how hot it is.

Thanks so much you guys you have helped me a lot :)
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Old 02-25-2008, 04:03 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NJHomeChef View Post
I am using a "heavy" skillet, it is stainless steel. However, there is small amounts of residue on them which I can't clean off. I think it may be due to my water (its super hard).
Try cleaning it with Barkeepers Friend.
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Old 02-25-2008, 04:17 PM   #9
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Residue on the pan can make things stick, but baking a SS pan at 350 with salt in it won't clean it. SOme people advocate scrubbing with salt or using salt in a liquid solution but IMO those aren't very effective.

I agree with bowlingshirt -- Barkeeper's Friend gets just about anything off.

A fish spatula is very flexible, so you can slide it under the fish more easily.

Sole is generally a thin filet, so it really needs only a minute or two per side. Remember that it will continue cooking for a bit after you remove it from the pan to make your sauce.
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Old 02-25-2008, 04:17 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NJHomeChef View Post
Fist spatula - I will google that. I assume its wider and longer or something?
Yes, that's right.

Quote:
Originally Posted by NJHomeChef View Post
Regarding overcooking - how long do you think a small filet should cook, over med high heat to be done? Im using gas so its really an "eye" thing as to how hot it is.

Thanks so much you guys you have helped me a lot :)
I have a gas stove, too, and when I cook tilapia with just a light coating of seasoned flour, I cook it 2-3 minutes per side on medium high heat. HTH.
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Old 02-25-2008, 04:49 PM   #11
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I cook fish filets in non-stick pans all the time - using appropriate non-stick utensils, of course - & don't have any problems with either browning or deglazing the pan to make a sauce afterwards. For whatever reason, everything seems to stick to stainless steel, unless I'm using enough oil to be shallow-frying rather than just browning/sauteeing.

As far as cooking times - thin filets like sole should only take, as GotGarlic said - no more than 2-3 minutes per side on medium-high heat.

And a good fish spatula is priceless. I bought a Williams-Sonoma one on E-Bay several years ago for half it's catalog price & I LOVE it. It's long-handled steel, with an elongated perforated spatula end that's raised along one side so you can scoop up a filet without it sliding off the side.
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Old 02-25-2008, 04:50 PM   #12
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And a good fish spatula is priceless. I bought a Williams-Sonoma one on E-Bay several years ago for half it's catalog price & I LOVE it. It's long-handled steel, with an elongated perforated spatula end that's raised along one side so you can scoop up a filet without it sliding off the side.
Sounds like the one I have I bought it at W-S after reading about it in Cook's Illustrated. Wish I'd gotten the deal you did.
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Old 02-25-2008, 05:21 PM   #13
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I'm having a hard time understanding the "deglazing" part. Since fish doesn't carmelize the way meat and poulty does, there really isn't any fond on the bottom of the skillet to deglaze. Seems like the only thing you would end up with in this case would be pieces of fish and the flour that sticks to the pan. You can't "season" a stainless steel pan the way you would a cast iron pan. The reason for the season, is to seal the pores of the cast iron. SS pans have no pores so you will only end up pitting a bottom of the SS pan using salt. I wish I could help you but I'm not getting the part about deglazing fish.

As for the fish falling apart it may be due to the long cooking time and high heat. Fish cooks very fast and will fall apart if cooked too long. Cheap spatulas do work well, you just have to know when to turn the fish.
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Old 02-26-2008, 09:29 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NJHomeChef View Post
The basic recipie is you take a filet fish (Grey Sole is my favorite) and seperate it, and you let it soak in milk for a few hrs.
A few hours -- is that correct? My version of pan-fried, flour-dredged fish fillet (meuniere-style) is soaked in milk for 15 minutes only. No longer than 30 minutes. (And that's to remove any fishy smell.) I don't know if the length of soaking time has anything to do with your problem.

Also, you should pat the fish dry first before dredging in flour. Sounds like your fish is producing too much liquid/milk so the flour is not sticking. Also your heat may be too low and the flour gets too wet from the milk such that you are in effect steaming/simmering the flour and turning it gray instead of frying it golden brown.
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Old 02-26-2008, 09:37 AM   #15
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It would help if we had the entire recipe, including the sauce part.
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Old 02-26-2008, 10:04 AM   #16
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I agree with Chopstix - seafood, especially fish filets, shouldn't be soaked in liquid - milk, marinade, whatever - for much longer than 30 minutes. Longer than that results in flesh that is way too soft - even mushy - to hold together during virtually any form of cooking.
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