Can You Cook Fish in Cast Iron Skillet Without Sticking?

Cooking fish in a cast iron skillet is a popular way to cook seafood. However, fish is an excellent protein source, so it tends to stick to the pan or skillet.

So, can you cook fish in a cast iron skillet without sticking?  Yes, you can. However, there are several tricks you should know to keep the fish from sticking to the pan.

cast iron salmon raw
Cooking salmon in cast iron skillet. Credit: canva

Why and how can we do that? There are some things to remember before cooking fish in a cast-iron skillet. This article will discuss some details and helpful tips on cooking fish in a cast iron skillet without sticking!

Can You Cook Fish in Cast Iron Skillet?

Can You Cook Fish in a Cast Iron Skillet?

Yes, you can. Cast iron skillet is hands-down the best skillet material for cooking fish. But why? 

Why Cooking Fish in Cast Iron?

The first reason is that it has high heat conductivity. The heat from your stovetop will be transferred directly into the cooked food. And this makes sure that the food cooks evenly.

Can You Cook Fish in Cast Iron Skillet Without Sticking?
Cooking with Cast Iron Skillet. Credit: canva

Second,  it outperforms all other materials regarding heat retention—the metal’s ability to store and maintain the heat generated by a stovetop burner or oven.

Once you get a cast iron skillet, it stays hot, which helps apply an even sear to salmon and other proteins.

This isn’t the case with other skillet materials. When you add a piece of fish to a stainless steel or aluminum skillet, for example, it lowers the pan’s surface temperature, which results in an oven sear and can cause the fish to stick, especially when cooking it skin side down.

How Long to Cook Fish in Cast Iron Skillet?

The exact timing will vary depending on the thickness of the filet but figure about three minutes for thin filets such as flounder and about seven minutes for thicker filets such as salmon.

You can baste the fish with the fat as it is cooking if you want but do not move the fish, or the skin will not be crisp.

How to Cook Fish in Cast Iron Skillet without Sticking to a Pan?

cast iron skillet
Cast iron skillet. Credit: canva

Why is My Fish Sticking to Pan?

The first thing to understand about fish is that it is very high in protein and relatively low in fat.

Protein sticks, for example. It’s what glue is made of. Proteins will stick firmly when allowed to cool and denature gradually.

How to Keep Fish from Sticking to Pan

Can You Cook Fish in Cast Iron Skillet Without Sticking?
Frying fish in a cast iron pan. Credit: canva

Protein sticks

You must ensure that proteins cook rapidly since proteins adhere when they unwind slowly. Therefore, the temperature must be high enough to set the proteins as soon as possible.

Watch the temperature

The pan must be as hot as cooking meat or chicken before adding fish. The surface of your pan will not brown until approximately 320°F.

Since the pan’s temperature will drop when you add the fish, be sure that the fish isn’t too cold. At least 15 to 30 minutes before cooking, remove your fish from the refrigerator.

Preheat a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet to know whether your pan is hot enough for cooking. If you add a few drops of water and they immediately boil violently and evaporate after only a couple of seconds, the pan is hot enough.

Dry fish is important

If your recipe directs you to rinse the fish before cooking, be sure to dry it off. Butter, oil, or other combination of fat and water won’t mix. As a result, ensure you get as much moisture off the fish’s surface as possible.

Skin-side down

Fish skin is very delicate, and you should always cook the fish facing the pan to prevent it from sticking.

Turn your fish when it’s ready

You will only know when the protein naturally releases from the pan when it is time to turn it. When a protein has browned nicely, it will remove from the pan with minimal sticking, if any at all.

Place the fish skin-side (or prettiest side) first in the pan, and do not move it until it lets you. Then, adjust the heat to hear a good sizzle but not very loud sputtering and popping, and allow the fish to cook and develop a nice sear.

After the first three minutes, try and lift the fish with a wide fish spatula. If it releases easily, gently turn the fish. If not, give it about another 30 seconds and try again. Please don’t force it, though. It would be best if you didn’t have to scrape with the spatula.

Don’t overcook

Once the fish releases, turn the fish and let it cook until it is firm and opaque but not yet flaking. If you let it flake in the pan, you will overcook your fish due to carryover cooking.

Some people will dust a piece of fish with a light coating of seasoned flour to help keep it from sticking.

Tips

  • Ensure your cast iron is well-seasoned and clean from any sticking residue.
  • Fish are prone to sticking. Be sure to put enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
  • Preheat the skillet. Make sure the skillet is hot enough before cooking.
  • Make sure the oil is hot enough.
  • Dry the fish before cooking.
  • Turn the fish only when it has developed a nice sear and release easily.
  • When the fish is done, remove it immediately from the skillet.

Salmon Cast Iron Fish Recipe

Can You Cook Fish in Cast Iron Skillet Without Sticking?
Cooking Salmon in Cast Iron Pan. Credit: canva

Let’s try cooking seafood with salmon with this simple and easy recipe.

Ingredients

  • Four 6-ounce salmon fillets with skin
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or grapeseed oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Lemon wedges, for serving
  • optional: extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, homemade tartar sauce.

How to Keep Salmon from Sticking to Pan: On the Stovetop

  1. Dry the fish. Fish skin adheres firmly to cookware, especially when wet. When you take your salmon out of the fridge, use paper towels to blot away any extra moisture. Repeat just before seasoning and heating the fish in the pan.
  2. High, then low. Preheat the pan for a few seconds before adding the oil, then add the oil and heat until it shimmers like a mirage. Then, as soon as you put the fish in the pan, reduce the temperature to low. The moderate heat will cook both sides of the fish more evenly while allowing enough time for the skin to brown and crisp.
  3. Press the flesh. When a fish’s skin comes into contact with a hot pan, it shrinks and curls in on itself in golden brown color. To make it stay flat, for 10 to 15 seconds at a time, press down on the fish with a flexible fish spatula while it cooks.
  4. Finish Up. Once your fish is cooked through, transfer it to a plate.

Cooking Salmon in the Oven

Instead of cooking salmon fish fillets on the stovetop, you can also begin the process at the stove and finish it in the oven.

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F medium-high heat.
  2. Follow our recipe through Step 2
  3. Then transfer the skillet to the oven until the fish fillet is just cooked, 8 to 10 minutes in golden brown.

You can also broil the salmon in the oven from start to finish.

  1. Preheat the broiler to high and position a rack 4 to 6 inches below the heating element.
  2. Lightly brush the skillet with oil, and place the seasoned salmon fillets, skin-side down, inside.
  3. Broil the salmon until the top is nicely browned, 3 to 6 minutes (depending on your desired level of doneness).

About Cast Iron

Cast iron is made from metals and is available in different shapes, such as skillets, grills, or cookware. You want to make sure you purchase high-quality ones because they will last for years.

The best thing about it distributes heat evenly throughout the cookware. It means that your food will cook evenly and thoroughly.

Reasons to Use for Baking

The meals are crispier, and the batter is thoroughly cooked. The following are why baking is better than other materials.

Fewer Dishes

You may cook on the stovetop or straight in the oven. You don’t need to have a separate saucepan for cooking ingredients before folding them into the batter. A cast-iron skillet can do all of it.

Holds Heat Longer

Cast iron is a poor heat conductor. Once a pan is hot enough, it will retain the heat for an extended time.

Even heat ensures that your cake is uniformly baked and golden throughout. As a result, you won’t have to worry about temperature fluctuation damaging your crust or creating burn spots.

Better Control

A cast-iron skillet delivers superior control than standard baking pans. So if your cornbread never develops a crunchy outer crust, it’s probably because the pan isn’t heating evenly.

You can also preheat the pan in the oven before adding the batter. It assures that your pan is already boiling, which will help to crisp up your crust as desired.

Versatile

A cast-iron skillet can virtually do it all. In addition, you may downsize your kitchen pots and pans to clear up the clutter if you learn to utilize one.

Cast iron baking is also reminiscent of the past. The cookware is virtually unbreakable and recovered from house fires, making it a time-honored treasure.

Here are the five most common kitchen mistakes to avoid.

Avoid Cooking Acidic Foods in Cast-iron Pans

The first reason to avoid cooking acidic sauces in cast-iron pans is that the acid loosens small traces of molecules from the metal, allowing them to leach into your meals and impart a metallic flavor. While these metals are entirely safe to eat, they may leave an unpleasant taste.

The second reason is that acid may cause the seasoning on a cast-iron pan. When heated, the protective layer of polymerized fat that forms on a cast-iron pan is naturally non-stick.

Don’t Cook Delicate Fish

A cast-iron skillet can prove even heat during cooking, allowing you to get that perfect browned crust on a steak. But, on the other hand, this same quality poses a problem when it comes to more delicate meats that won’t withstand high temperatures.

When cooking flaky white fish like flounder or tilapia, they risk crumbling and not flipping correctly. Even with heartier fish like salmon, the skin is likely to stick to the cast-iron surface, making flipping difficult.

Avoid Sticky Foods Before Your Skillet is Well-seasoned

A well-seasoned cast-iron pan is as non-stick as any other pan that has been coated with a chemical-based non-stick coating. And the cookware is far more long-lasting than non-stick pans.n

Avoid Leaving and Storing Food

With a cast-iron skillet, you should permanently remove food from the pan and store leftovers in different dishes.

Generally, you want to keep your cast-iron pan dry to preserve its seasoning and prevent rust. The acids in food left in the pan will break down the herb. And storing food in the pan for prolonged periods makes it more likely to impart metallic flavor.

What Should You Do If Your Pan Has Sticking Residue?

It is important. Because uncleaned sticking residue will make your next dish stick to your pan.

What Causes It?

Food occasionally sticks to your cookware. It can occur for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • inadequate fat or oil while cooking
  • a not yet well-seasoned pan
  • new cookware that hasn’t acquired additional layers of seasoning.

What Should You Do?

  1. Before cooking, add about a teaspoon of oil to your skillet and heat it gradually on the stovetop or in the oven to help reduce sticking.
  2. After cooking, allow the cookware to cool.
  3. Use a pan scraper to remove stuck-on food, scrub with a nylon brush or non scratch pad, hand dry, and add a generous layer of oil.
  4. Rub the oil onto the pan evenly.

FAQs

Can you cook fish in cast iron cookware?

Yes, You can cook fish by adding oil to a preheated pan.

How do I clean my cast-iron skillet after frying?

  • Dry the pan with a paper towel.
  • Let it cool down for 15 minutes, then pour water into it while scrubbing off any stuck food particles using steel wool.
  • Wipe your dirty skillet with oil to keep it from rusting and store.

Why do my fish stick?

Fish is high in protein. Therefore, proteins will stick firmly when allowed to cool and denature gradually.

How do you cook seared fish fillets without sticking?

You can reduce the odds of sticking by using a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet and properly preheating it before adding oil.

How do you keep salmon from sticking?

You can keep salmon from sticking by preheating the pan properly before adding oil. Dry the salmon before cooking.