The Key to Getting Crispy Skin on Fish (Without Overcooking It)

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Christina Ng)

We can all probably agree that fish tastes best with crispy skin, but with the high heat and time it takes to sear the skin, the fish itself frequently gets overcooked. Especially when using thinner or less fatty pieces of fish, getting the best of both worlds seems impossible. Not quite.

(Image credit: Christina Ng)

Grab a Container of Ice!

That was my conundrum until a chef in culinary school showed me that a simple, flat-bottomed, metal container along with some ice would do the trick. While the fish cooks skin-side down, you put a metal container filled with ice on top of the fish. As the skin sears and becomes nice and crispy, the flesh is kept cool, thus delaying the cooking process. And because thinner pieces of fish tend to curl up when exposed to high heat, which prohibits an even sear, this method solves that problem too.

At home if you don’t have a metal tray, try a smaller frying pan or pot. As long as you can fill it with ice, you’ll benefit from this tip.

Be sure and use a towel or potholder when handling the metal container because after the fish has been seared it does get quite hot!

(Image credit: Christina Ng)

Fish to Try This With

You can use this tip with any skin-on fish fillet. For the best results, you still want to make sure the fish skin is dry and you’re cooking in a hot, oiled pan.

  • Salmon
  • Snapper
  • Branzino
  • Bass
  • Halibut