Expert Recipe: Pan-Seared Cod

Published on 10/21/2023 · 5 min readThis restaurant favorite can easily be made at home with just a few simple ingredients! Check out the details in this recipe from Kitchen Expert Charlene F.!
Charlene F, Kitchen Expert
By Kitchen Expert Charlene F

Photo by Mironov Vladimir

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When you love fish but your partner is more of a carnivore, pan-seared cod quickly becomes your go-to fancy restaurant dish that both of you can enjoy. This low-fat protein, which is not too fishy in flavor, is not hard to recreate for a simple yet sophisticated meal at home. With its mild yet firm and flakey flesh, it’s a dish that sings dressed in a simple butter sauce and anointed with briny capers and fresh chopped parsley but is just as delicious served with creamed spinach or some ratatouille. While you could fry, steam, or bake cod in the oven, pan-searing will give a nice crispy outer layer, the perfect foil to its juicy, firm flesh. A gourmet treat that goes from fridge to table in under 20 minutes, a nicely seared cod is a crowd-pleaser whether you’re cooking for someone special or just in the mood for something simple and nutritious.

What You’ll Need

  • Non-Stick Skillet: The key to preventing the cod from sticking is a good quality non-stick skillet (10” or 12”) that ensures even cooking. Another advantage is how easy it is to clean with a gentle scrub to remove any remaining bits of food.
  • Fish Slice or Silicon Spatula: Gentle does it. Use either utensil to flip the fish gently and preserve its delicate texture. Ensuring that the crusty layer remains unbroken keeps the juices locked in. A fish slice is recommended because its elongated slot design makes it easy to slip under fish and drain any liquid.
  • Saucier Pan: With a curved bottom, a saucier pan is perfect for whisking sauces like the butter-based sauce in this recipe. The 7-ply construction guarantees even heat distribution and retention, so the sauce doesn’t curdle.
  • Chef’s Knife: Mince herbs like a pro with this high-quality, versatile kitchen instrument. Made with WÜSTHOF steel in Soligen, Germany, this particularly sharp blade makes chopping herbs a breeze and chops them cleanly without bruising.

Ingredients

Pan-Seared Cod

  • 4 cod fillets
  • 1tsp kosher salt
  • ½tsp garlic powder
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped for garnish
  • 1.5tbsp fresh lemon juice for a zesty finish
  • Lemon slices, for garnish
  • 1tbsp olive oil

Butter-based Sauce

  • 2tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2tbsp capers, drained

Directions

Step 1: Prep The Cod Fish

Photo by Karepa Stock P.

Start by patting the fresh cod fillets (approximately 1” to 1.5” thick) dry using paper towels gently to remove excess water and ensure a crisp sear. If you have frozen cod fillets, thaw them out the night before in the refrigerator. Flavor-wise, Atlantic cod typically has a sweeter and flakier texture, while Pacific cod is milder in flavor and slightly firmer in texture.

Step 2: Season The Fish

Photo by Jacek Chabraszewski

About ten minutes before you start to cook, generously sprinkle each side of the cod fillets with kosher salt and garlic powder. This way, it gains the flavor from the seasoning but doesn’t break down the proteins to become chewy.

Step 3: Heat The Skillet

Photo by Zorin Jonny

Add a dash of oil to your non-stick skillet under medium-high heat. Once hot (but not smoking, so aim for the oil to shimmer at above 300°F), place the cod fillets in and sear. Listen for that satisfying sizzle and let it cook for 3-4 minutes.

Step 4: Cooking The Fish

Photo by TunedIn by Westend61

Cook the cod fish until the flesh turns opaque. This takes approximately 3-4 minutes on each side or till its internal temperature reaches 145°F. You should observe a golden-brown crust form on the bottom side of the fish as well, which seals the juices in. The flesh should flake easily with a gentle prod of a fork.

Step 5: Sauce Preparation

Photo by Milanchikov Sergey

In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, add minced garlic, and stir until fragrant. Finish with a splash of fresh lemon juice, pour melted butter sauce over the cod, and decorate with capers, lemon slices, and freshly chopped parsley.

Tips

  • When it comes to achieving a nice, even pan sear, use a non-stick skillet and ensure the fish is dry before placing it in. Also, make sure to salt it before so moisture is drawn out.
  • Cod has the benefits of a lean protein that’s also rich in vitamins B12 and B6 and is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. An alternative is haddock, but it has a fishier taste.
  • Mild white fish like cod pairs well with citrus, garlic, and fresh herbs, so mix and match till you find the perfect flavor.
  • If given a choice, Pacific cod is more sustainably managed and responsibly harvested vs. Atlantic cod.

Final Thoughts on this Pan-Seared Cod Recipe

Photo by David B Townsend

Pan-seared cod is a great restaurant “cheat” meal to impress with minimal effort and for days when you're pressed for time yet crave something wholesome. From a dietary standpoint, perfecting a cod recipe is an excellent choice if watching your carb intake or seeking a rich protein source, and since it can be paired with a wide variety of side dishes: anything from garlic mashed cauliflower, roasted potatoes, grilled asparagus, or a plate of colorful vegetables, so you can have this on rotation without getting bored.

If you need any of the tools to make this recipe or maybe something for one of your own recipes, reach out to any of the Kitchen Experts here on Curated. We will make sure you have everything you need to create some magic in your kitchen, too!

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