7 best pans for cooking fish (for every budget)

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I used to hate cooking fish. I love eating it, but even thinking about cooking it at home would kill my appetite.

It has nothing to do with the smell. It’s easy to open the window and have neighbors salivating at the aroma. No, the problem was that half of the fish will end up stuck to the pan. It would take ages to clean, plus I would lose half of my dinner.

Fish is delicious and super healthy, so why should we give it up just because it can be a bit tricky to cook?

So, here we are. I will share with you the best pans for cooking fish. Don’t worry, they are not unitaskers. You’ll find yourself reaching for them for many other applications as well.

I’ll show you first what to look for, then get into my top picks. Finally, we’ll wrap up with a few questions you wanted to be answered. Let’s go.

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What to look for and why.

The most important thing when cooking fish is to have a good nonstick pan. Fish cooks so quickly that some other attributes like heat distribution and height don’t matter as much as they do with other animal proteins.

This doesn’t mean that you should run out and but the first nonstick pan you see. Actually, I would advise against buying a classic nonstick pan in general, and especially for cooking fish.

For now, I’ll ignore the toxicity and ecological issues. Let’s just concentrate on the quality of the coating itself.

It’s bad. Even when they promise it’s so nonstick you can fry an egg without a drop of oil (which is never actually true), that nonstick quality lasts for as long as you don’t scratch the surface.

No matter how careful you are, at some point, there will be chips and scratches. And you can’t repair that on Teflon or a similar material.

It’s better to invest in a pan where you can build, maintain, and repair the seasoning yourself. That means you should rely on your standard cast iron, stainless, and carbon steel.

Carbon steel is not as popular here as it is across the pond, but we have much amazing stainless steel and cast iron skillets that will not only be great for cooking fish but almost any other recipe that comes to mind.

Best Pans for Searing and Cooking Fish

All-Clad D3 Stainless Cookware 12-Inch Fry Pan with Lid

Pros:

  • Aluminum core for rapid heat up.
  • Strong industrial-grade hardware.
  • Suitable for all hobs and oven-safe up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Easy to clean.

Cons:

  • Bottom stains easily on gas hobs.
  • The handle shape should be redesigned.

This pan isn’t only one of the best pans for cooking fish, but a general workhorse in the kitchen. It also received great ratings from America’s Test Kitchen, and those guys tend to get things right.

If I had to create a capsule cookware collection for a small or a minimalistic kitchen, I would probably pick this pan and just add a Dutch oven and 2 or 3-quart saucepan.

As for cooking fish, there is a lot of space for both searing multiple portions at once. If you want to poach it, it can hold enough liquid and aromatics. You can also start on the hob, and finish in the oven for perfect flaky texture.

You will need to season the pan before cooking, but it’s nothing you can’t do whilst preparing other ingredients.

My biggest issue with it is the handle. It’s sturdy and it’s going nowhere, no matter how much you abuse the pan. However, some cooks may find it slightly awkward.

It’s easy to get a silicone sleeve and insulate it. But, if you happen to be at the wrong height and find it difficult to maneuver the pan while cooking, you’ll have to miss out on it.

Legend Stainless 8-Inch Copper Core 5 ply Stainless Steel Frying Pan

Pros:

  • Copper core for even heat distribution.
  • Heats up quickly.
  • Suitable for all heat sources.
  • Lifetime warranty.

Cons:

  • Seasoning wears off quickly.
  • Pretty small.

All those copper pots and pans may look amazing when you see them lined up, but they are a nightmare to keep clean. If you’ve ever wondered why they look so pristine when you see them displayed in other people’s kitchens, that’s because that’s their entire purpose = to be on display.

Luckily, you can get all the benefits of copper cookware minus the hassle when shopping for stainless steel pots and pans with a copper core. And this offering from Legend is exactly such a piece.

Since the surface is stainless steel, it will need seasoning before you decide to cook fish in it. And this is where my biggest issue with it pops up. For some reason, the season tends to wear off quicker from this pan than any other stainless steel skillet I’ve ever played with.

It’s not a big deal if you plan on seasoning the pan every time before you cook fish or other food items that are notorious for sticking. It’s a big deal if you were looking for something that was a bit lower maintenance.

It’s also a bit smaller compared to other entries on this list, but that is only an issue if you plan on cooking big or a lot of portions at once. Still, nothing that can’t be solved by opting for the 10-inch model.

Viking 3-Ply 10-Inch Stainless Steel Fry Pan

Pros:

  • Pro-grade quality.
  • Stay cool ergonomic handle.
  • Dishwasher, broiler, and oven safe up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Completely noon-reactive surgical stainless steel.

Cons:

  • Stains on high heat.
  • Personally, wouldn’t recommend it for electric hobs.

Viking cookware is probably one of the best-value stainless steel cookware on the market. And considering its nonreactive nature, it’s a great option for anyone who likes to play a lot in the kitchen.

When seasoned, this pan is great for searing fish. And the same quality I just praised in the previous paragraph means that you can poach the fish in anything without damaging the pan or letting that metallic taste bleed into your food.

With this pan, you can start your recipe on the hob, build the flavors, and transfer everything to gently poach in the oven. Or use it to recreate one of those Japanese broiled fish recipes.

It also has one of those rare non-coated stay-cool handles that actually stays cool.

My only thing is that I don’t like how it performs outside of a gas hob. It seems to me that it goes from super-pan to just a regular pan the second you turn on the electricity.

However, cooking on gas will stain the bottom eventually. That eventually will come slightly sooner than with some similar pans. It will not affect the pan’s performance at all, only its ability to be put on display in your kitchen.

Legend Cast Iron 12-Inch Skillet with Lid

Pros:

  • Builds better seasoning with every use.
  • With a little TLC can last a lifetime.
  • Suitable for every heat source.
  • Comes with a glass lid so you can see what’s going on with your food.

Cons:

  • Needs additional prep before first use.
  • Heavier than similar pans from other brands.

Legend makes another appearance on this list of best pans for cooking fish., but this time with a cast iron offering.

The best thing about cast iron is that you can build a nonstick surface by simply using them. Just a little prep and there is no chance that any food will stick to the surface, not even the delicate fish skin.

I love how the manufacturer used every good design aspect of other cast iron skillets and put them together. The silicone handle is a nice extra that you could buy separately, but it kind of makes sense that it comes included in the kit these days.

This pan requires a little extra prep when compared to a lot you can pick up, but it’s nothing that a good scrub and a bit of sanding paper can’t fix. I would also recommend doing at least three or four coats of seasoning before searing fish in it.

This particular model comes with a glass lid that will prove useful when poaching. I am not a fan, and if you agree with me, you’ll like the next entry better.

I would not recommend this skillet only for cooking fish but for almost anything else. It’s a good investment that will pay out in many years to come. I will try it with good steak also just to get the most amazing searing.

Cuisinel Cast Iron Pre-Seasoned Covered Frying Pan Set

Pros:

  • Comes pre-seasoned with all possible accessories.
  • Suitable for any heating source from the kitchen hob, to the oven or grill.
  • Great for cooking with a lot of liquid.
  • Lifetime warranty.

Cons:

  • Very heavy.
  • The surface requires an extra layer of seasoning.

This is probably the best entry-level cast iron skillet set I’ve ever seen. You get everything you would need to start cooking all those different classic cast iron pan recipes. I love that it comes with an iron lid since that opens up numerous cooking possibilities. Also, the cleaning silicone scraper is a very nice touch.

It’s the same deal as when we were talking about the Legend cast iron. Since you can season it, you can build an almost glass-like nonstick coating that will release the most delicate of fish.

This pan comes pre-seasoned, but I would highly recommend you do at least one round of seasoning yourself as well, maybe even two if you plan to cook fish straight away. The surface is a little rough, and neither do I nor other customers find that manufacturer’s seasoning is enough.

That being said, I would recommend this particular pan for those who want to take one with them when they go fishing. There’s no glass or any other fragile component to worry about. Plus, the cast iron lid will allow you to burry the pan into the drying embers for gentle cooking.

Tramontina Fry Pan Stainless Steel Tri-Ply Clad 10-Inch

Pros:

  • Great value for money.
  • Even heat distribution without hot spots.
  • Suitable for all cooktops, including induction.
  • Dishwasher safe and oven safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cons:

  • Some customers have reported discoloration and warping.
  • Made in China, not in Brazil as advertised.

If you are not willing to dish out the big bucks on All-Clad, Tramontina is a great budget-friendly brand. You get to experience all the great stuff you can do with a stainless steel skillet, at a fraction of the cost.

This Brazilian brand is famous for delivering attractive and high-quality kitchenware at competitive prices. I highly recommend looking at one of their colored sets if you’re looking for an affordable housewarming or wedding gift.

As for this skillet, in particular, it’s almost as good as any other entry on this list for cooking fish. You will still need to season the pan when not poaching, but after that everything should be smooth sailing.

The pan feels very sturdy in the hands, and the handle offers a comfortable and secure grip.

However, you are getting what you have paid for. This is not your forever pan. I estimate that the one I was playing with would have to be replaced in 5 to 10 years, at best. Some customers have reported having issues earlier than that.

I would say that this is a great pick for anyone on a tight budget. However, if you can afford to spend a bit more, other pans from this list will offer you greater longevity.

Made In Cookware 12-Inch Stainless Steel Frying Pan

Pros:

  • Professional-grade hardware and construction.
  • Suitable for all cooktops.
  • Safe up to whopping 800 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Very well balanced

Cons:

  • The cooking area is smaller than promised.
  • The original coating scratches off easily.

This is one of perhaps my favorite discoveries. All-Clad is always a safe and reliable option, but MadeIn is here to give it a run for its money.

The first thing you may have noticed is that it’s safe up to 800 degrees Fahrenheit, which means there is nothing you can’t do with this pan. All tests and customer experiences suggest that this statement was not blown out in any way.

It’s also built to last, even though a lot of banging and temperature changes. This is also probably the only pan I would spring out when using the kitchen torch or flambeing.

The only thing I see people complain about is the coating it comes with and how easily it scratches off. I would recommend giving the pan a thorough scrub to remove it altogether because that coating is only good enough to protect the pan until it reaches your home. After that, you have to build the seasoning from scratch.

Also, note that these pans run a bit small. If an average 10-inch pan tends to be a tight fit for your need, you may need to go a full size up with one of these pans.

FAQ

Is cast iron good for searing fish?

A well-seasoned cast iron pan is one of the best vessels for searing and cooking fish. Not a single nonstick pan can compare to a well-used and maintained cast iron skillet.

That is unless you’ve cooked something acidic in it or washed it with dishwashing detergent before trying to cook fish. Bith can damage the seasoning and will make the fish stick to the pan.

Can you fry fish in a nonstick pan?

You can, but I would recommend investing in a cast iron or a stainless steel skillet instead. You can season them and repair the nonstick coating when necessary.

Pans with commercial nonstick coating are not always as nonstick as advertised. You can’t do anything to fix that, and neither can you do anything to fix the coating that is scratched or otherwise damaged.

Can I cook fish in a stainless steel pan?

Yes. Chefs may prefer to use stainless steel when they want the food to stick to the bottom (ie creating fond and building sauces) which is something w actually want to avoid when cooking fish. However, you can season them the same way you would season a cast iron or a carbon steel skillet and end up with an amazing nonstick surface.

How to season the pan before searing fish?

If you are seasoning the pan for the first time, wash it with dishwashing soap first. For the first seasoning and any additional ones, the steps are the same after.

Grapeseed oil is the best oil for seasoning all cookware, but any other oil with a high smoke point will do.

All you have to do is to apply a teaspoon or two of oil and spread it over the cooking surface of the pan. Then place the pan on the hob on high until it smokes. Repeat once or twice more for better results.

When cooking fish, you can quickly top up the seasoning with a teaspoon or two of grapeseed oil. While prepping the fish and other ingredients, leave the pan to smoke. Then, add the preferred oil or butter and proceed with cooking.

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