Pan Roasting Made Easy

How to cook thick fish steaks

Pan roasting is the easiest and most foolproof way to cook thick fish steaks to moist and flavorful perfection every time. 

I find thick fish steaks tricky to cook, especially because I like them cooked through, not raw in the middle.  Yet if you overcook by even a few minutes, they quickly become tough, dry, and tasteless.   I've had my share of disasters.  Considering how much premium fish such as swordfish costs in the market, these disasters can be costly.

The solution?  Pan roast them! 

Why pan roast?

In short, the pan roast technique means searing a fish steak such as tuna, swordfish, or halibut at high temperature for a couple of minutes on each side to seal in the juices and form a crust on the outside.  Then, you complete the cooking process in an oven set at 400° F until the steak reaches your preferred stage of doneness.

You'll love pan roasting fish steaks because the technique is very fast and easy - and virtually foolproof.  You'll get perfect results every time. 

Professional chefs routinely pan roast thick cuts of meat and fish.  They sear the fish (or meat) ahead of time, place it in the refrigerator to stay chilled, and then finish cooking in the oven when diners order it.  The next time you order a thick steak of any sort in a restaurant, you can guess that it may have been pan roasted.

Best of all, when you can use this favorite technique of professional chefs at home, you'll get the same delicious results for a fraction of what you'd spend on a meal at a top seafood restaurant. 

How to pan roast thick fish steaks

1.  Remove your fish steaks from the refrigerator about half an hour before you want to cook them.  Keep them loosely covered on a plate so that they come to room temperature.  Preheat the oven at 400° F.

2.  Heat a large, heavy skillet over high heat for 3-4 minutes until it's quite hot.

3.  Using paper towels, dry the fish steaks on all sides.  Don't skimp on this critical step - the fish will not brown properly unless it is dry!  Season the fish with salt and pepper on all sides.  Use only a little salt, as fish is naturally salty. 

4.  Add 3 tablespoons of canola oil (or any other neutral-flavored oil with a high smoke point) to the skillet, and tilt it to spread the oil across the skillet's bottom surface.  Heat for 1-2 minutes until the oil begins to smoke. 

5.  Add the fish steaks, being careful not to crowd them against each other or the side of the pan.  If they're too crowded, they'll steam, not sear.  If necessary, cook them in two batches.

6. After 3 minutes, flip over each steak.  Sear them for 3 more minutes, and then remove from the heat.  Use a spatula to gently release them from the bottom of the pan so they don't stick. 

7.  Using oven mitts, put the skillet into the oven and bake until the steaks reach the desired degree of doneness.  Remove from the oven, and transfer the steaks to a platter to rest. 

8.  Deglaze the skillet with a little white wine or water.  You can make a simple sauce by stirring in a few tablespoons of butter, one at a time, and seasonings of your choosing.  Pour over the fish steaks and serve. 

Try these easy and delicious pan roasting recipes:

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