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Grandma Shirley’s Crispy Pan Fried Fish

Growing up near Lake Erie, Friday night fish fries were a weekly tradition. Delicious crispy fried fish was the goal, and soybean oil was the key to achieving it! Grandma Shirley’s Crispy Pan Fried Fish is the inspiration for this recipe. I still remember her drill: “don’t cut the fish too thick, don’t dredge it in too much flour, and make sure the pan and oil are hot!”

Prep Time: 5 mins

Cook Time: 5 mins

Yield: 2; 5-8-ounce portions




  • ½ cup soybean oil (aka vegetable oil), for frying
  • 3-4 tablespoons soybean oil, enough to cover base of pan about ¼-inch
  • 2 (5-8 ounce) fish fillets, best no thicker than a half inch thick, skin on or off
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika, or substitute with favorite herbs and seasonings
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Optional Garnishes:

  • Lemon wedges
  • Finely chopped parsley or dill
  • Tartar sauce


Pat the fish dry on both sides.  Season the fish well on both sides with salt and pepper.

Mix the flour with paprika (or, seasonings of choice), ground garlic in a shallow bowl.  Coat fish on both sides with flour, pressing down into flour mixture so it adheres, but shake to remove excess flour. 

Heat a heavy-bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat and add oil.  Swirl oil to coat the pan – it will heat within seconds.

Add fish – it should sizzle when touches pan.  Cook for 2 minutes until golden and crisp, pressing down gently, then flip with a hard metal spatula.  Cook the other side for 2 minutes until crisp then remove from pan when golden brown. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels

If it’s browning too quickly, just remove the pan from the stove briefly.  If it’s stuck, don’t flip or move – it will release on its own once cooked to a golden brown (too much moving will break fish apart).  

Serve fish hot with lemon wedges, garnished with dill or parsley, and a tartar sauce if using.