Panko Crusted Oven Fried Rockfish Fillets: Golden brown with a crunchy, crispy exterior, these rockfish fillets are sure to please the pickiest palates.
There is something so satisfying about biting into a piece of perfectly crispy fried rockfish. It’s slightly salty with a crunchy coating on the outside and tender fish inside. Not heavy or fishy tasting, but mild and light. Creating my perfect weeknight version of fried rockfish fillets took some trial and effort, but I’m certain I have it figured out.
For starters, I wanted a lightened up version with coating that wasn’t too thick, or too thin. It must be light and crunchy, never heavy or mushy. It also needs brown up quickly to a light golden brown while not leaving me with a big mess of grease splatters to clean up. The fish itself should be light tasting, not fishy, with a firm but tender texture that melts in your mouth.
After many trials (and a few errors) I discovered that my special recipe involved not just one, but two tricks in order to achieve perfection. The first, is panko style bread crumbs and the second is a combination of my cast iron skillet and the oven. This fish cooks up in about 6 – 8 minutes, making a great option for a busy weekday evening.
When selecting your fish, I recommend rockfish. It’s usually less than 1″ thick at it’s thickest point, meaning that it cooks up quickly. You can also substitute other types of whitefish like cod, tilapia, catfish or halibut for this recipe, but adjust the cooking times as needed based on the thickness of your fish.
If you aren’t familiar with panko style bread crumbs, allow me to introduce you to my crunchy friends. Yes, they are different from regular bread crumbs. According to the pro’s over at Kikkoman they “are larger, crispier, and lighter, which means they coat without packing.” For you this means that the resulting crust is light and almost delicate in texture, exactly what I want.
You should be able to find them in most grocery stores with the regular bread crumbs. If not check the Asian foods section. Kikkoman is my favorite and their ingredient list is simple and straightforward.
The recipe follows a standard dredging pattern to create a breading that doesn’t slide off. Start with the seasoned flour. Coat the fish lightly, making sure to get every available surface, then shake off any excess. Next dip it in the egg/milk mixture, again coating well. Hold it up for a few seconds to allow any excess to drip off before placing it into the panko/parmesan mixture. Lightly press the mixture onto the fish, making sure it adheres fairly evenly. Let the fish rest for at least 2 minutes before cooking so that the crumbs can soak into the egg.
The reason for the multiple steps is to make it all stick. Wet won’t stick well to wet and dry won’t stick well to dry. By building the coating on in alternating layers of wet (fish), dry (flour), wet (egg), dry (panko) we create a crust that won’t fall off when we cook it or when we serve it.
Cooking these rockfish fillets in oven serves a few purposes. First, it allows you to use only 2 tablespoons of oil for frying. Much healthier than deep frying or even pan frying in a half inch of oil. By cooking them in the oven, the trapped heat allows them to cook through very quickly while the oil helps create that perfectly golden crust. Lastly, the oven will contain all of the grease splatters, meaning less danger in the kitchen and less mess to clean up afterwards.
You will need to make sure that your pan is oven safe, which is why I choose to use my 10″ cast iron skillet. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend this one or the largest one of this set (it’s the one I use all the time!) It’s the perfect size to contain two rockfish fillets but doesn’t let the oil run all over the place.
Heat the oven with the pan inside. That hot pan will jump start the cooking process. The rockfish fillets only go in for about 3 – 4 minutes on each side, based on fish that is about 3/4′ to 1′ thick. Be very careful when flipping these fillets over. Not only can grease splatter, but the tender fish can break apart. I use a spatula and a pair of tongs to gently turn the fish.
The result is just what I was looking for: tender rockfish fillets in a golden, light and crispy coating that satisfies my craving fried fish without completely blowing my diet. To make a balanced meal with a cook time under 8 minutes, try it with my easy oven asparagus. The leftover fish (not that there will be any) is great for fish tacos or a fish sandwich! See the complete recipe below.
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Panko Crusted Oven Fried Rockfish Fillets
Panko Crusted Oven Fried Rockfish Fillets
- 2 rockfish fillets 3/4" to 1" at their thickest point
- 2 TBSP of olive or coconut oil for frying
- 1/3 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1 egg
- 2 TBSP milk
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 3 TBSP grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp of Old Bay Seasoning or Northwest Salmon Seasoning
Place a 10" oven safe skillet into the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.
Set up the dredging assembly line:
Whisk together the the flour, salt and pepper, and pour onto a large plate.
Whisk together the egg and milk in a bowl with a wide bottom.
Whisk together the panko, seasoning blend, and parmesan cheese. Pour onto a large plate.
Prep the fish:
Check the fish fillets for any bones and remove as necessary.
Dredge first first in the flour, shaking off any excess.
Dip fish into the egg mixture, allowing any excess to drip off.
Coat fish in the panko mixture and allow to rest 1 - 2 minutes.
Fry the fish:
When the oven is preheated, add the 2 tablespoons of oil to the hot pan. Allow to heat 1 minute. Carefully add fish fillets to the hot oil.
Cook for 3 - 4 minutes, then carefully flip over.
Cook an additional 3 - 4 minutes, then check with a meat thermometer for an internal temperature of at least 140 degrees.
Remove fish from the pan and allow to rest 3 - 5 minutes prior to serving.