Panko crusted oven fried rockfish fillets fry up golden brown with a light, crispy crunch. Their mild fish flavor and slightly salty parmesan panko coating means these rockfish fillets are sure to please the pickiest palates. Serve these fried fish fillets as the main course, or use them for fish tacos, fish sandwiches, or even fish and chips. It’s easy enough for a weeknight, but impressive enough for date night too. Read up on my tips and tricks below, then try your hand at making them for yourself.
This recipe was updated on March 13, 2018 to reflect a recommendation for a larger skillet, smaller pieces of rockfish, and to streamline the preparation process.
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 considering this is my most popular post, I’m sure you will agree that this fish recipe has it figured out.
The panko crust, which is really a parmesan panko combination, gives us a light, crunchy coating that is never heavy or mushy. It browns up quickly to a light golden brown and because the magic happens in your oven instead of on the stovetop, you aren’t left with a big mess to clean up. The fish itself has a light flavor, not fishy, with a firm but tender texture that melts in your mouth.
Getting this recipe just right took a few trials (and a few errors), but I discovered that my special recipe involved not just one, but two tricks in order to achieve perfection. The first being the panko style bread crumbs and the second the combination of a cast iron skillet and the oven. This fish cooks up in about 6 – 8 minutes, making a great option for a busy weekday evening.
For this recipe, I recommend rockfish. Here in the pacific northwest it is widely available, which makes it inexpensive to buy and most of it is locally caught. Rockfish is a blanket term covering many different species of fish – more than 60 of which can be legally sold under the name rockfish – that all tend to lurk among the rocks near the bottom of the ocean. Depending where you live, this fish can be called bass, red snapper, ocean perch or sea perch. While that can make fish buying confusing for many of us, lets focus less on the name and what we are looking for in a fish fillet.
Most importantly we are looking for a white fish, with a light flaky texture and a mild fish flavor. Most rockfish fillets that I find locally measure less than 1″ thick at their thickest point. This leads to a fast cooking time, which is key to getting this crispy coating and perfectly cooked fish at the same time. If you are unable to find something labeled as rockfish, check with your butcher or seafood monger about substitutions. When I can’t find rockfish, I often substitute other types of whitefish like cod, tilapia, catfish or halibut.
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. Panko is a Japanese style breadcrumb with chunks that are larger, crispier, and lighter. This means that the resulting crust is light and almost delicate in texture, which is exactly what we want.
These days you should be able to find them in most grocery stores, either with the regular bread crumbs or in the Asian foods section.
The Dredging Process
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. Place the breaded fish onto a clean plate to rest for at least 2 minutes before cooking so that the crumbs can soak into the egg.
The multiple steps are necessary 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.
The Cooking Process
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. Also, 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. Bonus: 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 up to 450 degrees. While a stainless steel pan might get the job done, you will get better results with a cast iron skillet. I previously recommended a 10″ skillet, but if you cut the larger fillets into two pieces, that 10″ skillet can get crowded. I now use a 13 3/4″ skillet. If you don’t have one that large, you can easily make this fish in two batches without the first one going cold.
You must preheat the oven with the pan inside. 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, but cutting the fish pieces in half makes this process much easier.
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Panko Crusted Oven Fried Rockfish Fillets Recipe
Crispy, crunchy, golden brown panko crusted oven fried rockfish fillets are sure to please the pickiest palates. Serve them with a simple salad or try them with my Easy Oven Asparagus or Screaming Skillet Green Beans. These rockfish fillets are also excellent for fish tacos – swap them for the grilled fillets in these Grilled Rockfish Tacos.
If you have leftovers, or just want to do the work in advance, these fish fillets keep well in the fridge for a day or the freezer for up to 3 months. Freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet, then place in a zip top or other airtight container for storage. To reheat, bake in a 375 degree oven until they are hot through.
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- 2 rockfish fillets*, 3/4 - 1 pound
- 2 TBSP of olive or vegetable 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
- Place a large oven safe skillet into the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.
Set up the dredging assembly line:
- In a large bowl combine together the the flour, salt and pepper. Stir then pour onto a large plate.
- In the same bowl combine together the panko, seasoning blend, and parmesan cheese. Stir then pour onto a large plate.
- Wipe out the bowl, then use it again to whisk together the egg and milk.
Prep the fish:
- Check the fish fillets for any bones and remove as necessary. Slice fish in half if 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, shaking off any excess. Place on a clean plate and allow to rest 1 - 2 minutes so the panko can adhere.
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.
- While fish cook, set up a cooling rack over a couple layers of paper towels.
- Remove fish from the pan and place on the cooling rack. Allow to drain 3 - 5 minutes prior to serving.
*If you rockfish is thicker than 1" at their thickest point, you'll need to add an extra minute or two to the cook time.
**Many of the rockfish fillets I find in the pacific northwest are too big to handle without splashing grease or having them fall apart on me. Slicing them into more manageable fillets makes this cooking method much easier.
***If your rockfish fillets are large enough to cut into more than 2 pieces, you may want to add an extra tablespoon or two of panko to the crumb mixture.