This easy seafood tutorial will show you how to pan-sear halibut for juicy fish with golden edges. Plus, check out our tips for seasoning, topping and sauces!
Do you normally order seafood at restaurants, but have been hesitant to cook fish at home?
If so, I’m here to (digitally) hold your hand as you begin learning how to cook fish in your own kitchen. It’s not hard, I promise!
Today, we’re talking about how to pan-sear halibut.
Not sure where to buy halibut? Check my tips for where to buy fish online.
I use a technique that I learned from reading Julia Child’s cookbooks. Specifically, this is the pan-searing technique she uses to cook fish meunière (fish in butter sauce).
It’s a simple technique that’s easy to master!
Why Pan-Sear Halibut?
Halibut is a meaty white fish that pairs perfectly with butter.
Pan-searing halibut in butter is a perfect way to get juicy (never dry!) fish with a golden sear.
Where’s the Halibut Skin?
If you’re used to pan-searing salmon, you might be looking forward to crispy skin on your pan-seared fish.
However, halibut rarely is sold skin-on, because the skin is pretty tough.
Can I Pan-Sear Frozen Halibut?
No, you should thaw the fish before searing.
I like to use a quick cold-water bath to thaw my fish.
Prepare the Halibut for Pan-Searing
To prepare your fish, start by patting it dry.
Wet fish will not sear well.
Dust the fish with flour and season with salt. The flour will help create the golden sear.
Next, set the halibut aside to rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Cold fish is more likely to stick to the pan.
Does the Type of Pan Matter?
You can pan-sear in any type of pan, but some pans will be easier to work with than others.
If possible, use a heavy pan such as cast-iron or carbon steel. These pans will help keep the heat level more consistent while you’re cooking.
I like to use this Lodge 12″ carbon steel skillet.
Do I Need a Fish Spatula?
Not necessarily. You need a thin metal spatula.
I prefer a fish spatula, and if you pan-sear fish often I recommend getting one.
How to Pan-Sear Halibut
Start by adding both butter and oil to a heavy pan. Melt the butter and add the fish.
Once you’ve set the fish in the pan, don’t touch it until it’s time to flip!
Set a timer for four minutes. Remember that the timer is only an estimated cook time, so you’ll need to look for other clues to know when to flip.
As the fish cooks, it will turn opaque from the bottom up. You’ll also see the bottom edge becoming golden and crisp.
After four minutes (or earlier, if the fish seems to be ready), use a thin metal spatula and test the fish by sliding it under one of the fillets. If the fish sticks to the pan, wait 30 seconds and try again.
Don’t rush the fish: it will release when it’s ready.
After flipping, top the halibut with a little more butter.
Cook the fillets about 3 or 4 minutes on the other side, or until the edges of the fish are completely opaque and the top and bottom are golden.
Remove the fish from the pan.
Add a Pan-Sauce or Toppings
Finally, make a pan-sauce.
For the simplest sauce, simply add a little lemon juice to the hot pan. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the pan, mixing together the lemon juice and leftover butter.
Stir in a few fresh herbs, and it’s ready to serve!
Want to make the sauce more exciting? Try adding capers!
How to Pan-Sear Halibut
- 8 ounces halibut (2 fillets)
- 1 tablespoon flour Use gluten-free AP flour if needed
- pinch salt, pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoon butter, divided
- 1 lemon, juiced
- small handful fresh herbs (such as fresh rosemary, chives, or oregano)
- Pat halibut fillets dry. Dust with flour, and shake off any excess. Sprinkle them on both sides with salt and pepper.Prepare a heavy pan with the olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Heat on medium-high until butter is melted but not browned; then turn the heat down to medium.
- Place the fillets in the pan and cook about 4 minutes. Don't touch the fillets until they're ready to flip.Use a thin metal spatula to test the fish. If you can slide the spatula under the fish without the fish sticking to the pan, it's ready to flip. If the fillets won't release, give them another 30 seconds. They'll release when they've finished cooking.After flipping, divide the remaining 1 TB butter over both fillets.
- Cook fish another 3-4 minutes until done. Fish will be golden on both the top and bottom and opaque all the way through when finished cooking.Transfer the fish to plates, leaving the excess butter in the pan. Cover fish to keep warm, or set fish in a 200ºF oven.
- Reduce heat to medium. Add the lemon juice and stir with a wooden spoon. Add half the herbs and stir again. Serve fish hot with pan sauce and remaining herbs.
- Make sure to pat the fish dry. Wet fish won’t develop a golden sear.
- Make sure to let the fish rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Cold fish tends to stick to the pan.
- Test the fish with a thin metal spatula before attempting to flip. If the fish doesn’t release, give it another 30 seconds and try again.
- If your butter and oil begin to smoke, lower the heat slightly.
- Have all your ingredients prepared before beginning so that you can watch the fish carefully while it cooks. I prep everything while the fish rests at room temperature.
- Season the fish lightly with garlic powder before cooking.
- Top the fish with buttery, toasted almonds.
- Add capers to the pan sauce.