This decadent pan-seared black cod (sablefish) features fish cooked in butter and then topped with a brown butter, cayenne and honey sauce.
We currently have a freezer filled with sablefish (a.k.a. black cod).
This decadent white fish is rich, buttery and melts in your mouth. It’s also called butter fish.
Normally, sablefish (or black cod) can be hard to find, at least where I live in Kentucky. Happily, one of our recent fish deliveries from Sitka Salmon Shares was packed with lots of this tasty fish!
Recently, though, my friend Carmy mentioned she’d had some fabulous pan-seared fish topped with brown butter, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it! Fish and brown butter are a perfect match!
This decadent pan-seared sablefish is cooked in butter and served with, you guessed it, a little spiced brown butter.
What If I Can’t Find Black Cod?
Like I mentioned, sablefish (black cod) can be difficult to find.
If you want to try this recipe with another type of fish, I recommend using salmon. Sablefish is a lot fattier than other types of white fish, so a fattier fish (like salmon) is a better substitute.
What Does Black Cod (Sablefish) Taste Like?
This is a rich and mellow fish. It pairs well with flavors like miso and chili peppers.
And it’s delicious with the spiced brown butter sauce in this recipe.
Make the Pan-Seared Black Cod
Pat the fish dry, season it, and set it aside.
Heat oil and butter to a heavy pan. I use this Lodge 12″ carbon steel skillet.
When the butter melts, add the sablefish.
As the fish cooks, it will turn opaque from the bottom up.
When it’s about halfway cooked through, use a thin metal spatula (like a fish spatula) to test the fish. I use a Wusthof fish spatula, but have also heard great things about this Toadfish fish spatula.
If the spatula slides easily under the fish, it’s time to flip.
Flip the fish and continue cooking about four minutes, or until the sides of the sablefish are opaque.
Take the fish out of the pan.
How to Make Brown Butter Sauce
Add a little more butter to the pan.
The butter will start to foam and then turn brown. Add a little lemon juice and stir it all together. Turn off the heat.
Pour the butter into a bowl along with a little honey and cayenne powder.
Stir it all together.
Finally, spoon the butter sauce over the fish.
Because the sablefish is so tender after cooking, the butter sauce will sink down into the fish in between the flakes. Every bite will taste like butter!
Pan-Seared Black Cod (Sablefish) with Brown Butter
- 8 ounces sablefish (black cod) Or substitute salmon
- pinch salt, pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter, divided Or use extra olive oil
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne (optional)
- Pat sablefish dry. Sprinkle fillets on both sides with salt and pepper.Allow fillets to rest at room temperature for about 15 minutes. (Cold fish is more difficult to sear.)
- Add olive oil and half the butter to a heavy pan. Melt butter over medium heat. Place the fillets skin-side down in the pan and cook about 4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. As the sablefish cooks, the flesh will begin to turn opaque from the bottom up. When the fish has cooked halfway through, it's ready to flip.Avoid touching the fish until the fish is 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.Cook fish about 4 minutes until done. Timing will depend on the thickness of the fillet. (Watch the sides of the fillets to see when the fish is done cooking. It's finished as soon as there are no more translucent patches and it's fully opaque.)
- 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-low. Add the remaining butter to the pan. The butter will begin to foam, and then the foam will begin to subside.Watch for brown specks to appear in the butter and for the butter to start smelling nutty. As soon as it begins to become golden (about 1 minute), add the lemon juice, stir, and then remove from heat.
- Pour the butter sauce into a small bowl and mix with the honey and cayenne.
- Brush the butter sauce over the fish. You'll see that the sablefish is incredibly soft and the flakes will be pulling apart, so the sauce will soak down into the fish.Serve the fish right away along with any extra sauce.
- Make sure to pat the fish dry. Wet fish won’t develop a crispy skin.
- 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.