Shallow frying


Shallow frying

Shallow frying is cooking in a small amount of oil, butter or similar medium. It includes pan-frying and stir-frying (wok cooking).



  • any large, flat, heavy-based pan is suitable for pan-frying.
  • alternatively, a flat grill plate can be used.

How to do it

  1. Add the chosen cooking medium to a pre-heated pan or plate; clarified butter, a mixture of butter and oil, or olive oil are all good mediums.
  2. Flour or crumb the seafood. To flour, lightly dust the seafood in plain seasoned flour. The seafood can be dipped in milk before being dusted; this helps the flour to stick, especially if the seafood is dry. To crumb the seafood, follow the instructions that appear in the section on deep frying (link).

    It is not always necessary to flour or crumb seafood. Thick fillets can be pan-fried plain, or with a pepper or herb crust. However, the coating helps to hold the flesh together and prevents sticking. It also forms an attractive brown crust, enhances the flavour, and helps to prevent moisture loss.

  3. Once the cooking medium is heated, add the seafood. Place finfish presentation (flesh) side down. This sears the presentation side and prevents the skin from curling at the edges, which is particularly important for thin fillets.
  4. Cook over medium-to-high heat until just cooked. The heat should be reduced for thicker pieces of seafood.
  5. Turn the seafood once only. Very thin fillets can be cooked on only one side.
  6. Drain excess oil on absorbent paper and serve immediately.

Cooking times

These will vary considerably depending on the species, thickness, quantity and initial temperature of the seafood, and on the equipment. The times suggested below are a general guide only.

Seafood Approximate cooking times for steaming
Gilled and gutted whole finfish
300-500 g 10–12 minutes
Finfish fillets
3 cm thick
2 cm thick
1 cm thick

6 minutes
4 minutes
3 minutes

Prawns 2 minutes
Medium size 2 minutes


1–2 minutes
Octopus 5–8 minutes