Cuisine Fiend

sticky mackerel fillet

Tue, 16 September, 2014

Fresh mackerel is lovely, especially when simply pan fried. Buy it filleted from the fishmonger and all you need is a really hot pan and some sweet and sharp flavours.

sticky mackerel

There are two secrets to successfully pan-frying fish. One is a smoking hot pan and the other – the skin of the fish PERFECTLY dry. Otherwise you’ll be scraping the fish bits off the pan forever, and afterwards of course scrubbing the pan like mad, and the dish will be a mess.

I was puffed up with pride once watching a Very Famous Chef on his television programme frying bass or bream fillet and the skin got stuck a little and it was ever so slightly a mess. Mine never sticks.

So what do you do? Well, after rinsing the fish make a couple of incisions in the skin to let the heat penetrate better and shorten the cooking time. Then pat it dry with paper towels and keep the fillets waiting skin side up so that it dries further. Then put it skin down into a really hot frying pan and press down with a spatula. Season, and cook until the flesh starts turning opaque along the edges – about 2 minutes. Flip it over, add a knob of butter and switch off the hob – the fish will happily get there in the residual heat.

pan fried mackerel fillets

I would advise no marinade for the fish. Marinade would be a burning hazard in this instance. So to stop it from being an utterly boring dish you can add sweet chilli sauce, a few capers, chopped dill or parsley and a good squeeze of lemon juice once the fillet is flipped over – it will finish cooking in the buttery, lemony, sweet and salty sauce which can then be spooned over it on the plate.

sticky mackerel fillet

Servings: 2Time: 10 minutes


  • 2 large mackerel, filleted
  • oil and 1 tsp butter for frying
  • 1 tbsp.capers in brine, drained
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • 2-3 tbsp. sweet chili sauce


1. Rinse and pin bone the fillets; dry them thoroughly with paper towels, especially the skin side.

2. Heat a frying pan until it almost smokes, add a swirl of oil in and place the fillets skin side down. Press them down gently with a spatula when they start to curl up. Fry for about 2-3 minutes until the flesh around the edges turns opaque.

pan frying mackerel

3. Flip the fillets over, add a knob of butter, the capers, drizzle with the chili sauce and half the lemon juice. Let it bubble then switch off the heat; it will still cook for a while on residual heat. After a minute remove from the pan, place the fillets on serving plates and spoon the sauce over the fish.

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