Cuisine Fiend

sticky mackerel fillet


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

Mind you – no marinade. Marinade would be a burning hazard in this instance. So to stop it from being an utterly boring dish you can add 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, salty sauce which can then be spooned over it on the plate.

This one here is sticky mackerel; the combination works a treat with oily fish. I’m not sure I’d necessarily smother delicate sea bass in sticky chilli sauce but who knows. I might try one day.

sticky mackerel fillet


  • one or two mackerel fillets per person, depending on the hunger factor
  • oil and butter for frying
  • a tablespoonful of capers in brine, drained
  • 1 lemon, juice only
  • sweet chili sauce
fresh mackerel


Prepare the fillets as the intro above instructs – rinsed, de-boned and thoroughly dried, especially the skin side. Heat a frying pan until it almost smokes, put a swirl of oil in and place the fillets skin side down. Press them down 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

Flip the fillets over, add a knob of butter, the capers, drizzle with the chili sauce and half the lemon juice. Let it bubble and switch off the hob; 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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