How To Blacken Fish

Blacken fish dish placed at the white ceramic plate

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Like most people, your first introduction to blackened fish may have been at a restaurant or seafood shack, and the taste was a revelation. The perfect combination of spices, charred on the outside and soft and flaky on the inside, has become one of your favorite food experiences, and you may be wondering if you can recreate the taste at home. In fact, it’s not too difficult to learn how to blacken fish without any complicated equipment.

While we’re not quite at the same level as a well equipped TV kitchen, we have tried several recipes for how to blacken fish and come up with some simple ones to try at home. You’ll need only some basic kitchen equipment that you already have plus some imagination in adding sides to produce a tasty, healthy meal. It’s a great recipe to add to your family’s menus or for special occasions like a barbecue or a camping trip.

How to Blacken Fish

In fact it’s very easy to learn how to blacken fish in your own kitchen or on your backyard grill. The ingredients you need are just some commonly-used spices, which you probably already have in your kitchen. The basic recipe for blackened fish can be variedin many ways by choosing different kinds of fish, spices and even ways of cooking.

You will need to use either a cast iron skillet or a stainless steel frying pan to get the charred effect. It’s important to remember that this recipe will produce a lot of smoke, so your kitchen should be well-ventilated. That could mean just cracking open a window or opening the door a little (while being careful to keep pets and small children from escaping outdoors!) If you plan to use a cast iron skillet, it may be better to use an outdoors grill.

Getting Started: What You’ll Need

Couple inside the kitchen are preparing the ingredient they are cooking

Image by Werner Heiber from Pixabay

This is a quick and easy recipe with very little prep time needed to make. That makes it a great addition to your weekly menu or for any special occasions like a family barbecue. It can even be used on a camping trip, especially if there are any fishermen in the group.

The basic ingredients are fish, spices, and butter or olive oil, as well as a cast iron or stainless steel pan to cook the fish. Interesting sides like salads and quinoa or couscous will produce a memorable meal with a minimum of effort. Here are some basic questions you may have before starting.

What’s the Best Kind of Fish to Use?

This is very much a matter of personal taste, and you can use any kind of fish with a firm, tender flesh. Some of the most commonly used varieties are catfish, tilapia, trout and salmon, but you can experiment with different flavors. Blackened shrimp and scallops likewise add a zesty touch to any meal, and they’re great with salads too.

Whichever fish you use, it must be cut into filets that are not more than half an inch in thickness. This will help to ensure that the fish cooks all the way through while charring on the outside.

Spice Combinations

Blackened fish is most often cooked with Cajun spices, which give it a wonderful flavor that wakes up your taste buds. But you can vary the spices and use any combination, with such flavors as cayenne pepper, mustard, cumin, thyme, curry powder and even Old Bay Seasoning. Don’t forget to add salt and black pepper.

Whichever flavor combination you prefer, it’s best to use dry spices rather than fresh herbs. Fresh herbs will burn in the high heat used to cook blackened fish. You can also reduce the amount of spices and still get the delicious flavor without causing any discomfort to the diners.

Indoor vs Outdoor Cooking

There’s no consensus among the experts on the best methods for how to blacken fish. Some people prefer the convenience of indoor cooking on the gas stove, while others use this recipe for outdoor grilling. Whichever method you choose, it important to remember that it will generate a lot of smoke, and to be prepared to handle it.

If you plan to use a cast iron skillet, it’s best to put it on the outdoor grill. Indoors, a stainless steel frying pan will produce the high cooking temperatures needed to produce the charring that is essential for the recipe. While the recipe calls for butter, when cooking indoors it may be better to substitute olive oil.

A Basic Recipe for Blackened Fish

While there are literally endless combinations of spices you can use, here’s a basic recipe to get you started. This is a quick and easy process, and once you’ve tried it, you’re well on your way to mastering the art of how to blacken fish.


Spices and Condiments in the spoons

Image by Дарья Яковлева from Pixabay

The fish filets should be thin and narrow so they can be cooked all the way through quickly. The spices can be varied according to your taste. You can also reduce the amount of spices used if cooking for children.

For this basic recipe for how to blacken fish, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Fish filets – 1/2 lb, cut into four to six filets, 4 by 6 inches in size and half an inch thick
  • Butter – one cup
  • Paprika – one tablespoon
  • Cayenne pepper – one tablespoon
  • Ground cumin – one tablespoon
  • Dry mustard – two tablespoons
  • Salt – one tablespoon
  • Thyme – one tablespoon
  • Black pepper – one tablespoon

Other spices that can be used include onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, and Old Bay Seasoning. Curry powder and Worcester sauce make an interesting combination as well. You can also get pre-mixed Cajun spices, which can also be used for other dishes like rice, meat, poultry, seafood and soups.

Cooking Instructions

Cookware and Ingredients

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

The preparation and cooking method for this recipe are simple and quick. The first step is to mix the spices that will be used to coat the fish. If you use a mixing bowl which is large enough to dunk the fish filets, you can speed up the process. Mix all the spices together and set aside.

The next step is to prepare the butter, which should be melted. You can melt the butter by putting it in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds. If that doesn’t do the trick, keep microwaving for an additional ten seconds until the butter is fully melted.

To prepare for frying, the fish filets should be dipped first in the butter and next in the spice mix, making sure they are coated completely and evenly. Now they’re ready to fry. Whichever cooking method you’re using, the pan should be hot before you add the fish.

Place the fish filet in the middle of the pan and add a spoon of melted butter on top. Cook for two to three minutes and then flip the fish over to the other side. Add another spoonful of butter to the top and cook for another two or three minutes until the fish is done.

You should be careful when cooking, because butter at high heat will spatter. It will also produce a lot of smoke. When the fish is blackened on the outside and properly cooked inside, it’s done. Properly cooked fish is crumbly and flaky on the inside and falls apart easily when prodded with a fork.

If you like to use a thermometer to determine if the fish is properly cooked, it should show an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. The fish should be served immediately with sides of salad, bread, and rice or other grains.


You can vary the taste of your blackened fish by choosing different varieties of fish and spices. For a healthy, balanced and delicious meal, you can also vary the sides. Green salads are a great accompaniment to the taste, as is cornbread.

For grains, you can add a rice pilaf or for a more unusual meal, choose couscous or quinoa. For desserts, brownies or mud cake are a hearty way to round out a satisfying meal. Ice cream provides a pleasantly cooling contrast to the spicy, charred fish.

How to Store Leftovers

Worker at the restaurant is getting the leftover from the plate

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator up to three days, in an airtight container. They can also be stored in the freezer, in a plastic bag or airtight container, for a month. As with any cooked fish or seafood, leftovers that have been outside for more than two hours should be thrown away.

How Far Can You Vary the Recipe?

You can vary the amount and types of spices used as well as the kind of fish. The most frequently used varieties of fish are those with firm, white flesh that will cook quickly. Salmon has a delicious flavor of its own that is enhanced by the spices and the blackening effect.Many home cooks have learned to vary the method of how to blacken fish by reducing the amount of butter used or by not using butter at all. If you prefer to try this method, you can just coat the fish filets in the spice mixture, and fry in a little olive oil.

Featured Image by DanaTentis from Pixabay

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