Frying Frozen Fish: A Step-by-Step Guide

Can you fry frozen fish? (How to do it)

Cooking frozen fish can be a convenient option if you forget to defrost your fish beforehand. However, it is important to note that cooking frozen fish requires special techniques to ensure that the fillets cook evenly and retain their texture and flavor. In this article, we will explore the process of frying frozen fish and provide step-by-step instructions for achieving delicious results.

The benefits of defrosting fish before cooking

Thawing fish before cooking is a common practice for several reasons. Thawed fish tends to cook more evenly, allowing heat to penetrate the flesh more easily, resulting in a buttery, flaky, soft and tender texture. Thawing also helps to preserve the flavor and juices of the fish because they are trapped in the flesh and do not leach out immediately. In addition, cooking thawed fish requires less time and effort than cooking frozen fish.

Why broil frozen fish?

While thawing fish is generally recommended, there are times when frying frozen fish becomes a necessity. Forgetting to thaw the fish after a long day at work or simply being impatient to wait for the thawing process to complete are common scenarios. In such cases, it is perfectly possible to cook frozen fish, provided you follow the correct method.

Types of fish for frying

When it comes to frying frozen fish, it is worth considering the type of fish you are using. Oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, and herring do not hold up well when cooked from frozen. The high fat content in these fish causes them to break apart easily, resulting in a mushy texture. Oily fish are better suited to cooking techniques such as stewing, braising or boiling, which help to mask texture issues.
On the other hand, white fish such as cod, halibut, sole, haddock, and monkfish are excellent choices for frying frozen fish. These fish have a lower fat content and firmer texture, allowing them to withstand high frying temperatures without falling apart.

Preparing frozen fish for frying

Proper preparation is critical when frying frozen fish for the best results. Follow these steps to prepare fish before cooking:

  1. Remove the fish from its packaging: Remove the fish fillets from the freezer and remove any wrapping or foil.
  2. Rinse off excess ice crystals: Rinse the fillets under cold running water to remove any ice crystals from the surface. This step will help ensure even cooking.
  3. Pat the fish dry: Use disposable paper towels or reusable kitchen towels to pat the fillets dry on all sides. This will help remove excess moisture and provide a crisper texture.
  4. Brush with oil and season: For pan- or air-roasted fish fillets, brush all sides of the fillets with olive oil. Season with sea salt flakes, freshly ground black pepper, and any herbs or spices you like.

Pan-Frying Frozen Fish Fillets

Pan-frying is a popular method of cooking frozen fish fillets. Follow these steps to pan-fry frozen fish:

  1. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet or nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add a small amount of oil if desired, but it is not necessary since the fish fillets have already been brushed with oil.
  2. Place the frozen seasoned fillets in the pan and cook on each side for about 3 minutes or until browned.
  3. Flip the fillet and cook for another 2 minutes.
  4. Make sure there is enough oil to act as a lubricant for the remainder of the cooking time. Cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil.
  5. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook the fillets for 6-8 minutes, until they become opaque and reach an internal temperature of at least 145°F (63°C). If necessary, continue cooking for a few more minutes to desired doneness.

Air frying frozen fish fillets

Air frying is a convenient and healthier alternative to pan frying. Follow these steps to air fry frozen fish fillets:

  1. Preheat your air fryer to 380°F (193°C) on the “air fry” setting. Using the bake setting may result in longer cooking times and a potentially mushier texture.
  2. Optionally, line the air fryer basket with non-stick parchment paper, basket liners, or a sheet of aluminum foil.
  3. Place the frozen fillets in a single layer in the fryer basket.
  4. Cook the fillets for 8-12 minutes, turning them halfway through the cooking time. The fillets should be cooked through and have reached a safe internal temperature. Adjust cooking time based on the thickness of the fish fillets and your desired level of crispiness.

Tips for Cooking Frozen Fish

Here are some additional tips for successful cooking of frozen fish:

  1. Avoid overcrowding the pan or fryer basket. If necessary, cook fish fillets in batches to prevent them from sticking together and to ensure even cooking.
  2. Do not thaw fish before cooking. Direct cooking of frozen fish helps retain its moisture and prevents it from drying out.
  3. Use a cooking thermometer to check the internal temperature of the fish. The fish should reach a minimum internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) to ensure it is fully cooked and safe to eat.
  4. Experiment with different seasonings and coatings to add flavor and variety to your fried fish. Consider using a combination of herbs, spices, breadcrumbs, or flour for a crispy and flavorful coating.
  5. Serve fried fish immediately after cooking to enjoy it at its best. Serve with your favorite side dishes such as tartar sauce, coleslaw, or lemon wedges.


In conclusion, frying frozen fish is indeed possible and can produce delicious results if done correctly. While it is generally recommended to thaw fish before cooking, frying frozen fish can be a convenient solution when time is limited or you simply forgot to thaw the fish beforehand. By following the steps outlined in this article and choosing the right type of fish to fry, you can enjoy flaky, tender, and flavorful fish fillets. Remember to properly prepare frozen fish, choose appropriate cooking methods such as pan frying or air frying, and follow recommended cooking temperatures to ensure food safety. With these tips in mind, you can confidently cook frozen fish to perfection and enjoy a quick and satisfying meal.


Can I deep-fry fish straight from the freezer?

Yes, you can fry fish straight from the freezer. It is possible to achieve delicious results by following the proper techniques for frying frozen fish.

What types of fish are suitable for deep-frozen frying?

White fish such as cod, halibut, sole, haddock and monkfish are excellent choices for frying frozen fish. These fish have a lower fat content and a firmer texture, making them more resistant to falling apart during the frying process.

Do I need to defrost fish before frying?

No, you do not need to defrost fish before frying. In fact, frying fish directly from the freezer will help it retain its moisture and prevent it from drying out. Thawing is not necessary to achieve delicious fried fish.

What is the recommended cooking temperature for deep-frying frozen fish?

To pan-fry frozen fish, preheat a skillet or nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Cook the fish fillets for 3 minutes on each side, then flip and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Then reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking for 6-8 minutes or until the fillets are opaque and reach an internal temperature of at least 145°F (63°C).
To air fry frozen fish, preheat the fryer to 380°F (193°C) on the “air fry” setting. Cook the fillets for 8-12 minutes, turning halfway through cooking. Adjust cooking time based on thickness of fish fillets and desired crispness.

Can I use oily frozen fish for frying?

It is not recommended to fry oily fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel or herring directly from the freezer. The high fat content in these fish makes them susceptible to falling apart, resulting in a mushy texture. Oily fish is better suited to cooking methods such as stewing, braising or boiling.

How do I make sure frozen fish cooks evenly?

To ensure even cooking of frozen fish, it is important to properly prepare the fillets before frying. Rinse off any excess ice crystals, pat the fish dry, brush with oil and season. In addition, avoid overcrowding the pan or fryer basket to allow proper heat circulation around each fillet. This will help the fish cook evenly and result in consistent texture and flavor.