Fish, Flour And a Frypan

It’s a natural that the recipe for fish cooked in flour should come from a mill on a river. Plenty of flour and, in those pre-pollution days, plenty of fish.

Professional cooks reckon that cooking fish like the miller’s wife, as in à la meunière, is the best way to cook swimmers of all sorts. They’re right. And it’s just as easy at home, if you follow a few tricks.

Make sure that your fish is of uniform thickness, and at the same time, not too thick. The pros reckon anything thicker than 3 cm is getting to the point where the outside gets too well cooked, and the inside is hardly touched. What you’re seeking is for the flour to be just browned, just past golden, but nicely cooked through, and the fish, protected as it is by the white stuff, tender as tender, and the butter still golden, nowhere near burnt. It takes some balancing, but it’s well worth learning well. Trying, failing, and fixing.

Some people use a 50:50 mix of butter and olive oil. Some people use 100 per cent clarified butter. Some have switched to the new world of olive oil. I wouldn’t. The brilliant flavour of the cooked butter adds so much to the end result and really, for those on a health kick, there’s hardly any butter drawn into the dish – unless you really want it to be.

1 fillet fish (allow 100 g per person), bones removed with tweezers – Suggest firm-fleshed fish like gem fish, flake, trevally, rock ling, whiting, snapper, john dory, etc. If possible, buy an evenly weighted, thick fillet, but if you have one that is thick at one end and thin at the other, cut it in half and cook each piece separately.


black pepper

½ cup plain flour

1 tablespoon best olive oil

25 g best butter, chopped into tiny cubes

handful of chopped parsley, for the classic meunière – Don’t be afraid to use dill or tarragon as an alternative – each loves butter and fish.

juice of ½ lemon


You will need a quality pan with a heavy, flat bottom. If you’ve got an old-fashioned, Sunbeam electric frying pan, you’re in great shape.


Season the fish with salt and black pepper, and just before you start the cooking process, dredge it well in the flour to coat both sides.


Heat the oil gently in the pan and add the butter when the oil is just warm. Watch as it melts, and swirl it around. Heat gently, until the butter starts to cook and sizzle. Add the fish fillet quickly. The butter and oil should sizzle instantly about the fish.


The entry of the fish will drop the temperature of the pan a little. Adjust gently, but only for a few seconds. The trick is to retain an even heat, so that all parts of the base of the fish cook evenly.


Cook the fish for about 90 seconds and turn, taking care. Cook the same on the other side, making sure the butter is not too hot. You will notice a few specks of brown all about: this is flour being cooked, and is an integral part of the sauce.


Test to make sure the fish is done by opening the top side with a knife and peeking in. The flesh should be white all through. Pros can do this by poking it with a finger. We can’t – we don’t do it enough to have the feel.


Remove from heat and toss in the parsley and the lemon juice. Serve the fish with a little of the butter and herb sauce from the pan. Marvellous with mashed potatoes.

WINE:Some of the world’s best fish’n'chip wines are German rieslings – especially from the Moselle. They have the fruit and acid balance to complement the fish, and are low in alcohol so you can hop into them without too much caution.

One Response to “Fish, Flour And a Frypan”

  1. Michael says:

    G’day Geoff, I would just like to thank you for the great tips on cooking the fish, I rarely have much luck cooking any fish with a really good result, but I bought some really nice large pieces of fresh gummy shark from the market, I thought I better get some wisdom cooking it and found your page, all family members gave compliments on the fish (very rare in this household let me tell you :) ).

    thanks again.
    regards Michael.