Frying foods in hot oil sears the outside surface, sealing flavor inside. Shallow frying, as opposed to deep-frying, uses a relatively small amount of butter or other oil product. Fish benefits from shallow frying as the hot oil imparts a deep golden color, improving the flavor and making a nice presentation.
Choose a heavy enameled or non-stick frying pan, just large enough to hold your fish fillets.
Clean and cut your fish. Small medallions or strips fry well in shallow oil with uniform browning. Larger selections of fish may cook unevenly if you're using an electric stovetop or your frying pan bottom is uneven.
Make your favorite batter. Position the batter pan right beside your skillet to make transferring fish from batter to skillet less messy.
Preheat your skillet without the oil. After your fish pieces are battered or breaded and ready to go, heat up your skillet. If you add the oil at the first, it may burn before you can cook your fish.
Test the temperature of your butter or oil by dropping a crumb of batter into the skillet. When it's hot enough, the batter will immediately begin to sizzle and bubble. Alternately, use a cooking thermometer and when the oil reaches 180 degrees F, it's ready.
Place the presentation side of your fish downwards in the hot oil. The searing process will quickly seal the outside, creating a nice golden crust.
Turn the fish fillets or pieces over once and lower the heat. Depending upon the thickness of your fish and the temperature of the oil, the fillets may be ready to turn in two or three minutes. Cook until the fish flakes easily and is aromatic.
The oil in your pan must be hot enough to sear the outside of the fish quickly for successful shallow frying. If the oil is too cool, the batter will absorb it, making the fish greasy.