What Kinds of Pans Are Needed to Cook Seafood?

Pans and other cookware used for cooking seafood hanging above the stove for easy access in the kitchen

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Cooking seafood at home can be a touch nerve-wracking since you spent a fortune to get quality food, so you need a quality pan as well. I’ll tell you which kinds of pans you should have ahead.

What kinds of pans are needed to cook seafood? You’ll need different kinds of pans for various cooking methods when making seafood. A carbon steel frying pan is best for searing fish, for instance, and will also fry fish to a tasty crisp. 

In this guide, I’ll take you through all sorts of seafood cooking methods and recommend the accompanying pan (or pot!) for the job. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be able to make seafood at home like a pro!


What Kinds of Pans Are Needed to Cook Seafood?

To Sear Fish?

Searing is a cooking technique that requires high bursts of heat that will cause a brown crust to develop on the fish. 

You needn’t run out and buy an expensive or unique type of pan for this cooking job. You can sear fish using a frying pan. 

Your pan must either be pre-seasoned or have a nonstick coating since many species of fish are notorious for sticking to the pan. 

Fish are very delicate, so if you try to scrape the fish off the pan when it’s sticking, you’ll end up with chunks of fish missing from your meal. 

Carbon steel is a good material for a frying pan, as it can adjust to temperature changes immediately. As your stovetop heats up, so too will the carbon steel.

This will allow you to achieve that crispy browning you want when searing without burning the fish. 

To Fry Fish?

Frying involves using fat or oil to cook a fish and is also referred to as pan-frying. 

You’ll have to turn over the fish at least once but possibly twice to cook it fully through on both sides. 

So what should you use to fry fish? 

Well, as the name implies, a frying pan is indeed a suitable option here. 

Again, do make sure that your pan is nonstick. Even with oil on the pan, without that nonstick coating, your fish will get stuck.

You won’t be able to flip it easily, and one side could burn!

Your other option is a Dutch oven.

I know, technically we’re in pot territory now, but I wanted to mention it since it’s an option.

Dutch ovens have very thick walls. Those walls are insulated and can create excellent heat distribution that fries the fish from both sides without the need to flip.

That said, I do recommend covering the fish in either aluminum foil or newspaper to cut your risk of burning dinner. You can also use an aluminum liner. 

To Grill Shrimp or Fish?

Who says you can’t grill on your stovetop? You just need the right cooking supplies and you can grill fish and even shrimp to perfection. 

I’d recommend what’s known as a grill frying pan. 

A grill frying pan looks like a traditional frying pan but with a difference. It will either have holes throughout or–much more often–grill lines enmeshed throughout the pan.

The purpose of the grill lines is multiple. They create food texture when cooking, introduce that dark color that’s a clear sign that food has been grilled perfectly, and allow for efficient, flavorful cooking. 

Oh, and the grill lines can also drain fat, which isn’t really something you have to worry about when cooking fish or shrimp but would be if you’re grilling meat. 

You’ll love those flavorful grill marks on your seafood and how you can get them from the comfort of your kitchen. 

Another option I would recommend for grilling seafood is a carbon steel griddle, especially if you’re grilling fish rather than shrimp.

The expanded surface area of the griddle allows you to make between four and six fish fillets at once so you can feed the whole family at the same time. 

You needn’t insert the griddle in the oven. Rather, you can turn on at least two burners and grill the fish right on your stovetop. 

To Roast Fish? 

Do you plan on roasting fish for dinner tonight? This cooking technique utilizes dry heat.

In the meantime, hot air extends over your meal and allows all sides to cook at once. 

Maillard browning and caramelization can develop, which makes your seafood meal taste that much more delectable.

Roasting fish calls for a roasting pan, which you might have in handy if you cook Thanksgiving turkeys at your house each year.

A roasting pan may or may not include a rack for placing the food when cooking.  

If yours doesn’t, don’t panic. The rack usually allows juice and drippings to collect underneath, and fish doesn’t produce drippings. Again, this is a feature that’s handier when cooking meat. 

Using a roast pan is so easy. All you do is insert it in the oven, cook for a predetermined period, and voila, you have a fancy, restaurant-quality fish dinner all ready to go. 

To Braise Fish? 

A type of combination cooking, when you braise fish, you’ll rely on dry and wet heat.

As you braise, you’ll turn up the temperatures to brown the fish, then transfer the fish to a pot filled with cooking liquid. The fish then simmers.

A sauté pan can take care of both parts that braising entails, especially if yours is at least 3.5 quarts. 

The lid of the pan should fit airtight so the moisture of the braising liquid doesn’t leave the pan while cooking.

Braising produces flavorful, juicy fish like you’ve never tasted before.

Be sure to buy a nonstick braising pan for fish so your meal comes cleanly out of the pan. 

To Steam Fish? 

One of the most classic ways to make seafood is to steam it. 

Steaming is simple to do, maintains tenderness, retains more minerals and nutrients, and allows you to skip the fat and cooking oils.

You can use a wok to steam fish, even if that’s not the most traditional use for this pan. 

If you haven’t yet seasoned your wok, please do yourself a favor and take care of that before steaming seafood. 

Not only will the fish come out tasting excellent but so too will any other meals that you make in the wok going forward. 

You can also use a stock pot with a steaming basket. 

I know, it’s not a pan, but it’s a preferred option among many for steaming fish, so I thought I’d recommend it as well. 

All you have to do is boil some water, insert the steaming basket, put your fish in, and the water will release steam when it’s heated. 

If you’re steaming other seafood such as clams, a stock pot comes in handy more so than I would say a wok does. 

To Boil Crab or Lobster?

You splurged and bought a whole crab or lobster from the dockside seafood store or even your local grocer. You plan to boil the seafood.

Boiling is not all that different from steaming. You heat water to its boiling point of 212 degrees Fahrenheit, then cook the food in the boiling water until it’s tender and chewy. 

What kind of pan is best for this job?

I wouldn’t recommend a pan for boiling crab or lobster at all. Instead, I would suggest a seafood boil pot.

A seafood boil pot is a metal pot, often made of stainless steel, with corrugated holes throughout. 

The holes allow the boiling water to permeate through and cook your food thoroughly.

Seafood boil pots include dual handles for easily gripping the rather deep pot, and many will include lids as well for trapping in moisture. 

Besides for boiling lobster and crab, you can also use a seafood boil pot for boiling shrimp, crawfish, and other seafood in that vein. 

Thank you for sharing!

Catherine Cruzz

I first fell in love with all things kitchen when I was growing up and working alongside my father in Florida at our family's appliance service and installation company. Many years later, and thousands of miles away from family I was enjoying a wonderful experience at a culinary school in Pennsylvania. That’s when I realized that along with my passion for holidays and cooking, I was still just as interested in the appliances, kitchenware, and cookware that I grew up around.

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