Pan Fried Steelhead Trout
This post may contain affiliate links. Read full disclosure.
Beautiful pan fried steelhead trout with crispy skin and juicy tender meat, smothered with tangy thyme lemon butter sauce. Delicious dinner in minutes!
Whoa, that was a long title…
We’re talking steelhead trout today.
No, it’s not salmon. It’s really, really similar to salmon though. The look, the color, the taste. I actually found this tasty fish by accident a while back. I thought I bought salmon at the store only to find it was trout.
“What? Trout is small white fish,” I thought. Then I learned about their steelhead relatives, that are actually rainbow trouts, traveled into the ocean. That’s why they’re bigger than rainbow trouts, that remain in fresh water.
Compared to salmon, steelhead trouts are a bit less fatty and slightly cheaper. Now this beautiful fish is regular in our menu rotation.
Today’s recipe requires a little bit of technique, but once mastered, it’s one of the fastest dinners you’ll serve. Cooking the fish takes just about 10 minutes, plus couple more minutes to make the sauce. And if you start steaming some veggies, or rice before cooking fish, you’ll get a complete meal in less than 30 minutes!! Now, that’s a winner in my book. Here I’m serving the trout with saffron rice. I’ll be sharing the recipe on Tuesday, so stay tuned!
Alright onto the trout… I absolutely love pan-frying skin-on trout fillets for its salty, crispy skin against melt-in-your-mouth tender meat. No, don’t leave that skin on the plate, it’s the best part!!
There are a few things to keep in mind to achieve that delicious crispy skin and avoid slimy, greasy one (<- just gross!).
Tip #1: Dry the fillets thoroughly with paper towel. It’s the most important step!
Tip #2: Heat the oil on medium high heat before adding fish. The oil should be sizzling hot! Though I use non-stick skillet to fry my fish, you can use stainless steel skillet too. Just don’t force the fish when ready to flip it, because just like steak, the fish fillets will detach on their own when ready.
Tip #3: Once you add the fish to the pan, reduce the heat to medium low to cook the fish low and slow. This will ensure tender, juicy meat. No one wants dry, overcooked fish, trust me.
Now, let’s talk about that lemon butter sauce. Tangy lemon pairs so well with trout, but let me warn you, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. The sauce is very lemon-y and strong. For my husband, for example, it was too acidic. That’s why I advise to serve the sauce on the side, so everyone can adjust the amount to their liking. I happen to love lemon so much so I just smother my fish with it.
This lemon butter sauce seemingly simple to make, but it’s a bit tricky if not careful. Before I mastered the technique, I ended up with greasy melted lemon butter (oops!), not something you want to pour over your beautiful fish. Luckily, I now know exactly how to make this luscious sauce every time!
To get the silky smooth, perfectly emulsified lemon butter sauce, first you need to reduce the lemon juice in half (concentrate the flavor!) and then add butter in small pieces and SLOWLY melted it into the sauce over low heat. I repeat, if you melt the butter too fast over too hot heat, you’ll get melted lemon butter instead. When done right, the sauce is kind of opaque and silky smooth.
If you get leftover sauce, don’t throw it out! You can re-use it in another dish. When you’re roasting chicken, for example, generously smear it all over before cooking. It won’t even have the strong lemon flavor anymore.
Next time, grab some trout fillet instead of salmon. You won’t be disappointed! Thank you for reading!
Pan-Fried Trout with Lemon Thyme Butter
- 1 lb skin-on steelhead trout cut into 4 fillets
- ¼ teaspoon salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
For the sauce:
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 3-4 small sprigs of thyme
- Pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter cold and cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
- Pat dry fillets thoroughly with paper towel. Salt and pepper on all side.
- In a large skillet (I use non-stick), heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is sizzling, add the fillets skin-side down. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook for about 5 minutes. Then flip each fillet and continue to cook until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove onto a plate skin-side up and loosely cover with a foil, while prepare the sauce. Don’t cover the fillets tightly, or the crispy skin will get soggy.
- To make the sauce, add lemon juice, thyme and salt in a medium skillet. Bring it to a boil over medium heat and cook until it until reduced in half. Remove thyme, reduce the heat to low and add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Swirl the pan to slowly melt the butter before adding the remaining butter. The trick is to slowly melt the butter to get the silky sauce, instead of melted butter. You can pick up the skillet, hovering it over the heat and swirling it to melt the butter.
- Serve the trout with side of rice, or vegetables of your choice, and lemon butter sauce on the side.