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Titus’ Quick Pan-fried Fish with Lemon Butter Sauce

Eat Wisconsin Fish / Titus’ Quick Pan-fried Fish with Lemon Butter Sauce


Titus Seilheimer is a fisheries outreach specialist at Wisconsin Sea Grant.

Says Titus, “With a few basic ingredients and tools, you can make a great fish dinner. I use the same basic preparation for my fish, and then cook depending on what method I have available. The stovetop, oven and grill are all just different sources of heat. Simply put the fillets in there and then cook them to temperature!”


  • Rainbow trout, Wisconsin farm-raised (or try with wild-caught Lake Superior whitefish)
  • Homemade rub: 1.5 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika. Combine in a small bowl.
  • Use the rub to add some flavor (I begin by rubbing the fillet with some olive oil and then adding the rub. The oil will add a little flavor and help the rub stick. You can use your favorite store-bought seasoning, like Old Bay or a Cajun blend, or make the simple homemade rub noted above. Voila! Your fish is now ready to cook.)

Having some options to cook the fish can come in handy. I don’t always want to fire up the grill when it’s -20 or turn on the oven when it’s 95 degrees! And remember: fish cooks quickly, depending on thickness and type, so stay close and have that thermometer at the ready.

Pan cook: Preheat a skillet at medium-high heat. Add a little oil, then put the fish in skin-side down. Flip carefully at 5 minutes, then check the temperature at 10 minutes.

Other option–Roast: Preheat at 400 F. Put the fish in a baking pan skin side down (cooking time depends on size and number of fillets). Check temperature at 8-10 minutes.

Other option–Grill: I like to preheat the grill on high and then cook the fish on indirect heat. If you have a more delicate fish, put it on a piece of aluminum foil. For flavor, you can add some butter and onions to the foil boat. Cook just off the burner (in gas grill) or move coals to the side (with charcoal). Check after 10 minutes.


This is a quick and easy sauce that you can prepare before you put the fish on the heat. It combines the rich and nutty flavor of brown butter with zippy, fresh citrus. Mastering a quick sauce will add flavor to the fish and will help those folks who don’t love fish.


  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and finely ground pepper



1. Place the butter in a light colored saucepan or small skillet over medium heat.
2. Melt butter, stirring occasionally. When the butter turns golden brown and it smells nutty (around 3 minutes), pour into small bowl.
3. Add lemon juice and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix together. When cooled, adjust lemon and salt to taste.
4. Set aside; it will stay pourable for 20-30 minutes.
5. Pour 1 Tbsp over each fillet. Refrigerate extra and use within 1 week, or freeze.