Pan-fried haddock

Sharon Jessup Joyce

Fresh haddock is delicious. And here on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, haddock is the fish you will find most often on restaurant menus. Olivia is particularly fond of the haddock taco at Two Doors Down in Halifax, while I love their haddock burger, sans bacon, topped with their addictive housemade green relish. We regularly enjoy classic fish and chips at Shaw’s Landing in West Dover, while Rhubarb, located in Indian Harbour (just 4 minutes from our house), offers a delicious gluten-free fish and chips. This week, when Diane treated Livy and me to lunch at Rhubarb, I substituted a side salad for the fries and still walked away well satisfied because of my generous portion of fish.

Haddock is served (better)

But perhaps the most classic way to serve haddock is pan-fried. You can get pan-fried haddock done very well at lots of restaurants on the South Shore, but two places where we order it regularly are at the Seaside Shanty in Chester Basin and at Athens in Halifax. Pan-fried haddock is also easy to do at home. It’s all about buying the nicest, freshest haddock you can find — fortunately plentiful in this region — and not overcooking it.
Haddock in milk (better)
Pan-fried haddock

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 4 small or 2 large haddock fillets
  • Enough milk to cover fish (about 1 cup, usually)
  • Enough flour to coat fish (I use about 1/2 cup and waste a little)
  • Seasoning of your choice (Old Bay is classic, but I have used Sarah’s Sea Salt’s Tuscan Salt, Cajun spice mix, steak spice or just salt and pepper)
  • 2-3 tablespoons oil for frying (I use sunflower oil)
  • Fresh dill and/or chive and lemon wedge as garnishes


  1. Lay fish pieces in flat baking dish — I usually use a cake pan — and pour enough cold milk over them to barely cover.Haddock in flour (better)
  2. Let fish sit in milk in fridge for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Mix flour and desired seasonings together and spread out on plate or flat dish.
  4. Put oil in skillet and bring slowly up to medium-high heat.
  5. Drain milk from fish. At this point, you can pat the fish dry with paper towels or leave it slightly damp with milk. Drying the fish gives you a thinner coating of flour, while leaving it damp means you have a crunchier coating (and you will use more flour, so add a bit to your coating container).
  6. Place coated fillets gently into hot oil, being careful not to break fish.
  7. Cook on one side for 1-2 minutes (depending on thickness of fish), then turn gently and carefully, using a heat-proof spatula or pancake flipper. Don’t worry if the fish piece breaks in half when you are turning it.
  8. Cook on the other side for 1-2 minutes.
  9. Remove fish from oil and place on plate covered with double-thickness paper towel. Gently pat off excess oil.
  10. Serve immediately.Haddock in skillet (better)If you don’t eat wheat, substitute the flour of your choice. You don’t even need flour. Corn meal gives a lovely crunchy texture, as do crushed potato chips. You can even omit the coating and just sprinkle the fish with your favourite seasoning and fry it that way.

The fishmonger at Pete’s in Halifax gave me another soaking tip. Instead of milk, soak fish in slightly salted ice water. I tried it, and found that it firmed the flesh as well as the milk, but reduced the browning of the fish fillet’s crust, since the sugars in the milk promote browning. You will definitely need to pat the fish dry if you use the salt water instead of milk for soaking.

Pan-fried haddock should be eaten right away. In theory, you can keep cooked pieces warm in the oven while you cook more fish, but in reality the kept-warm portions will be as disappointing as waffles or latkes given the same treatment. When I make pan-fried haddock, I ask each person to start eating as soon as they get their plate filled. I don’t usually have to ask twice.

Gorgeous morning


Sharon lives in Kingston, Ontario, but is presently spending the month at the family’s Nova Scotia coastal cottage, from which her husband will have to forcibly remove her.
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After a good dinner, one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”

– Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance


3 thoughts on “Pan-fried haddock

  1. At work we did a pan fried haddock special and it sold very, very well! It’s definitely a popular choice out here in Nova Scotia!

    • And it’s even good for breakfast. I used to buy fresh haddock from Ryer’s
      in the morning and cook it for breakfast. Sadly, the owner told us the other day that the haddock is being sold to the American market, because the fisherman can get a better price than they can locally.

  2. When I was home in Ottawa recently, dad took some halibut out of the freezer and we decided to coat it in cornmeal, top with melted butter and bake (I’ll admit, it was a suggestion from the Susan Jessup hotline). It was fantastic! We were looking for a less smelly alternative to frying, and it worked very well. I love the crunch of the cornmeal.

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