With a buttery texture and milky-white color, Chilean Sea Bass is ocean royalty. This outstanding fish deserves the best treatment, and our foolproof method for cooking Chilean Sea Bass creates the most delicious crisp crust and flaky interior.
What is Chilean Sea Bass?
Chilean Sea Bass is without a doubt the star of the show here. If you’ve never had this white fish, you’re in for a real treat. It has a dense milky-white flesh that’s moist and flaky. What does it taste like? It has a mild flavor that’s light, slightly sweet and buttery.
Contrary to what you may expect, Chilean sea bass is actually not a bass fish at all. Instead, the Patagonian toothfish and its close relative the Antarctic toothfish are both marketed as Chilean Sea Bass.
Chilean sea bass is often confused with the black sea bass, which, unlike the Chilean sea bass, is actually a bass found in the Atlantic coast of the US.
What to Look for When Buying Sea Bass
We always recommend seeking out quality fish and seafood—but for this recipe it’s especially important. Either you already know or you’ll soon find out that Chilean Sea Bass is an expensive fish. And if you’re going to spend $20 to $30 per pound of fish, it better be as fresh as possible.
When shopping for Chilean Sea Bass look for a few things:
- It shouldn’t have a strong odor. It should smell mildly of the ocean but not fishy.
- The flesh should be firm and bright white in color.
- The flesh should be smooth—not broken or falling apart.
- Opt for skin-on fillets. During the cooking process, the skin retains moisture and keeps the fish buttery.
We highly recommend spending some time researching to find a local fish market you trust—it makes all the difference! If you don’t have a local fish market in your town, we find Whole Foods is a reliable and consistent choice for fresh fish and seafood.
Why This Recipe Works
The thick fillets of Chilean Sea Bass makes this fish ideal for pan-searing. You’re able to achieve a beautiful golden crust on both sides of the fillet by the time the center of the fillet is perfectly cooked through.
Additionally, you don’t need much to create the perfect piece of fish. Just a hot cast-iron skillet set on the stove top and high-heat cooking oil such as refined avocado oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil or vegetable oil.
How to Cook Chilean Sea Bass
The beautiful thing about this fish is that it’s so moist and buttery, which makes it hard to over cook it. However, with such an expensive piece of fish, you want to make sure you’re cooking it perfectly! Here’s our method for perfect pan-seared Chilean sea bass—every time.
Pat the Fish Dry
It’s important to pat the fish dry with paper towels before placing it in the hot skillet. Dry surface=crispy sear. Wet surface=steam cooked.
Preheat the Skillet and Oil
For even cooking and good sear, preheat a cast-iron skillet for a few minutes before adding the oil and allowing it to heat up until shimmering. Once it’s shimmering (the oil slightly dances in the pan) it’s ready for the fish.
Sear the Fish
Season the fish with salt then immediately add it to the pan, skin side down in the hot oil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the skin is well-browned and most of the flesh is opaque (the top half inch or so should still look raw).
Flip the fish and continue cooking until the fish is cooked through (should register 135ºF on an instant-read thermometer.
How to Serve This Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass Recipe
- Serve this pan-seared fish as is! It’s absolutely perfection. Any side dish with do, but we love our Chorizo Maque Choux, Simple Fennel Salad or Fattoush Salad to fill out the menu.
- Spoon our Lemon-Garlic Butter Sauce (flavored with shallot and dry white wine) over the fish then serve with a side of Roasted Green Beans.
- Flake the fish into large chunks make fish tacos.
- Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of lemon zest alongside our Crispy Fingerling Potatoes with capers. Finish with fresh parsley or dill.
Pan-Seared Chilean Sea Bass
- 2 teaspoons avocado oil
- 4 (5- to 6-ounce) skin-on Chilean Sea Bass fillets, 1 inch thick
- Morton kosher salt and black pepper
- Pat fillets dry with paper towels. Heat 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium for 3 minutes.
- Add oil and heat until shimmering. Place fillets, skin side down, in skillet. Immediately reduce heat to medium-low and, using a fish spatula, firmly press fillets to ensure even contact between skin and skillet.
- Continue to cook until skin is well browned and flesh is opaque except for top ½-inch, 4–6 minutes. (If oil starts to smoke reduce heat slightly so it's sizzling, but not smoking).
- Flip fillets and continue to cook until fish registers 135ºF (57ºC); 4–6 minutes more.
Images by: Megan McKeehan