How to Cook a Bass Fillet

Sea bass fillet on wood background


A versatile white fish with a delicate, mild flavor, bass can be prepared a number of different ways, including grilling, pan-frying, baking and broiling. Whichever method you choose, seasoning with salt can help lock the moisture in so that your fillets will be tender and flaky. Plan on four to six minutes cooking time per ½ inch of fish.

Preparing Bass Fillets for Cooking

Place your bass fillets in a colander and rinse them in cool water. This is especially important if the bass has been sitting in its own juices for more than a day. A quick rinse refreshes the fish and removes any stray scales.

Pat the bass fillets dry with paper towels. Don’t squeeze them; just blot off the excess moisture.

Season the bass generously on both sides with salt and pepper. The salt draws the moisture inside the fish to the surface, helping ensure a crisp, golden outer crust. As the fish cooks, the salt and moisture soak back into the meat, tenderizing the fish and enhancing the flavor.

Bass on the Grill

Coat your grill with a light spray of nonstick cooking spray. Use an olive oil mist for added flavor. Preheat the grill over medium-high heat.

Place the bass fillets in a single layer on the grill. Season the top of the bass with lemon juice and the herbs and spices of your choice. Chili powder and cumin work well with bass, as do almost all spices. Cook the fillets for 5 minutes per inch of thickness; for fillets that are 1/2 inch thick, cook them for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes.

Turn the fillets with tongs to keep from puncturing them. Cook them for the same amount of time that you cooked the first side. Check for doneness by flaking the fish with a fork to check that it is opaque throughout, or insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest fillet. The bass is done when the thermometer reads at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pan-Frying Bass Fillets

Coat the bottom of a skillet with just enough oil to keep the bass from sticking. Olive oil, canola oil and vegetable oil all work.

Heat the oil over medium-high heat until a drop of water flung into the pan skitters and pops.

Add the bass as well as any seasonings and cook it for five minutes per side for every 1 inch of thickness; a 1-inch-thick fillet needs to be cooked for a total of 10 minutes.

Baked Fresh Bass Fillets

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Oil a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, olive oil, canola oil, vegetable oil or butter.

Place the bass fillets in a single layer on the bottom of the oiled baking dish. You can also wrap them in foil for a moister end result. Brush the tops of the fillets with a bit of olive oil or melted butter.

Season the bass fillets and bake them for 12 minutes or until they flake easily and are opaque throughout or an instant-read thermometer reads at least 145 F.

Crispy Broiled Bass Fillets

Place your oven rack 5 inches or so below the broiler’s heat source. Preheat the broiler on high.

Spray the rack of your broiler pan with nonstick cooking spray, or wipe it down with a paper towel dampened in oil. Do this well away from a gas broiler if you are using nonstick cooking spray.

Place the bass fillets on the oiled broiler pan rack and season them with the herbs and spices of your choice. Do not use fresh herbs, because the heat can turn them bitter. Broil the seasoned fillets for 10 minutes for every 1 inch of thickness. Turn them once halfway through the cooking time and check for doneness before serving.