Blackening fish (or other protein) isn’t juts applying a Cajun-spice blend and cooking it any old way you choose. Sure, you can sprinkle your fillets with a little seasoning and grill or bake them, but to really blacken something, you need extremely high heat and a disabled smoke alarm. Blackening fish in an almost-glowing cast-iron skillet creates a ton of smoke, but the end result is well worth the watering eyes and visit from the fire department. While the exterior make look burned, the taste is far from acrid. Here’s how to do it.

1. Open some windows and take the batteries out of your smoke alarm. (Seriously.)

2. Place a cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high to high heat. Do not add any oil. You want the skillet dry.

3. Melt about ½ cup of butter and pour it into a shallow pie plate. Pass your fish fillets through the melted butter, coating both sides, then place them on a second plate. Sprinkle each side of the fillets heavily with a blackened seasoning blend. I use King Kooker’s blend or Paul Prudhomme’s Blackened Magic, but you can also make your own using the recipe below.

4. Carefully lay each fillet in the hot skillet. Be prepared for a lot of smoke. The butter may also ignite briefly. Do not be alarmed. The high heat will cook the fish quickly, so monitor it closely. Use a fish spatula to turn the fish when a crust forms and releases from the pan. This shouldn’t take more than a couple minutes. Cook on the second side for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through. Remember, it will continue cooking when you remove it from the pan, so be careful not to overcook it.

Blackened Spice Seasoning

  • 2 Tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ½ tsp. white pepper
  • ½ tsp. black pepper