I just tried and failed again to sear some fish, and I'd love to know what I'm doing wrong. It develops a lovely, brown sear... that then mostly sticks to the pan.
The fish - I bought two 1.25-1.5" thick pieces of cod from a regular supermarket. It was previously frozen, but no longer frozen when I bought it. No skin. I patted the fish dry, sprinkled on a little salt and pepper, kept it at room temp for 30 minutes, and dried it again right before putting it in the pan. I've also tried leaving off the salt.
The pan - I heated a good quality stainless steel pan on high on our ceramic-top electric stove. In the past, I've also tried a scanpan. I don't have cast iron, and I don't think I'd get the brown sear I'm after with a nonstick.
The oil - I added a good pour of grapeseed oil, and waited until it started smoking. I've also tried adding the oil before heating the pan, and then still waiting for it to smoke.
Cooking - I placed the fish in the pan. Not crowded. If the smoke gets heavy, I turn it down to med-hi. I've tried not touching it at all, and I've tried prodding it a bit right at the start to try to prevent it from fastening to the pan and then leaving it alone. It starts to fasten instantly, so the latter doesn't work.
Flipping - When it's almost done, and has a gorgeous brown sear, it's almost completely stuck. I wait a little longer, hoping it will release. When it would start to overcook if I waited any longer, I try to pry it up with a spatula and lose 3/4 of the sear to the pan. I curse a little. The part that does come up is perfect and delicious. The rest comes up when I deglaze and scrape to salvage it as best I can.