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Fried Fish

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I had an email asking me about fried fish. Which are the different methods, which fish are suitable and what to use for frying. 

There are three main methods:

  • deep frying 
  • shallow frying 
  • pan frying 

You can use:

  • Oil for all methods
  • Butter - pan frying only

Use any type of fish you like, but I would not deep fry really oily fish, such as salmon.

Oil - a good question and it's very much a matter of personal taste. I tend to use olive oil for salad dressing, but it has a low smoke point so is not good for deep frying. I do mix it with butter sometimes for pan frying. The best oil is a vegetable oil. I use cold pressed rapeseed oil for deep and shallow frying. 


Fried Fish Method 1 - Deep frying

Fish and Chips Recipe

This method is suitable for battered fish - you need the hot fat to hit the batter all at once so that it immediately seals it onto the fish. If you tried to shallow fry, then the batter would seal on the bottom but run off the top surface. 

Breaded fish is also suitable for deep frying, but it's a 'fierce' method, with the oil bubbling away and it could destroy more delicate cuts of fish. 

It's often thought of as being unhealthy, as there is a lot of fat involved. However, the fat doesn't really penetrate through the batter and as an occasional treat, there is little to compare with good old fashioned fish, chips and peas with some bread and butter. 

Deep fried fish does need a lot of oil and a large pan - you can get electric deep fat fryers or an old fashioned 'chip pan' which is a deep pan with a basket and lid. 

If you have a deep pan, you can use it along with a slotted spoon. Please read the cook's notes below for how to use one safely.

 If you have a thermometer, then the oil needs to be 190C or 375F. If you don't, then heat the oil until there is a smoky haze - drop a cube of bread in and if it immediately floats to the top and browns, it's ready for the fish. 

Cook's Notes

Extreme caution is necessary when using an open deep fat frying pan. 

  • do not leave it unattended - ignore the phone and door
  • turn the handle to the side of the stove top
  • keep the pan on the back burners away from children and pets
  • if it catches alight, turn the heat source off and cover with a dampened towel, do not move the pan until it is cold 
  • DO NOT pour water over a pan of burning oil - the water will cause the oil to bubble up and splash everywhere, which will burn you badly and also spread the fire
  • If you *do* burn yourself, turn off the heat under the pan and run your burn under the cold water tap for 10 minutes at least. When the burn site is cool, cover with a clean lint free dressing and seek medical help if required

This is a selection of deep fat fryers currently available on Amazon. 

I have an oblong one as it is easier to store in a cupboard and fits in better on the worktop. 

Choose one with a temperature control and if you can afford it, a timer. 

They're not 'one trick ponies' - you can make your own fries, croutons, onion rings, fritters and many other recipes. 

The third fryer is one of my favourite makes - Tefal - and has three baskets. One large one and two small ones, so you can cook two things together in smaller quantities. It dismantles and the parts are dishwasher safe. Perfect! 

I also have the Tefal Actifry, which is amazing!  The photos below show a selection of roasted vegetables, breaded scampi in the basket accessory and lovely scampi, chips and homemade tartar sauce.

I have the original with a snacking basket bought separately. They're not suitable for cooking battered fish, but you could cook frozen battered fish either on the snacking basket or by removing the paddle.

Fried fish method 2 - shallow frying

You could use this method for frying ready battered fish, the type you find in the freezer section at the grocery store, but not for the homemade raw batter as it would only set properly where it was in the oil and the side that was not in the oil would run off.

It's a great method for fish cakes or breadcrumbed fish. Also, if you just flour your fish, then that would work as well. 

People tend to use it as it requires less oil - about half an inch or half the depth of what you're cooking - and doesn't require fancy equipment, like a deep pan or electric deep fryer. 

Use an ordinary frying pan or a wok, add your oil, heat it up and pop in your food. Turn it with a fish slice a few times as it cooks. The same warnings apply though - don't leave it unattended and use a damp towel if it catches alight. 

Fried fish method 3 - pan frying

This is for the more delicate fish where they don't need immersing in oil. The idea is really to add flavour and make a quantity of sauce with the fish. 

The classic Sole Meuniere and Trout with Capers are two excellent examples of really fine pan fried dishes. 

You would normally use butter to pan fry - you could use oil if you prefer - heat the fat in the pan, add your seasonings and then the fish. 


You could 'dry fry' fish - I do with smoked haddock if I'm having it for breakfast with egg and toast - which basically means, don't put any fat in the pan, but you could brush it with oil or butter to help prevent sticking. 

Fry it first skin side down for a couple of minutes, then turn it over to fry it flesh side. 

It's an alternative to bacon for me - I love it with a poached egg and toast. 

If you have any questions or any topic you'd like me to cover - please drop me a line. You can email me Liz at find-a-seafood-recipe dot com or use the contact page here. If it's urgent, then use lizald5 at aol dot com - I monitor that all day! 

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