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How to fry fish

Deep-fried fish, pan-fried fish, and other homemade crispy seafood recipes can seem intimidating. “Will they make my house smell?” Nope! Not if you follow our instructions about the best fish to fry and cook with. “Will I end up with a soggy batter?” No, we’re here to walk you through every step of the process of how to fry fish, so you end up with the crispiest results. So trust yourself, you’ve reel-y got this, and prepare to prep your best batch ever of deep-fried fish, pan-fried fish, or air-fried fish for dinner this week.

How to Make Pan-Fried Fish

Pan-fried fish uses just a thin layer of hot oil or shortening in a skillet and a light flour or cornmeal coating on the fish instead of a batter. It is a bit simpler, less messy, and more healthful than deep-frying.

Choose Your Fish

For 4 servings, choose 1 pound of skinless fish fillets, about ½- to ¾-inch thick. So what’s the best fish to fry? Any fillets will work, including mild-flavor whitefish, cod, flounder, red snapper, and orange roughy. If frozen, thaw the fillets in the refrigerator. A 1-pound package will thaw in 1 to 2 days. (If you prefer non-battered seafood, check out how to bake fish to flaky perfection.)

Prep the Fish

Rinse the fillets and pat dry with paper towels, so the wet and dry coatings can adhere better to the fish. Transfer fillets to a cutting board ($15, Bed Bath & Beyond) and cut them into four pieces using a sharp knife ($60, Williams Sonoma).

Make the Coating

In a shallow dish, combine 1 beaten egg with 2 tablespoons water or milk. This wet mixture helps the coating stick to the fish. 

In another shallow dish combine ⅔ cup cornmeal or fine, dry bread crumbs with ½ teaspoon salt and a dash ground black pepper. Or substitute 1⅓ cups crushed potato chips, crackers, or unsweetened cereal (such as corn flakes) for the cornmeal, omitting the salt. This dry mixture creates a crunchy coating on the fish when pan-fried.

Dip and Dredge the Fish

Preheat the oven to 300°F. This keeps the cooked fillets warm as you finish pan-frying the remaining fillets. (This is one of many Test Kitchen tricks we swear by here at the BH&G headquarters!)

Choose a large heavy skillet ($70, Target); something like your biggest cast-iron skillet will work marvelously. Add ¼ inch of fat. You can either use shortening or one of the best oils to fry fish, which is any mild vegetable oil. Standard vegetable oil is affordable and nearly flavorless, and canola or peanut oil work well too. Heat the fat over medium-high.

Dip each fillet first into the egg mixture, coating each side. Place each coated fillet in the cornmeal mixture and press gently to help the mixture adhere to the fish. Turn each fillet over and repeat until the whole fillet is covered with dry mixture.

Pan-Fry the Fish

Add half of the coated fish fillets in a single layer to the hot oil in the skillet. The oil should be hot enough that it sizzles when you add the fish to the pan. Fry the fish until golden on the bottom. For all those wondering, “how long does fish take to fry?”: As a rough estimate, it takes about 3 to 4 minutes per side to pan-fry the average fillet.

Once the first side is golden, flip the fish over, using tongs or a large metal spatula such as this OXO Fish Turner, ($14, Target) and a fork to steady the fish. Take care to avoid splattering the fat. The fat should still be hot enough to sizzle when the fish is flipped.

Midwesterners will be more than familiar with the term "fish fry." Thanks to its thousands of scattered lakes, the region boasts a bountiful supply of fresh fish for a large part of the year. Fish fries have become a tradition among folks in the Midwest and parts of the South.

Learn how to have your own fish fry. Here you'll get step-by-step instructions for frying fish at home.

How to Deep Fry Fish in 5 Steps

Everyone loves fish and chips, and you can easily achieve the same buttery and flaky fried fish in your own home.

1. Pick Your Fish

Same thing goes for deep frying as for pan frying: You're going to want to go with more of a neutral-flavored fish that isn't overly oily. So most types of white fish will do. Some common choices include cod, tilapia, catfish, halibut, trout, striped bass, flounder, and perch. If you're making fish and chips, cod is going to be a solid choice.

For tips on how to pick the freshest fish refer to our guide. You can go with fresh or frozen, just factor in thawing time if you're using frozen.

2. Prep the Fish

One pound of skinless fillets, or four 4-ounce skinless fillets (about ½-inch thick) is the perfect amount for serving a family of four. If you're starting with frozen fish, start by thawing them in the refrigerator for 24 hours ahead of time.

If your fillets are thicker than ½-inch thick, go ahead transfer them to a cutting board and cut them lengthwise to get the desired thickness — this will give you crispier fish in the end! Then cut the fillets into 3-inch x 2-inch pieces. Rinse the fish and pat dry with paper towels.

3. Heat Your Oil

As the name suggests, deep-fried fish is going to require a pan with a deeper interior. You can either use a 3-quart heavy saucepan a deep-fat fryer. If using a saucepan, heat 1 quart of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Attach a deep-frying thermometer to the side of the pan and heat the oil to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) .

4. Make the Batter

We'll use the batter from this Classic Fish and Chips recipe courtesy of Allrecipes Community Member Dan. You're welcome to customize your batter how you'd like — Chef John's beer batter fish and chips makes for a fun variation.

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper.
  2. Stir in 1 cup of milk and 1 egg until smooth. Let the mixture stand for 20 minutes.

5. Dredge the Fish and Fry

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C) — you'll see why in a second.

One piece at a time, dredge the fish in batter and place it in the hot oil. Fry until golden brown. After frying each piece, place it on a plate lined with a layer of paper towels to drain.

To keep the fish warm while the others are frying, transfer them to a baking dish and place in a preheated oven until you're ready to serve.

Favorite Fried Fish Recipes

Side Dishes to Serve with Fried Fish

Don't forget the sides! Fried fish can't stand alone. Of course you can serve them with chips for a classic English pub meal. Fried fish also pairs well with fresh, light, and tangy sides like coleslaw or cucumber salad.

But if you're looking to double down on the fried food, you can't go wrong with hushpuppies or homemade salt and vinegar chips. For more side inspiration, refer to our complete list of the best sides for fried fish. And be sure to have plenty of malt vinegar, lemon wedges, and tartar sauce to serve alongside your entree.

Fried Tilapia or any kind of fried fish is easy to cook. I’m sure that we all have our own ways of frying fish. I am sharing this recipe post just so you know how I do it. There is nothing special in my method. In fact, most of you might be doing the same thing.

How to fry fish

I love fried fish. This is something that I can eat everyday. However, I try to refrain making this during the winter months because the smell of the fish lingers in the house for a while. In the Philippines, I can do this everyday. I remember just opening all the windows and the smell just disappears after a few hours.

Since it’s Summer, I can fry fish everyday. I usually do this outside of the house, by the backyard.

How to fry fish

When it comes to eating fried fish, I’m not sure if I’m doing it like most Filipino does. I eat fried fish using my hands (nagkakamay po ako) and I mix the fermented fish sauce with rice and mash it. I always have a piece of whole tomato on the plate. I first take a bite of tomato before putting the fish (with rice) in my mouth.

How do you eat fried fish? Please pardon my silly question. I just want to discover other ways to enjoy this simple dish. What is the best food to pair with fried tilapia and what condiments do you use?

How to fry fish

On another note, did you know that we can cook different dishes using fried tilapia? Fried tilapia in coconut milk is a good example. You can also make sinigang na isda with it. It is more tasty compared to fresh fish, in my opinion.

Simple dishes are awesome! Let’s eat some fried tilapia and pass the rice, please.

Fish fry recipe – This delicious, crispy & spicy fish fry makes for a great appetizer or a side to a meal. A simple vegetable salad or sliced onion compliment the fish fry. It can be served as a side with any variety rice like Ghee rice, cumin or Jeera rice, simple coconut rice. However it also goes great with plain rice and simple rasam or this tamarind rasam. This recipe is very easy to follow, a bachelor’s recipe and yields a tasty crispy fish.

How to fry fish

To make this easy fish fry, fish needs double marination. First marination for the fish to absorb all the flavors and spice. Second marination to give a crust to the fish.

This simple fish fry recipe can be used to grill or shallow fry or pan fry the fish. All methods yield crusty fish and is best served immediately.

If you do not have besan or gram flour, you can substitute with corn flour. But using besan or gram flour gives the flavor of a pakora.

How to make easy fish fry

1. Mix all the ingredients under first marination i.e ginger garlic paste, lemon juice, salt,garam masala, turmeric and chilli powder. Taste the marinade and adjust salt if needed.

How to fry fish

2. Marinate the fish with this marinade. Set aside for 10 to 15 mins.

How to fry fish

3. I also powder half tsp saunf and little ajwain . Add all the second marination ingredients to a plate. Mix well and taste it. Adjust salt if needed.

How to fry fish

4. Coat the fish in the dry flour mix on both the sides. Set aside in a plate.

How to fry fish

5. Leave it for about 15 minutes for the dry flour to become moist and cling well to the fish.

How to fry fish

6. It can be tawa fried till crusty. For tawa fry add 3/4 tbsp oil to a hot pan and spread it well. Fry on both the sides, take care while you flip the fillet otherwise it may break. Fry few curry leaves along with the fish to garnish.

How to fry fish

7. For shallow fry, use oil as needed. I suggest using a small pan if shallow frying, the amount of oil needed will be less.

I have evocative memories of my grandmother shallow-frying skate wings, her favourite fish, which she first dipped in seasoned flour – they were golden and crisp at the edges and there were always special Victorian bone-handled fish knives and forks on the table.

(You can also watch Delia’s Shallow Fried Fish recipe, with cripsy, golden batter being made in our Cookery School Video, just click the image to play.)

This recipe is from the Delia Online Cookery School.

  • method
  • Ingredients

Method

Just sift the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper into a mixing bowl, then gradually add the water, whisking continuously until the batter is smooth and free from lumps.

Heat the oil on a high heat. Meanwhile pat the fish dry with some kitchen paper and remove any stray bones. Then put the fillets into the batter and turn them over a few times to make sure they are evenly coated with the batter (a rubber spatula is useful here). To check if the oil is hot enough, drop half a teaspoon of batter into the oil. If the batter immediately rises to the surface and the oil bubbles all around it and it turns golden within sixty seconds the oil is hot enough to fry.

Now take one of the fillets and turn it over in the batter again and then holding it at either end, lay it flat in the hot oil, skin side up, then quickly do the same with the second fillet. Next reduce the temperature down a little and set the timer for 3 minutes. When the time is up use a fish slice to lift up the fillet and if it’s golden, turn it over with the slice, and a fork to help steady it, so that the oil doesn’t splash. Then do the same with the second fillet and give them another 3 – 4 minutes. Remove with a fish slice and drain on some kitchen paper and serve on warm plates with some Maldon salt and malt vinegar.

Serve with our Chunky Tartare Sauce which you can watch being made in our Cookery School Video for Hollandaise and Mayonnaise on this page.

How to fry fish

Learn how easy it is to make this Fried Fish Recipe. Dinner is delicious with this old-fashioned battered and fried fish recipe.

How to fry fish

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Fried Fish

There is no wrong time for a fish fry, in my opinion. Growing up, we never really ate a lot of seafood or fish – which is weird – because we lived right on the coast! Both of my parents eat fish and seafood, so I’m not sure why we didn’t have it more often? It wasn’t until I was an adult that I tried different kinds of seafood besides “fish sticks.”

How to fry fish

As an adult, I’ve been more adventurous and willing to try some new things. When I lived in the Midwest, this popular restaurant in town was known for its fried catfish. After trying it, I’ve got a new favorite!

How to fry fish

Personally, I prefer my fish without bones and a tail – but do whatever floats your boat. If you like to serve it with the bones and tail, I ain’t here to judge no one!

Let me show you how easy it is to make this recipe …

How to fry fish

Recipe for Fried Fish

Ingredients for fish

  • fish fillets (catfish, haddock, tilapia, cod, bluegill, etc …)
  • yellow cornmeal
  • all-purpose flour
  • salt
  • cayenne pepper
  • garlic powder
  • Vegetable oil

Ingredients for serving (optional)

  • hot sauce
  • tartar sauce
  • malt vinegar
  • lemon wedges

How to make Fried Fish

Time needed: 30 minutes.

How to make Fried Fish

    Heat oil.

In a large, heavy skillet, fill it about half full with vegetable oil. Heat oil to 350°F.

Meanwhile, in a pie plate or similar bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder.

Coat the fish with the cornmeal mixture, shaking off excess.

Add the fish in a single layer and fry until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes – depending on the size. Remove the fish from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Serve immediately with hot sauce, tartar sauce, malt vinegar, or lemon wedges on the side, if desired.

How to fry fish

Fried Fish: FAQs

Fish will flake easily when it’s done, and it will lose its translucent or raw appearance. The best way to tell if your fish is done is by testing it with a fork at an angle, at the thickest point, and twist gently. Fish needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 140-145 degrees.

Buy the freshest fish you can find and make sure your oil has heated to the proper temperature.

Properly stored in a covered container, you will need to use any leftovers within 3-4 days.

Yes! For the best results, I suggest reheating it in the oven. Reheat the fish on a baking sheet in a 275°F oven for 15-20 minutes or until heated through.

Yes! After frying, allow the fish to cool completely and then transfer it to a freezer-safe container. Use within one month.

Try our iconic fish fry recipe featuring America’s #1 Fish Fry, the iconic “blue bag” of Seasoned Crispy Fish Fry Breading Mix that started it all!

Ingredients

  • 1-10 oz. bag of Louisiana Fish Fry Products Seasoned Fish Fry Coating Mix
  • ice cold water
  • vegetable or canola oil
  • 3-4 lbs. of fresh catfish, trout or tilapia
  • 1 10.5 oz. bottle of Louisiana Fish Fry Products Tartar Sauce

Optional Ingredients

  • lemon wedges, for garnish
  • fresh sliced Vidalia onions, for garnish
  • Louisiana Fish Fry Products Remoulade Sauce, Cocktail Sauce or Cravin’ Cajun Hot Sauce to taste

Recommended Products

How to fry fish

Seasoned Fish Fry 10 oz

How to fry fish

Tartar Sauce 10.5 oz

PREPARATION

Rinse fish well in ice cold water. Shake off excess water and completely coat fish in Seasoned Seafood Breading Mix. Deep fry fish at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until internal temperature is 145 degrees Fahrenheit and golden brown. Serve fish while hot and enjoy!

Don’t forget to grab Louisiana Fish Fry Tartar Sauce, lemon wedges or fresh Vidalia onions to complete the perfect fish fry spread.

PRO TIPS

Clean Catfish

Be sure to remove the dark, fatty bits from your catfish, as these will carry an especially fishy flavor.

Reheat Fried Foods

To reheat your fried foods, let them come up to room temperature and then bake briefly in a 400-degree oven. Use a wire rack atop a baking sheet to keep too much steam from making things soggy.

Have a pro tip? Share it here.

You may also be inspired by these delicious recipes

How to fry fish

Beer Battered Fish Tacos

Recipe Royalty Contest winner Dai-Lynn knows how to cool off on a hot day with her crispy, beer-battered fish tacos topped with a refreshing Baja slaw with notes of cilantro and fresh-squeezed lime. Speaking of limes, don’t forget to squeeze a wedge or two into a well-deserved ice cold glass of your favorite lager!

How to fry fish

Catfish Tony

There’s nothing like topping your seafood with more seafood, and it doesn’t get more Louisiana than a catfish & crawfish combo. Throw in some of our Etouffée, and you’ve got yourself an iconic Cajun entree. Careful you don’t get hooked!

How to fry fish

Out of Mayo Potato Salad

No mayo, you say? No need to run to the store, as long as you’ve got some Louisiana Fish Fry Tartar Sauce and Remoulade Sauce in the cupboard! You’ll never look back at your old mayonnaise-based potato salad once you’ve tried this zesty substitute.

Frying fish adds flavor in the form of the frying fat and the browned surface. Fish contains more water and often less fat than meat and therefore it can easily fail to brown at all – or it burns and sticks to the pan. Fish protein also falls apart easily.

The right temperature for fish

Too high a temperature means the fish will burn and stick but if the temperature is too low, it will boil in its own liquid. Get to know your hob and your pans and fry in plenty of fat.

A trick for round fish

A trick when you’re frying a whole round fish: Put a slice of raw potato under the tail and the thin part won’t be over-fried.

“Fry fish on the bone and with the skin left on. It makes for a tastier and juicier result.”
– Chef Linn Söderström, Restaurang Ekstedt, Operakällaren, and more

Flip fish once

Only turn fish once in the pan and finish it off in the oven to increase your chances of it staying in one piece. Use two decent-sized fish slices. Fry at a high temperature to add color and then put the fish in a moderately warm oven, at about 175°C (no more, or the butter will burn) for a couple of minutes until it reaches the desired core temperature.

Not too much in the pan at once

The same goes for fish as for everything else you fry: Too much (cold) fish in the pan means there isn’t enough heat for the water to evaporate. That way the fish will be boiled instead of fried.

Wipe first

The fish should be seasoned with salt and pepper and completely dry on the surface when you put it in the pan. Use kitchen towel or a tea towel.

“Butter, butter, butter.”
– Stefan Eckert reveals a professional secret

Butter or oil for fish

Fry fish in a mixture of oil and butter, it creates more heat resistant frying fat. The oil should go in first. Wait until the butter stops spluttering and baste the fish during frying.

Once you have fried a piece of fish in butter, you’ve virtually created your sauce in the pan. Use normal salted butter. Clarified butter makes it even easier to fry without risking the butter burning but the flavor isn’t quite as good. The brownness in browned butter is what makes it taste so good. Clarified butter can’t be browned.

“Nothing beats the flavor of browned butter. It’s so easy.”
– Chef Per Renhed loves butter almost as much as Chef Stefan Eckert

The right pan for fish

The pan should have a thick base that retains the heat sufficiently to warm up fish cold from the fridge. Stefan Eckert at Lisa Elmqvist recommends cast iron, which is heavy and tough. The pan ought to be able to cope with you basting butter with a spoon, which isn’t the case with Teflon.

One trick when you’re frying is to shake the pan slightly in the first seconds so that the fish browns without sticking. And/or giving it time to gain a caramelized fried surface that loosens from the base. Keeping the skin on fish makes frying easier.

The right oven temperature

Have the oven preheated and ready. When you put fried fish in the oven to finish off, the temperature should be less than 200°C so the butter isn’t burned. Start at 175°C and take it from there.

Fry prawns in oil

Frying large prawns is better in oil. Avoid good quality, cold-pressed olive oil as it can’t cope with high temperatures. Finish off with a knob of butter for more flavor and “roundness”.

Scallops

Remove the hard, white bit that is attached to the round part before frying. This is a step people often forget. Clarified butter allows you to fry at a higher temperature and produces a good color. Coating scallops in toasted flour is a trick for getting the perfect color.

Frying several flatfish

If you’re facing the challenge of frying more flatfish at a time than you have large frying pans for, here’s how: Fry them all for 3 minutes on one side and 1 minute on the other. Put them on baking trays in the oven. Finish off at a slightly higher temperature.

Approximate frying times:

• Thin fillets, fry 1 to 2 minutes per side.
• Thick fillets and cutlets, 3 to 5 minutes per side.

Coating fish

Coating fish before frying gives lean fish more flavor because the coating adds a crispy mouth feel and absorbs the flavors of the frying fat.

Coating makes cooking delicate fish even easier. The coating forms a shell that keeps the easily damaged protein together and stops it sticking to the pan.

When frying coated fish, the temperature is particularly important. If you fry at too low a temperature, the fish will release so much liquid that the coating will come away from the fish. If you fry at too high a temperature, the coating will burn before the fish is ready. The pan and the frying fat must therefore be heated up properly when you put the fish in, but can be lowered after that.

A simple coating of flour, à la meuniére, is the easiest method of all.

A spicy coating, for example piccata, is a bread coating with flavors added.

Deep frying fish

If you deep fry often, invest in a deep fat fryer. Deep frying is not considered the ultimate in cuisine, but it is an excellent way to cook delicate, lean fish:

  • The temperature of the oil should be 180°C.
  • Cut the fish into equal sized pieces.
  • Season with salt and pepper before coating.
  • Fry in batches so the fish doesn’t clump together and so the temperature of the oil doesn’t drop.
  • Also salt after frying.
  • Small scampi, prawns and mussels can also be deep fried.

“You can deep fry absolutely anything.”
Peppe Elmqvist, fourth generation fishmonger

Dry frying fish

Fish can be dry fried in a pan with no oil but plenty of salt. It’s an ideal method for fatty fish like herring, salmon or mackerel. it needs a high temperature so cast iron or carbon steel pans are best.

Stir frying/sautéing fish

Quick and light cooking is perfect for fish, but don’t treat it too roughly in the pan as the delicate protein will fall apart. Try with firm types of fish, or fry the fish separately and serve it on top of ingredients that have been stir fried/ sautéed. Many shellfish and squid are delicious stir fried.

Having cut my teeth working at a seafood shack, I thought I knew everything there was to know about fried fish. That all changed when I ordered fish and chips to go from Automatic Seafood and Oysters in Birmingham, Alabama (a 2020 F&W Best New Restaurant). I popped the takeout lid to keep the fish from getting soggy, but I needn't have bothered — this fish was designed to stay crispy on a drive home.

"This batter is made for travel," chef Adam Evans later told me as he walked me through the recipe at his restaurant. Instead of a more typical mild or white-fleshed fish like cod, Evans had gathered two kinds of rich-fleshed sustainable ocean fish for us to try: skin-on speckled trout and mahi-mahi. He dredged those fillets in a 1-to-1 ratio of tapioca starch and rice flour, which also made up his batter, along with garlic and onion powders, Korean chile flakes, and turmeric. Just before frying, Evans gently whisked in club soda to achieve a batter just thicker than heavy cream. "You want to be able to see the texture of the fish through the batter," advised Evans.

Emulating a tempura master, he carefully dipped one end of the battered fillet into the hot oil, dragging it across the surface until the batter began to sizzle and puff. He then gently lowered the fish into the oil, ensuring it would float before letting go. He flipped the fillets a few times as they fried before transferring them to a rack for a final seasoning. I waited as long as I could, passing the hot fish from hand to hand until I was confident it wouldn't burn my mouth. It was perfectly steamed, and the thin, crispy crust left no trace of oil on my fingers. Evans offered some malt vinegar and a lemon wedge, classic accompaniments for cutting through the greasiness of fried fish, but his needed neither. The freshness of the fish was immediately apparent, as was its flavor — far richer than my go-to cod could ever be.