Traditional Fish & Chips

By Christina Collins

The best Fish & Chip recipe

Anyone who is a true Fish & Chip lover knows that when ordering it out, disappointment is more common than satisfaction. It can almost become an obsession trying it over and over again, seeking out that perfect, crunchy bite that rarely is found. This beloved English classic has lost its way here in America, and has gone all wrong. But I was determined to figure out how to make it right.

fish & chips

The best Fish & Chip recipe starts with a good, strong batter. The batter’s job is to encapsulate the fish to form a crust, allowing the fish to steam within the crust and never crack. If the batter is done well, no oil will ever penetrate the batter and have direct contact with the fish’s flesh. (When that happens, you get greasy, soggy fish.)

The batter mixture should be thin, yet tacky enough to cling to the fish. It needs seasoning, but not so much that it over powers the delicate flavor of the cod, or other white fish.

Once cooked, the batter should be crispy, thin and crunchy. It should stick to the cooked fish when cutting through it, and not pull off and separate from the fish.

It should never, ever, ever be soggy or greasy.

fish & chips

Well friends, what I have learned is that there is only one way to ensure a crispy coating on the outside, and a moist, delicate fish on the inside. You have to make it yourself.

And after testing a wide variety of recipes, watching videos, and reading countless articles on the history of fish & chips, I finally found a great recipe the produces the perfect results. If you can follow directions, you can make these fish & chips.

English Chips

I found my now treasured fried fish recipe in the America’s Test Kitchen archives, and while their fish recipe is great, the chip recipe was not up to my standards. They cook their potatoes in the microwave and this is far (very far!) from traditional. This is not what I was looking for when seeking a traditional fish & chip experience. I prefer to make my chips just as I was taught from my husband’s english grandmother, Gladys, who has been frying her potatoes this way for over 90 years. Why mess with perfection?

How to make fish & chips:

Traditional Fish & Chips

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine British
Servings 4 people

Ingredients
  

  • 3 pounds Russet potatoes about 4 large potatoes.
  • 3 quarts canola oil for frying plus 1/4 additional cup
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Diamond kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ – 2 pounds 1-inch-thick cod fillet or other thick white fish, such as hake or haddock cut into eight 3-ounce pieces. (Thoroughly dry fish with paper towels)
  • 1 ½ cups beer 12 ounces, cold. (Any beer will work in this recipe, even nonalcoholic beer with the exception of dark stouts and ales.)

Instructions
 

1. Prep the potatoes

  • Peel the potatoes and slice off the “top & tail” to square off the ends of the potato and discard. Cut each potatoes lengthwise into 1/2 inch by 1/2-inch fries. Add potato pieces into a water bath for about 30 minutes. Remove from water and pat dry with paper towel.

2. Set up the dredging station

  • Whisk flour, cornstarch, cayenne, paprika, pepper, and 2 teaspoons salt in large mixing bowl. Transfer 1.5 of a cup of the flour mixture to a casserole dish and set aside.
  • Add baking powder to what remains in the bowl and whisk to combine.
  • Add 1 1/4 cups beer to the flour mixture in mixing bowl and stir until mixture is just combined (batter will be lumpy). Add remaining beer as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking after each addition, until batter falls from whisk in thin, steady stream and leaves faint trail across surface of batter.

3. Fry the Potatoes

  • Once the dredging station is set up, In heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (about 7 quart capacity), heat TWO of the three quarts oil over medium heat to 350 degrees. Add fries to hot oil and increase heat to high. Fry, stirring with mesh spider or slotted metal spoon, until potatoes turn light golden and just begin to brown at corners, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer fries to paper towels to drain.

4. Dredge & fry the fish

  • With the fries done, increase the heat of the oil to medium-high, add remaining quart of oil if necessary and heat oil to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, thoroughly dry fish with paper towels and dredge each piece in flour mixture shaking off excess flour. Dip 1 piece of fish in batter at a time and let excess run off, shaking gently. Place battered fish back into the dish with the flour mixture and turn to coat both sides.
  • If you are working with a partner in the kitchen you can now add each piece directly to hot oil if or, if you choose, keep pieces in single layer on baking sheet and repeat until all pieces are coated. (It’s best if you have one person frying and another dredging. However, you can do certainly do it in batches if working alone, just be careful not to let it sit too long to avoid the batter sticking to the sheet pan)
  • Tip: As you add the fish you may need to increase the heat to high to keep it maintained at 375-385. Not adjusting your temperature to maintain oil when frying is a common and costly mistake.
  • Fry the fish, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes depending on thickness. Use a kitchen spider to remove fish from hot oil and transfer fish to a sheet pan lined with a gridded cooling rack.

5. Re-fry the potatoes

  • Add the previously fried potatoes back to the hot oil for about 2 minutes to crisp up. Remove to fresh paper towel or directly to a cooking rack. Immediately sprinkle with kosher salt (Diamond brand preferred).

Serve hot

  • Serve fish & chips with traditional malt vinegar and tartar sauce.

Notes

You can keep fish hot and crispy in a 200 degree F. oven for about 10 minutes if you are cooking in batches. 

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