Fish and chips are associated in the minds of many with the British Isles. There is this iconic image of fish and chip shops, even pubs, serving up hot, crispy fish with golden fries (called chips by the Brits). And while this dish is certainly important in the Isles—fish and chips weren’t even rationed during the World Wars in England!—it by no means belongs to them.
All across America, in local diners and in mega-chains, fish and chips are offered up and scarfed down every day. Whether you serve them with malt vinegar, tartar sauce, or just a squeeze of lemon, they’re exquisite when made right. Here, we’ll show you how, with temperature critical temperatures to guide the way.
What kind of fish for fish and chips?
In the British Isles, the most common fishes used for fish and chips are buttery-tasting cod or haddock (a species of cod), but pollock is also frequently used. Halibut is also fantastic for this purpose. You can use whatever fish you like, so long as it is boneless, but rich-flavored white-flesh fish are best. I would avoid tilapia, which has almost no flavor—if you’re going to go to the trouble of battering and frying your own fish and chips, make it great, not just good!
Fish doneness temperature
While the USDA recommends a doneness temperature for all fish and seafood of 145°F (63°C) for maximum food safety, most chefs prefer their fish cooked a little bit less. For this application, 140°F (60°C) is just right for fish that is nice and flaky but not dried out.
Oil temp for fish and chips
What temp the oil should be is really two questions, as there is the oil for the fish and the oil for the chips. With the fish fry, we face the classic dilemma of cooling slowly enough that our fish inside cooks through without burning the breading and cooking fast enough that the batter doesn’t get oil-logged and soggy. But because flaky white fish have a doneness temperature of only 140°F (60°C), we can crank the heat a bit—375°F (191°C) is just right.
For the “chips” we follow our guide to golden, crispy fries and cook at two different temperatures, starting with an initial cook at 325°F (163°C), then a second cook at 375°F (191°C).
To get the best results using only one fryer, you should do the initial cook on the fries first, then, while they rest, cook the fish, and finish the fries right before you serve.
Using a ChefAlarm® to monitor your fryer temps is a great way to make sure you’re cooking everything right. You can set both high- and low-temp alarms to help you adjust the heat as necessary to keep your oil temperatures in the right range.
Fish and chips batter
The batter for fish and chips is about a 1:1 ratio of liquid and flour. Some like it thinner, some like it thicker. Beer is quite traditional and is what we use here, but you can use club soda or even just water. The alcohol in the beef is good for batters, though, because it provides liquidity but also cooks off very quickly in the oil, giving you a shatteringly-crisp crust. The CO2 in the beer/club soda adds lightness to the batter, expanding in the high-heat fo the fryer and becoming airy.
If you want to experiment, you can season you batter however you like, maybe with some chili and lime zest or some curry powder. But for classic fish and chips, just stick to salt and pepper.Print
Classic Fish and Chips Recipe
Based on Fish and Chips, from Epicurious.com
For the fish:
- 1–1/2 lb boneless cod, haddock, pollock, or halibut filets, cut into 1-inch wide strips—frozen is fine, but thaw it before cooking
- 2 C all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 12-oz bottle of ale (substitute other beer or club soda)
- 1 tsp salt, divided
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 3 qt high-temp frying oil, such as peanut oil
For the fries:
- 2 ½ lb russet potatoes
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 3 qt peanut oil
- Salt for seasoning
(See our article, Homemade French Fries, Golden and Crisp, for a more in-depth look at the fries and their instructions.)
Prepare and par-cook the fries
- Cut the fries to shape and soak them for 30 minutes in cold water.
- Drain the potatoes and dry them with some paper towels. Toss them with the cornstarch and let them sit for about 20 minutes. Preheat the oil to 325°F (163°C).
- Cook the fries in batches in the oil for about 4 minutes until blond.
- Set the par-cooked fries aside or refrigerate them while you prepare the fish.
Prepare and cook the fish
- Preheat your oven to 250°F (121°C) and prepare a baking sheet lined with paper towels.
- Whisk together 1-1/2 C of the flour with the ale and 1/4 tsp salt. Do not over-whisk, you just want everything to be combined.
- Place the remaining 1/2 C of flour in a separate bowl.
- Clip a ChefAlarm probe to the side of a large Dutch oven with the tip of the probe suspended in the oil, not resting on the bottom. Set the high-alarm for 375°F (191°C) and heat the oil to the target temperature. Adjust stove heat to maintain this temperature.
- Use the remaining salt and the black pepper to season the fish filets.
- Dredge each filet in the flour, shaking off the excess.
- Once the fish is dredged and the oil is hot, work in batches to dip the fish into the batter and add them carefully to the oil.
- Fry the fish for about 4–5 minutes, checking the internal temp of the fish starting at about 3 minutes. Using a Thermapen® Mk4, look for a minimum temperature of 140°F (60°C).
- As each batch is cooked, place the pieces on the prepared baking sheet in the warm oven. Return the oil to 375°F (191°C) and fry more batches of fish.
- Once all the fish is cooked, return the oil to 375°F (191°C) again and fry the French fries.
- Serve everything while hot and crisp.
You don’t need to travel to an English chip shop for quality fish and chips. With the aid of a ChefAlarm and a Thermapen®, you can have golden, crispy, perfect fish and chips at home that will probably surpass what you could get in most shops, anyhow. Bring the tradition home and make it your own, with this easy, delectable recipe!
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