How to Fry Fish

Too good to resist, this discussion about frying fish dates back to the early days of the site and are general instructions.

It's time we wrote an article about how to fry a fish. Frying fish remains the favorite method of food preparation for many anglers, is fast and produces an incredible, tasty treat. Frying a flounder, a snook filet, redfish chunks or battered sheepshead will spin your taste buds like few other recipes.

Fish in a cast iron pan

Damn the Fats and Full Speed Ahead

The time comes in everybody's life when they have to give up all things fried. Or so they tell me. Personally, you could conceivably fry tofu, and if the Italian Breadcrumbs were held on just right, the brown surface just crisp enough to make my mouth water for more, and you just might find me at a tofu bar near you. Fortunately we catch a lot of fish, and fish fry really well; which means I do not have to stand next to something named GooGoo who loudly slurps the stuff with its iPhone ear plugs releasing rap music loud enough to shake the curd. Oh, the state of our youth. But that is another story and not about frying fish.


Cast iron pans, fresh filets, and butter. What could be better?

Toxic trans-fats aside, and perhaps out of sight of the overlords whose job (it seems) is to protect me from myself, I fry stuff. Fish is something I grew up eating at the family dinner table. I am not a fish-in-sauce or fish-and-grapenuts kind of guy. I eat fish only when it is fried. Call me Mr. Fish Stick, but that is how I am; and you can rest assured that frying a fish now and then ain't gonna kill you either. I have a lot of thin filets to drop into hotter-than-hot but not too-hot oil.


Knowing how to filet a fish properly cannot hurt your attempts to get the delicious protein into the hot oil.

The Oil

Frying means oil, and there are two kinds of oils to use. There might be more in the soy butter aisle, but we avoid that aisle along with the tofu bar. The two kinds of oils do fishing are:

  • Vegetable oils. The best for deep frying is definitely peanut oil. It is more expensive than regular veggie oils but will get hotter without burning and you can use it over the next time you fry fish. It is clean as it went in and you can store it in an old bottle. The second kind of oil is naturally olive oil, but make sure your recipe calls for it when you gather ingredients or be willing to experiment with a serious modification to the recommended oil. Olive oil definitely flavors fish. You would not use it to deep fry because it burns before it gets hot enough to really deep fry with it.
  • Butter. Ah, the tastiest, most deadly, and best choice for frying fish without breading it is to do it in butter. My memories of fresh rainbow trout fried in fresh butter still makes my head spin a little. That was in the mountain streams of Pennsylvania and we cooked with butter in heavy pans - river and stream side. In your kitchen or in a pine forest, you have to try fish filets fried just in butter with a little salt and pepper. Ooh.


There are two ways you are gonna fry a fish. That is not counting the fact that the best way to fry a fish is with the filets cleaned off the bone. Whole fish can be deep fried much like a turkey, but we are talking filets here. The two ways you can fry them is with the skin on or with the skin peeled off during the cleaning.

If the skin is on, the skin will serve to hold the juices in the filet during the fry. That is best when you are not deep frying the fish. If you are frying them with the skin on, all you have to do is soak them in milk and dip them in the breading. If the filet is cleaned of its skin, dip the filet in eggs before you fry them. A variance on this and one the author loves is to first dip them in milk, then in flour, then in beaten eggs, and then and only then into the breadcrumbs. It makes a crispy fry but if not done in real hot oil the breading can come off in a big but tasty chip.

Alternatives to bread crumbs

There are lots of other breading choices: corn flakes, pancake mix, rice flour, Cheerios crushed up and mixed with flax, and anything you think is tasty, dry, and will stick to beaten eggs can really go great with the next flounder or speckled trout filet you find, lure, fight, and land.


This picture of what's obviously a yummy batter-fried fish sandwich came to us courtesy of UrbanWhisk.com. Check them out for some great fishy recipes.

Remember, get your fish into ice quick if you're gonna eat them; and eat them the day you catch them if at all possible. Fish fought too long do not taste as good as fish quickly iced. Land them fast and do not fish with too light tackle if you intend to fry your catch.


You can always create a batter for your fried fish, and still keep from hanging out with bad crowds at the tofu joint. Batter is easy to use and creates an excellent alternative to regular fried coatings.

To make a great batter, simply take a couple of eggs, four tablespoons of flour, a teaspoon of sugar, and half and half. Mix it till it is pasty and dip the fish. This is great for parties, where you can cut a couple of filets into a dozen or two chunks, dip and fry them in hot oil for a killer snack before dinner.

Fried Fish: the Finished Product

Fish fried properly should be brown on the outside and soft, moist, and tasty on the inside. The pure protein product should never be greasy, and that is avoided by making sure the oil is hot enough and making sure you drain and pat the filets as soon as they come out of the oil. In the case of sauteed fish, we leave the transfats right where they started, and wipe them with crusty bread right off the plate to save on soap bills.

Remember to be creative. Our friend Scott Moore talks about adding a little dried mustard to the flour when you are doing the coatings. And do it in a big plastic ziplock bag to keep the dust down. You can wash them and dry them and use them again. An alternative to keeping the kitchen clean is Tupperware. A few big ones can do the flour, the milk, the eggs and the breadcrumbs and not lose a particle. That will keep your significant other from saying anything but, "Thanks, honey. Great meal. You should go fishing more often."

Now tell the truth. Doesn't that make your mouth water?

The Online Fisherman

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