For the lightest, crispiest fried fish, you can’t beat Beer Battered Fish. The yeast and carbonation in beer makes the fish batter delicate and puffy, like good fish ‘n chip shops. And the shock of ice cold batter hitting hot oil makes it super crispy – and it stays crispy for ages.
But don’t believe me….LISTEN to the crunch in the recipe video!
The rest of the world is all about healthy food right now, so I thought it would be funny to start out 2021 with a deep fried recipe instead. But then earlier this week, many of you told me you wanted more healthy meals this year… and now it’s not so funny. But if I don’t laugh, I’ll cry. So I’m laughing!! 😂
- 1 Crispy Beer Battered Fish
- 2 What goes in Beer Batter
- 3 Best fish for frying
- 4 What fish and chip shops use
- 5 How to make beer battered fish
- 6 Handy large-batch cooking tip
- 7 Where are the chips???
- 8 Sauces for fried fish
- 9 Watch how to make it
- 10 Crispy Beer Battered Fish
- 11 Life of Dozer
Crispy Beer Battered Fish
When it comes to fish, a fry batter made with beer yields the best result for a light, puffy, ultra crispy coating that stays crispy well beyond the time it takes to serve and eat it.
It’s the fish batter used by all the best fish ‘n chips shops. Here’s what makes beer batter so good:
- Yeast and carbonation in beer acts like yeast in bread, making the batter go puffy as it cooks so it’s thin and not greasy rather than thick and oil laden. It’s like Japan’s famous Tempura;
- Ice cold beer is used to make cold batter, and the shock of it hitting the hot oil = super crispy. This is fairly common knowledge these days in the culinary world, a technique deployed in all my batter coated fried foods such as everybody’s favourite Honey Chicken; and
- Rice flour for stay-crispy batter. Just using normal flour doesn’t cut it – it goes soggy within minutes. We need to use a combination of rice and normal flour. This is a proven technique deployed in many Asian fried recipes, such as Honey Chicken and Sweet & Sour Pork.
This battered fish has a light crisp coating that stays crispy for over 15 minutes!
What goes in Beer Batter
All you need for beer batter is cold beer, flour, rice flour, baking powder and salt. For a non alcoholic version, just substitute beer with soda water.
Beer Batter Dry Ingredients
Rice flour – key for a fish batter that doesn’t go soggy before it hits the table! If you only use flour, it will only be crispy for a few minutes. Why not use all rice flour? Because rice flour doesn’t go golden when cooked. Nobody wants a white beer battered fish! So we use a combination of flour (which goes golden) and rice flour.
Flour – just plain/all purpose flour which, as noted above, is what makes the fish go a beautiful golden colour as well as giving the batter rise when combined with the baking powder (which doesn’t work with rice flour); and
Baking powder – to make the batter puffy. The yeast and carbonation in beer alone isn’t sufficient to achieve that delicate coating you get at the best fish ‘n chip shops.
Best Beer for Beer Batter
You can use any beer other than dark, heavily flavoured beer like stout or Guinness as it will discolour and flavour batter.
Pale ale and lagers are most commonly used, but I’ve used all sorts in my time and they’ve all worked out fine. You can’t taste it – the beer is to make the batter crispy and puffy, not for flavour. Also, the alcohol cooks out in the hot oil.
Whatever you use, it needs to be ice cold – 2+ hours in the fridge. It’s key for a crispy batter!
Best fish for frying
You can use virtually any white fish fillet such as: snapper, barramundi, cod, flathead, tilapia, hake, haddock, whiting and ling.
My favourite is flathead – but it’s pricey! See list below for what fish shops use in different countries.
I recommend avoiding:
- Lean fish – like swordfish, tuna, bonito, kingfish. They work fine, but they will be too dry inside. These fish are best prepared in raw/rare form;
- Delicate flesh fish – like flounder and sole. Again, it will work fine and actually, it is delicious but the texture of the flesh is a bit too delicate for frying (ie you bite into it and the flesh kind of “crumbles”). Also these fish tend to be very thin fillets;
- Oily fish – like salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines. You do see these fish in fried form, but it’s not so common with a batter. It’s just a bit too rich.
What fish and chip shops use
It varies between countries and regions, depending on what’s available:
- Australia – basa, hoki, flake (gummy shark!) and hake are seen at everyday suburban fish ‘n chip shots and are good economical options. Better places will also offer more expensive options such as snapper, barramundi, cod and flathead;
- US – cod, halibut, tilapia, haddock. In the Southeast, catfish is used frequently; and
- UK – Hake, pollock, whiting, and plaice are common.
How to make beer battered fish
Oil heating aside, beer battered fish takes 5 minutes to prepare, and each batch takes 3 minutes to fry. Terrifically fast!
- Dry & cut fish – dry the well, especially if using thawed frozen fish because it’s water. This is key to crispy fish, so don’t shortcut this!
Then cut into desired size. I like “fish cocktail” size – 7 x 3cm / 3 x 1 1/4″ batons – because it’s ideal for picking up and dunking with hands. Larger fillets work just fine as well, aka traditional fish ‘n chip shop size.
If your fish is very thick (3cm / 1.25″+), cut in half horizontally to make thinner pieces, otherwise the fish may not cook through by the time the batter is golden and crispy. Also, there will be too much fish and not enough crispy batter!
Just remember it puffs up when cooking to double the thickness so don’t make giant fish pieces! 😂
2. Start heating oil – Heat oil to 190°C/375°F. Hot oil is key to ensure the fish doesn’t end up soggy with grease. Use a large heavy based pot for safety purposes and for even heating of oil. You can of course use a fryer if you have one!
3. Rice flour coating – Dust fish with rice flour, shaking off excess. This is extra crispiness insurance policy which will soak up any residual moisture on the flesh of the fish. I use rice flour because it cooks up crisper than flour.
At this stage the fish can sit there while the oil comes to temperature.
4. Make batter just before frying so it’s as cold and fizzy as possible. If it’s a hot day, take extra precautions such as chilling the bowl and dry ingredients until required.
Note: Recipe makes more batter than you will need. But it’s hard to dredge properly if you don’t have enough. However, recipe will coat up to around 1kg/2lb of fish.
5. Minimum whisk – Only whisk for 5 seconds, just to incorporate the beer into the dry ingredients – lumps is fine. Over whisking activates gluten and will compromise crispiness.
6. Dredge fish – Dip in batter, letting the excess drip off for a second or two. The batter should fully cover the fish but not be a thick coat – this batter puffs up a LOT!
TIP: Keep batter chilled. If you’re a capable cook and it’s mild weather, the batter can stay out while you cook the fish (3 – 4 batches). If you’re new to frying or it’s a stinking hot summer day, pop the batter back in the fridge while frying.
7. Fry 3 minutes – Carefully place into the hot oil, dropping it in away from you, not towards you, so any splash doesn’t come towards your hand. I use my hands because I have more control, but you can use tongs if you prefer/nervous!
Cook for 3 minutes until deep golden – no need to turn, though you can press each piece under the surface briefly. Fish can be a bit stubborn and refuse to flip over;
8. Drain well on paper towels, and repeat with remaining fish.
How longer this stays crispy for – it will stay crispy for 15 to 20 minutes, even after it goes cold. But obviously it is best served hot!
Handy large-batch cooking tip
Using a 1 minute higher temp Asian double fry method used in things like Honey Chicken and Sweet & Sour Pork, you can make big batches of beer battered fish and serve it all up piping hot! Here’s how:
- Only the cook the fish for 2 1/2 minutes until it is golden and crispy, but not deep golden like pictured. Drain on paper towels, continue with remaining fish;
- Fry 2: this is to reheat and make it deep golden and stay-crispy. Increase oil temperature to 200°C/390°F. Add fish and fry for 1 minute until deep golden. For Fry #2, you can crowd the oil (ie if you cooked fish in 4 batches, you can do this in 2 batches). Drain and repeat with remaining fish. Voila! All fish, piping hot!
Where are the chips???
How annoying will it be when you read that I haven’t included the recipe for crispy chips you spy in the photos?? 😇
Sorry folks, I haven’t finalised it yet. It’s a little different to the usual recipes because you can cook it WITH the fish so you can cook up a serving of fish and chips in one go. Ordinarily, chip recipes call for a double fry which takes up to 8 minutes, then you have to keep it warm in the oven – and inevitably it loses crispiness. It’s annoying – and takes ages if you’re cooking for more than 2 people.
So I’m on a mission for chips you can cook at the same time as the fish so you get BOTH piping hot and crispy.
It will be worth the wait, I promise! In the meantime, use my baked wedges (also handy because they’re made in the oven).
Sauces for fried fish
Many options – and don’t let anyone tell you what is right or wrong!
- Lemon wedges – a squeeze of lemon is always welcome and many people are happy with just this;
- Tartare sauce – I like to make mine extra lemony when using it for fried foods;
- Any seafood dipping sauce – find all my favourites here;
- Aioli (garlicky mayonnaise);
- Yogurt mixed with lemon – for a lighter option, though somewhat ironic when making fried fish!
- Ketchup or Aussie tomato sauce;
- Malt vinegar and a sprinkle of salt – the British way!
Though frankly, if you’ve got really good fish and you season every layer lightly, then you’ll munch it plain and won’t even think about a dipping sauce!
If, like me, you don’t fry much – oil wastage, clean up and all that jazz – and are on the fence about whether it’s worth making homemade fried fish, remember this: crispy battered fried fish is one of those things that you simply cannot buy in frozen convenience packets.
And it’s one of those things you cannot convert into an oven version.
So, is it worth making? YES, a thousand times over!!– Nagi x
Watch how to make it
And LISTEN to the CRUNCH!
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Crispy Beer Battered Fish
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 12 mins
Tap or hover to scale
Dry & cut fish: Pat fish dry using paper towels or a tea towel. Cut into 7 x 3cm / 3 x 1 1/4″ batons, or larger fillets if you prefer. If you have very thick fillets, cut in half horizontally (Note 1)
Dusting bowl: Place 1/4 cup rice flour in a shallow bowl.
Heat oil: Heat 6 cm / 2 – 3″ oil in a large heavy based pot over medium high heat to 190°C/375°F.
Salt & dust: While oil is heating, sprinkle 3 or 4 pieces of fish with a pinch of salt, then coat in rice flour and shake off excess. You can leave them like this for 10+ minutes.
Cold Batter: Just before cooking, whisk together the flour, rice flour, baking powder and salt. Add COLD beer into the batter and whisk just until incorporated evenly into the flour. Do not overmix, do not worry about flour lumps (Note 4). It should be a fairly thin batter but fully coat the back of a spoon. If too thick, add beer 1 tsp at a time.
Dredge fish: Dunk a piece of fish in the batter, the let the excess drip off very briefly.
Fry 3 minutes: Carefully place in oil, dropping it in away from you, one at a time. Don’t crowd the pot. Fry for 3 minutes, flipping after about 2 minutes, until deep golden.
Drain: Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining fish. Serve hot! Though it will stay crisp for 15 – 20 minutes. (Note 5 for larger batch cooking).
Serve with Tartare Sauce, lemon wedges and a leafy green salad on the side dressed with a classic vinaigrette. Easy single-fry-ultra-crunchy chips coming soon! In the meantime, use oven baked wedges!
Recipe makes more batter than you need – you can cook up to ~1kg/1.2lb of fish. Hard to make less but dredge fish properly.
1. Fish for frying – You can use virtually any white fish fillet such as: whiting, snapper, barramundi, cod, flathead (my favourite!), tilapia, hake, haddock and ling.
Recommend avoiding: very lean fish (like swordfish, tuna), delicate fish (like sole, flounder). I personally don’t use oily fish like salmon, but it works just fine.
Cutting: recipe works for fish cocktail size pieces (ie pick up and dunk size), batons or whole fillet sizes. Remember that it puffs up considerably when fried.
If your fish is very thick (3cm / 1.25″+), cut in half horizontally to make thinner pieces, otherwise the fish may not cook through by the time the batter is golden and crispy. Also the ratio of fish to batter will be too high.
2. Rice flour – essential ingredient for a really good crispy batter, and to keep it crispy for ages (15 minutes+). If you only use normal flour, it will go soggy within minutes.
Find it in the baking aisle at the supermarket. Substitute with cornflour/cornstarch or potato starch (not quite as crispy, but still crispier than using only plain flour).
3. Beer: must be ice cold, in fridge 2 hours+. Key for crispy batter!
Type: Pale ale and lagers are most commonly used, but I’ve used all sorts in my time and they’ve all worked out fine. Doesn’t really matter because you can’t taste it, but avoid dark, heavily flavoured beer like stout or Guinness (will discolour and flavour batter)
Non alcoholic sub: ice cold soda water + 1/4 tsp extra baking powder. It’s basically the same as the batter used for Honey Chicken, slightly adapted to be suitable for fish.
4. Batter thickness: thinner batter = crispy, delicate crust like you get at good fish and chip shops. 70% fish, 15% crispy batter, 15% empty cavern between fish and batter (the “puff”!).
Thicker batter = thicker crust, which some people like, but I am disappointed if I bite in only to find it’s 50% batter, 20% fish, and 30% empty cavern!
Do minimal whisking of batter, don’t worry about lumps, just make the beer mix through the flour evenly. If you overmix, it will activate the gluten and the batter won’t be as light and delicate, it will be thicker and greasier.
5. Large Batch cooking: The nice thing here is that the fish cooks in 3 minutes so you can just keep them coming out. But if you want to do one large batch, you can do a double fry to reheat & it actually makes the batter less greasy because we use a higher heat (read up on this in my Stay-Crispy Honey Chicken):
– Fry 1: fry fish in batches for 2 1/2 minutes until crispy and golden, but not a deep golden. Drain on paper towels, continue with remaining fish.
– Fry 2: this is to reheat and make it deep golden and crispy. Increase oil temperature to 200°C/390°F. Add fish and fry for 1 minute until deep golden. For Fry #2, you can crowd the oil (ie if you cooked fish in 4 batches, you can do this in 2 batches). Drain and repeat with remaining fish. Voila! All fish, piping hot!
6. Reuse oil – Can be used twice more because flavour of batter is neutral, doesn’t infuse oil with flavour. Cool oil in pot, line mesh colander with paper towel, strain oil. Store until required – personally would stick to savoury rather than sweet. More fry-worth foods here.
7. Source – barely adapted from this recipe by Chef John of Food Wishes. He knows his stuff, I trust him – and he’s pretty funny too.
8. Make ahead – can’t be done I’m afraid! Fried fish will be soggy if reheated, and the batter needs to be made fresh. Sorry folks!
9. Nutrition per serving, assuming 4 servings. It’s nowhere near as bad as you think, and I have allowed for a very generous 1/3 cup of oil consumption (across whole recipe). There is no way the batter for 700g/1.4lb of fish will hold that much oil, but I’ve included it to be conservative, so actual calories will be far lower. Very little batter actually ends up on the fish, you will discard about half. It’s hard to make less and dredge properly.
Calories: 322cal (16%)Carbohydrates: 11g (4%)Protein: 28g (56%)Fat: 17g (26%)Saturated Fat: 3g (19%)Cholesterol: 65mg (22%)Sodium: 112mg (5%)Potassium: 788mg (23%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 1g (1%)Vitamin A: 60IU (1%)Vitamin C: 2mg (2%)Calcium: 92mg (9%)Iron: 1mg (6%)
Life of Dozer
Waiting to be asked to check if it’s crispy enough. See recipe video above for his assessment…….