Have your own fish fry with these easy, step-by-step instructions for frying fish.

By Melanie Fincher
July 09, 2020
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Jeannie's Kickin' Fried Fish
Pictured: Jeannieu2019s Kickinu2019 Fried Fish
| Credit: Doubletigers

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 — whether you decide to pan-fry or deep fry. Here you'll learn step-by-step how to fry fish at home.

How to Pan-Fry Fish in 5 Steps

This step-by-step tutorial is based on Jeannie's Kickin' Fried Fish recipe from Allrecipes Community Member crabbyjean. However you can change up the type of fish and seasonings to suit your taste. Consider this a guide, but get creative with your choices!

Fish fillets fried in pan
Credit: Blaine Moats/Meredith

1. Pick Your Fish

Not all fish was made for frying. You're going to want to go with more of a neutral-flavored fish that isn't overly oily — most types of white fish will do. Some common choices include, cod, tilapia, catfish, halibut, trout, striped bass, flounder, and perch. 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! Rinse the fish and pat dry with paper towels.

3. Make the Breading

Here's where you can really get creative! We're going to be following Jeannie's Kickin' Fried Fish recipe, but feel free to omit, add, or replace ingredients as you wish.

  • In a shallow bowl, beat an egg with ⅓ cup milk.
  • In another bowl, mix together ½ cup bread crumbs, 2 teaspoons roasted onion flakes, 2 teaspoons minced garlic, 1 teaspoon blackened seasoning (such as Old Bay®), 2 pinches crushed red pepper flakes, ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, and ¼ teaspoon freshly ground sea salt.

4. Coat the Fish

Next, dip each fillet into the egg mixture, and then gently press it into the crumb mixture on both sides. Transfer the coated fillets onto a plate and refrigerate for about 15 minutes to help the crumbs set.

5. Fry the Fish

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

Heat 1 ½ teaspoons olive oil and 2 teaspoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat (cast iron is best since it heats evenly and gives you an even, crispy crust). Lay the two fillets into the skillets, and pan-fry on each side until golden, or about three minutes per side. Use a pair of tongs ($12, Amazon) to safely flip the fish over. Remove with tongs and drain on a plate lined with a layer of paper towels. Repeat with the remaining two fillets.

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

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. Follow this step-by-step guide for deep frying fish.

Deep frying fish in pan
Credit: Jason Donnelly/Meredith

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 fillet's 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 ($20, Amazon) or a deep-fat fryer ($75, Amazon). If using a saucepan, heat 1 quart of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Attach a deep-frying thermometer ($9, Amazon) to the side of the pan and heat the oil to 375 degrees F.

If using a deep-fat fryer, heat the oil to 375 degrees F.

4. Make the Batter

We're going to be using 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 — 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.

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 and/or carbs, 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.

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