We are pub devotees. There’s nothing we love more than a cold, crisp beer poured from a tap and the stale din of a pub in the early afternoon. But, more than anything, we love a good plate of fish and chips. This dish is ubiquitous in pubs all over the world, and we’ve tried our fair share of plates. In tasting hundreds of fish and chips variations over the years, we think we’ve figured out the key to the best fish fry. We tested this ourselves and can confirm – it’s dang good.
We’re posting these tips for no particular reason. Maybe you’ll make your own fish and chips at home. Perhaps you’ll use this to judge the next time you order at your local pub. Whatever the case, we hope you enjoy.
The best fish and chips starts, of course, with great fish. When we tried to make our own, we ordered a bunch of wild caught seafood from our friends in Washington. Starting with a high-quality fish makes all the difference. The tender, subtle flavor of the fish contrasts with the pillowy but crispy fried batter. We tried out a few fish options – wild salmon, pacific cod, halibut, and albacore tuna. As long as it’s high-quality and wild-caught, you can’t go wrong.
Next comes the batter. Some people say the batter coating should be light and thin, shattering into pieces when you bite into the fish. Others think the coating should be puffy and thick, with just a bit of chewiness. We find ourselves falling on the thick and puffy end of the spectrum. This guide from The Guardian was helpful in our home batter testing.
If you’re making fish and chips at home, you can achieve the best texture by ensuring you use icy cold beer. You should also add a healthy dose of baking powder just before dunking the fish. Then, you’ll need to use the batter immediately after making it. This allows the mixture to retain a bit of carbonation, allowing the fry to fluff up while staying crispy. Additionally, before dunking the fish, be sure to chill the flour prior to coating the strips. This will result in a lighter texture.
Finally, the oil temperature. The oil needs to be hot enough to cook the fish but not so hot that it burns the batter. We’ve found that the temperature should be between 350’F and 375’F. Of course, if you’re eating at your favorite pub, you’re not going to ask the waiter about oil temperature. Instead, we recommend listening for the fry. If you walk by the kitchen and can hear the hot oil, it’s at the right temperature.
That’s it, friends. The keys to the best fish and chips: high-quality fish, fresh and cold batter, and appropriately hot oil. We don’t recommend sending notes to the line cook at your favorite pub, but if you fancy yourself a chippy afficionado, give this a try in your kitchen at home.