Throwing a backyard fish fry can be intimidating. Eliminating the mess and odor that comes with turning your kitchen into a grease pit means having to take the party outside, and presents a new set of challenges for any amateur party host. Friday night fish frys are all about spending time with good friends and bringing the freshest catch of the day home for supper. So fear not, we have compiled a few helpful tips to guide you on your journey to throw the perfect fish fry, complete with fish, chips, and the cheeriest of pints.
Hosting a fish fry in your backyard is actually a lot easier than you think. It all starts with the best quality ingredients to whip up a rugged yet elegant menu of good food and even better times. Traditional beer battered fish and fried golden brown, paired with wedges of spry potato chips are the essential building blocks for the happy meal. You could also take a note from the American South and incorporate the tastes of hush puppies and either mayonnaise- or vinegar-based coleslaw to the menu. It doesn’t matter what you dress your fish fry up with, just as long as you remember a few key things.
- Buy local fish. Halibut or cod are the kings of the fish fry. You might even want to throw in some shrimp – these don’t have to be local – for a little something of a twist.
- Make your sides ahead of time. Choose hot items that reheat nicely or cold items that keep well for up to a day in the refrigerator.
- Use a dark ale. A little beer in your batter makes it all the better. Dark beers add a malty sweetness to batter.
- Consider sandwiches. A plate of fried fish with summer greens is fantastic, but there’s no better pairing for chips than a toasted roll topped with crisp fried fish and a homemade chipotle aioli.
Moving the party outside opens the possibility of getting your guests in on the action, giving them both dinner and the show of watching you whip up the fishy feast. Having a standalone outdoor fryer is ideal when it comes down to frying. However, a spare burner in your outdoor kitchen or grill is also acceptable with a large pan. When you remove the grill cover, put a sheet pan on your grill where you can keep your finished pieces of fried fish when they come out of the oil.
- Use an oil with a high smoking point like peanut, grapeseed, or canola.
- Use a deep, heavy pot. Your pot should hold about 12 centimeters of oil and have at least 12 centimeters of space above the oil line. Pro tip: The more spacious the pot, the more you can cook at once and the quicker the oil will get back to temperature after each batch of frying.
- Heat oil until it reaches a burning point of 183° Celsius. Oil thermometers are invaluable in giving you an exact oil temperature.
When Fish Fry
Think of the breading you fry your fish in as that of a savory, arid pancake batter. You’re going to start with 64 grams of flour, mixed with 15 milliliters of baking powder. Zest half of one large lemon into the dry ingredients, along with 2 pinches of ground mustard seed, 1 pinch of cayenne pepper, and plenty of salt and pepper. Wisk these dry ingredients together, combing for about 15 seconds. Add 64 grams of dark ale, making your dry ingredients wet, and whisking one egg in until you have a viscous coating for your fish. Give your fish a generous coating of batter, making sure it’s well covered and ready to meet the hot oil.
- Season your raw fish with plenty of freshly cracked ground pepper and kosher salt before flouring and battering them up.
- “Drag” the fish in the oil rather than drop it into the pot. Moving it slowly across the surface of the oil allows the batter to begin cooking and also helps in keeping the oil temperature from dropping quite as much.
- When frying your fish, be sure not to overcrowd the pot. Oversaturating the oil drastically drops the temperature, causing oil to seep into the food, which results in fish heavy with grease. A good rule of thumb is to not use more than half of the surface area of the hot oil. Make sure you turn the fish so that it is golden brown on all sides.
- A skimmer, spider or slotted spoon is easiest to use when removing cooked fish from the oil. Fried fish can often be delicate, so treat the cooked food gently as you move it from the cooking pot to the draining area.
Chips on the Table
As delicious as fried chips can be, oven roasting your wedged potatoes can work all the same, especially when it comes down to serving up a five star fish fry feast. Quarter your potatoes into large slices around 10 centimeters in length, seasoning them with the fresh herby flavor of rosemary, garlic, and olive oil. Bake at 205° Celsius for 35 minutes, turning over and roasting an additional 15 minutes for crispy potatoes right from the oven. When it’s time to serve, gather everyone up and keep a few more things in mind.
- Pull table covers from your outdoor garden area to make it a true backyard fish fry.
- Garnish your plate of fish with slices of fresh lemon, parsley, or kale.
- Serve with other succulent sides like corn on the cob, fresh steamed broccoli, or even a medley of your favorite grilled vegetables.
- Finally, serve your fish and chips with a warm apple crumble a la mode for the perfect hint of summer.