How to Fry Fish
You can learn how to fry fish the right way - there's no need to shy away from frying because they are leery of food dripping with fat, filled with calories, that's impossible to digest. Unfortunately, this is too often the case. But properly prepared fried food is light, virtually greaseless, and in moderation, easily digested. Leaden fried food is usually caused by frying at too low a temperature, or using old grease as a base.
Our customers' health is of prime importance. At Legal Sea Foods, we deep-fry food in a transfat-free canola oil. We also change the oil frequently. When you try to save money by reusing fat several times, your fish will have an off flavor -- and will burn more easily. If the cooking temperature is too low, the fish coating will absorb the fat and the fish will taste greasy. Conversely, if the temperature is too high, the coating will burn, and the fish may not cook through, depending on its density. Fish should be fried in fat heated to 365°F. A deep-fat thermometer is essential for testing the temperature of the fat.
At Legal, we first dip all food to be fried in cold buttermilk and then in a special corn-flour mix, similar to Fried Fish Coating. Of course, you could use milk, but buttermilk adds a richer flavor. We then shake off any excess mixture and deep-fry the fish in preheated oil until it is cooked through but not overdone. It's important to fry only a few pieces at a time so the pan does not get overcrowded. When it does, the oil temperature decreases and the food becomes oily, has trouble browning and cooking evenly, and will be limp, not crisp. It's best to butterfly any thick fillets.
You could also use wet batter, as the English do with their fish and chips. We've experimented with many a wet batter, but keep coming back to soaking the fish in buttermilk and then coating the pieces with a dry mixture. We think a wet batter tends to make the fish greasy and allows the individual pieces to stick together. A dry batter keeps the fish crisp yet juicy, because the fish steams in its own juices, which the batter seals in, and the flavor is retained.
No matter how you fry the fish, serve it immediately. Otherwise the fish will become soggy. (The steam exuded from the interior softens the coating.)
From the "Legal Sea Foods Cookbook" by Roger Berkowitz and Jane Doerfer, illustrated by Edward Koren