Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How to Cook Perfect Beer Battered Fish

  I wrote this for an English assignment, and thought I would share it with you.

      In northwest Ontario, Canada, a tradition of a fish shore lunch is a staple among northern outdoors men and women. Many outdoors-men return home from a guided trip with fond memories of eating fried fish that was cooked fresh lakeside. This can also be done at home using items already in your pantry. Making crispy beer battered fish is quick and easy if you use the right fish, equipment, and maintain the proper oil temperature.

David filleting up a Canadian Northern Pike
           Choosing the fish is important; you want to buy fresh fish with firm white meat such as Walleye, Cod, Halibut, Pacific Rockfish or (my favorite  Lingcod. Buying fillets from a grocer means you will have less chance of bones ruining your meal. When preparing the fillets, cut them going across the grain of the meat, forming finger-wide strips. This makes the fish easier to cook and allows the “fish finger” to flake when bitten. Use a shallow bowl or pie pan to hold flour for dredging the fish fingers; dredging is simply coating a food item with something else. For the batter, I like to use cheap American beer like Pabst Blue Ribbon and pancake batter mix. I like using buttermilk pancake batter mix, but any will work. If you don’t have any on hand, all-purpose flour and a pinch of baking powder will do the trick. Some Cayenne pepper powder helps add a little kick to the batter, but don’t use too much if you are cooking for people sensitive to heat.
Chef Gene cooking up a shore lunch
Brotherhood of the Yellow Pants
      One of the best vessels for deep frying is a Dutch oven; due to their cast iron construction little heat is lost in the cooking process. If you don’t have a Dutch oven, another cast iron pan would work in its place. A stainless steel or steel pot could be used; however, you will have to work in smaller batches to avoid temperature loss when you add food to the oil. In any case, make sure you have a lid that fits the pot and a fire extinguisher in case the oil catches fire. Vegetable and canola oil are great for deep frying fish. A candy or frying thermometer is useful for making sure your oil maintains the proper 400 degree Fahrenheit cooking temperature. If the oil gets too hot, your batter will burn, and if it is not hot enough, you will have oily fish. A cooling rack flipped upside-down on a baking sheet with a layer of newspaper makes a good place to keep the fish you cooked warm and ready to serve. The newspaper will wick the oil and keep your fish warm and crisp. A spider is the optimal cooking utensil to have for deep frying. It is a shallow basket with a long handle that is good at fishing food out of hot oil. If you don’t own a spider, a pair of tongs will work.
My lovely wife with her first Norther Pike
      Once your oil is at the proper temperature, and you have your other materials handy, you are ready to cook some fish. Prepare your batter by mixing the beer into your pancake mix; batter should be runny enough to pour, but not so runny it runs off your fish. Then take a fish finger and dredge it in the flour, and then in the batter. Place the battered fish finger in the hot oil away from you to avoid burning your hands.  Repeat until you have 4 or 5 fish fingers in the oil; watch the thermometer to monitor the heat in the pot. Use your spider to flip and rotate the fingers to ensure even cooking. Remove from the oil when they float and appear golden brown and delicious; it should not take longer than 3 minutes to fully cook a finger sized piece of battered fish. Repeat these steps until you cooked all your fish.  Serve with a classic Tartar sauce, or be more outgoing with a spinach dip or an Asian sweet pepper sauce.
Ontario sunset
   While it may not have the scenery or nostalgia of sitting next to a Canadian Shield lake, you can still have a delicious meal that is sure to inspire good memories. By using fresh, firm, white fish, the cast iron cook ware to prevent heat loss, and maintain the proper oil temperature by controlling heat using a thermometer; you too can cook quick and easy beer battered fish.

The pictures were all from my trips to Big Eagle Lodge. The first was with my father, and uncles. My second trip up was with my wife on our honeymoon. I am a lucky man. 

  Hope it made you hungry,


  1. Thanks for the instructions! Sounds delicious - I will have to try that.

  2. Dan
    Great meal with some new twist on frying up some fillets. A Coors Light would go well with this meal. Thanks for sharing


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