Beer Battered Fish Recipe

There’s something irresistible about the combination of tender fish enveloped in a golden, crispy beer batter. Perfecting this classic dish might seem like a challenge, but fear not—we’ve got a foolproof beer-battered fish recipe that will have you savoring every bite. Whether you’re a seasoned home chef or a novice in the kitchen, follow these simple steps to achieve that crisp perfection. But, naturally, we have to tell you a story first (or you can just jump to the recipe). 

Where Does Beer Battered Fish Come From?

The term “fish n’ chips” probably comes to mind when you think of the history of battered fish. While it is true that Great Britain is credited with combining fried fish with french fries, battered fish were actually brought to the country by Sephardic Jewish immigrants as early as the 16th century. Fish was traditionally dipped in flour then fried in hot oil. 

Fried fish became ubiquitous, even getting a shout-out in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. It was a staple meal for the working class by the 19th century. The advent of trawl fishing combined with the railways meant fresh fish was cheap and plentiful. An official recipe in A Shilling Cookery for the People calls the dish “Fried fish, Jewish fashion.” This is one of the first iterations that uses a batter as opposed to a simple flour coating. 

As for adding beer to the batter, this was likely the result of a combination of resourcefulness and curiosity. Victorian England was not known for its sanitation, and by the mid-19th century, it was well known that cholera was spread by contaminated water. Cooking with beer in place of water may have been advisable to avoid illness.

Likewise, the use of beer in batter may have resulted from experimentation. Professional and home cooks alike would have wanted a crispier texture and a faster cooking time. Beer happens to accommodate these goals. 

What Does Beer Do in Batter?

In addition to imparting malty, toasty flavors, beer enhances the crispiness of the batter. The carbonation produces a lighter, airier batter that crisps up beautifully. Because it contains alcohol, beer also evaporates from the batter more quickly than water or milk would. This means it requires less time to cook overall, which reduces the chances of over-cooking the fish. For these reasons, most fish n’ chips aficionados will tell you that beer battered is the way to go. 

What Type of Fish Do You Use for Beer Battered Fish?

You don’t want a fish that is too delicate or too oily (we’re adding quite a bit of oil already). Firm white fish is best for beer battered fish recipes. Haddock, cod, and pollock are all good options. You could also use tilapia, but its mild flavor can easily be overpowered by the breading. Haddock is a good middle ground between texture and flavor, so our recipe calls for that one. 

How to Get Crispier Beer Battered Fish

To make the most out of this beer battered fish recipe, take additional steps to maintain that crispy coating:

  1. Thoroughly dry the fish before seasoning it with salt and pepper. Use a paper towel to pat it dry on both sides.
  2. Make sure the oil is at the right temperature. If it is too cold, it will take longer to cook the fish, making the batter more dense and potentially over-cooking the protein. Likewise, if the oil is too hot, it may burn the batter white leaving the fish raw.
  3. Don’t crowd the pan. Fry the fish in batches so that there is ample room between each piece.
  4. Drain them on a cooling rack so that the bottoms don’t become soggy from steam.

Best Beer for Beer Battered Fish Recipe

You can use any beer you like depending on the taste and appearance you are going for. Darker beers will have stronger malt flavors and impart more color. Lighter beers may taste more floral or herby and have less of an effect on the final appearance. 

For our recipe, we’re using Diebolt Brewery’s Anton Francois French Amber Ale. It is light, but has an appreciable malty sweetness and a touch of earthiness that tastes heavenly in a batter.  

Blue can of craft amber ale

An amber ale is a good choice for beer batter: a combination of floral and malted sweetness strikes an excellent balance on the palate. 

 

Beer Battered Fish Recipe

Ingredients

1.5 pounds haddock, fresh or thawed from frozen

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 egg, beaten

2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

8 oz cold Anton Francois Amber Ale

Vegetable oil, for frying

Instructions:

  1. Heat a large pot filled with oil to 375 degrees fahrenheit. 
  2. Cut the fish filets into uniform pieces, about 2 inches wide and four inches long. Pat them dry and season with salt and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, garlic powder, ½ tsp salt, and beaten egg. Add in the cold beer and mix until you have a smooth batter.
  4. Dip each of your fish in the batter and fry in batches for 3-4 minutes in the hot oil, or until crisp and golden. Transfer to a drying rack to let them cool for a minute or two before eating. 

Serve with your favorite dipping sauce and another cold amber ale. Enjoy!

 

author avatar
Heather Kleinman

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