While I’m a sucker for a banging Corned Beef and Cabbage recipe, I have to admit that it’s not Irish. Well, it’s Irish-American. However, if you ask someone from County Cavan how often they eat it, they’ll probably reply with a blank stare. For a traditional Irish meal, let’s make something they actually eat in abundance: Fish and Chips, frequently referred by the Irish as “One and One”. Back in the late nineties, I went to Ireland to study their epicurean techniques. Since Ireland isn’t known as a world leader in cuisine, I didn’t pick up much in the way of fine dining. I did, however, learn how to make a mean fish and chips.
Fish and chips are to Irish public houses, or pubs, as chicken wings are to bars in the States. Irishmen (or women) have a favorite pub they patronize which serves the “best fish and chips this side of the Shannon”. Served with a side of mushy peas, which we’re not doing here, the meal is usually served with an accompanying pint of their preferred brew.
So, let’s get authentic and celebrate St. Patrick’s as the Irish do.
What type of Fish is needed for Fish and Chips?
Because times are a-changin’ in Ireland, you may find that different places use different types of fish to make this dish. I believe that fresh cod is the only fish that should be used in the making of fish and chips. Cod is meaty, succulent, and easy to prepare, after all. It’s a fish that takes well to deep-frying, which we’re going to do here. Because of it’s overabundance, you can find it easily in most grocery stores. Even frozen, cod is the best choice for fish and chips.
Second to cod, I recommend haddock. Seems like that’s the next most popular fish used in the UK. I’ve never seen it sold in the stores where I live, but if you can find it and it’s cheaper, go with it. Pollock, hake, or skate are similar white fish that are good stand-ins for cod.
Fresh or Frozen? While I always prefer to use fresh foods, sometimes that’s not economic or available. Frozen cod, which has been thawed completely, is acceptable to use in this recipe, though.
What You’ll Need to Make Fish and Chips
First, and most importantly, you’ll need cod. Two pounds of cod is usually enough for four servings. You can ask your fishmonger to give you two loins, which you’ll then cut into four servings at home. Or, you can ask them to cut the loins into portions to fit your needs. Because we’re making a beer battered version of fish and chips, you’re also going to need a bottle of beer. I chose Smithwick’s, which is Ireland’s oldest and favorite beer (supposedly). Might as well keep it authentic, right? Any beer, from Pabst Blue Ribbon to a Hefeweizen will work in this recipe. Russet potatoes are also needed for the “chips” portion of the dish.
Finally, the rest of the ingredients for the batter: all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, and an egg. Oil, for frying, too.
The great thing about this recipe is how well it can be adjusted for larger or smaller serving sizes. Double or reduce it according to how many you need to feed.
Let’s get started!
Prep the “Chips”
Use your chef’s knife to cut the peeled russet potatoes into thick strips. I slice off a slab from the side of the potato, then I lay it on that flat (stable) side and cut the rest of it into 1″ thick slabs. Finally I cut the slabs into 1/2″ thick sticks.
Once the potatoes are cut, I soak them in cold water for at least 2 hours. This soak removes the excess potato starch from the fries, which, in turn, helps them fry up crisper. I usually prep my potatoes the day before and leave them to soak in the fridge until I’m ready to fry them up.
Towards the end of the soak time, I begin heating the frying oil. Once you’re ready to fry, drain the potatoes in a colander to get rid of the water. Give them a quick rinse under cold water before laying them on a sheet pan lined with a clean kitchen towel. Be sure to arrange them in a single layer. The kitchen towel will soak up excess water. Pat the top of the potatoes with another clean towel to remove all remaining traces of moisture.
Deep-frying in a large stock pot is important. It gives you room to work so you’re not fearful of popping oil or overflowing the pot and causing a dangerous grease fire. When in doubt, choose the deepest pot you own.
Insert the probe of a deep-fat fryer thermometer- like my favorite Chef Alarm from Thermoworks– into the oil to monitor the oil’s temperature. Once it reaches 300°F carefully drop a handful of your bone dry potatoes into the hot oil. The reason you were so vigilant about drying those potato sticks was to eliminate any chance introduction of water into your hot oil. Hot oil + water= Sheryl’s She Shed burning down. Which is no bueno. The temperature of the oil will drop significantly when you add the potatoes, so reaching 300°F is important in preventing our fries from becoming to soggy. In theory, a temperature range between 250°-300°F is optimal.
This stage of frying is called blanching. At this point, you’re not aiming to have the crispy fries we all know and love. Instead, we’re using a lower oil temperature to soften the potatoes. If you’ve ever cooked frozen french fries, you’ve probably noticed that your hands are greasy when you grab them from the bag. This is because they, too, have been blanched. Without blanching, you risk burning your fries while leaving the center hard.
Finishing the First Stage of Chip Cooking
Fry the potatoes for 3-5 minutes, or until they are soft. You don’t want the potatoes to have any color at this point. Again, we’re just looking to soften them up and create a fluffy interior right now. Use a spider to remove the fries from the hot oil. Transfer the fries to a paper towel-lined sheet pan to drain off any excess oil.
Continue blanching the fries until all are tender. Leave the softened potatoes on that towel-lined sheet pan for now. The potatoes may be kept at room temperature for now.
Once all of the potatoes have been blanched, increase the oil’s temperature to 375°F. It’s now time to fry the fish.
Prepare the Beer Batter
Fish and chips is terribly simple to prepare. The biggest hitch is frying them both properly.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder with a whisk.
In a separate bowl, lightly beat the whole egg. Add the egg and beer to the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk to form a thick batter.
The batter should have the same consistency as pancake batter. If you find the batter is too thin, add a smidge more flour. Too thick? Thin it with more beer.
Set the batter aside while you season and dredge your fish.
Dredge, the Fry the Fish
Lightly season your cod filets with salt and pepper. I stress “lightly” because the batter already has salt in it. Too much salt on the cod will leave the finished, battered fish too salty.
After seasoning, coat the filets lightly in unseasoned all-purpose flour. This is called “dredging”. Dredging anything in flour prior to coating it in a batter gives the batter something to cling to. You’ll still have some of the batter fry away from the cod, but not as much had you not dredged it beforehand. To dredge, cover it in the flour, then shake any excess flour off. I like to give my a few pats to eliminate excess flour. The dredged cod should look like it’s ashy- like it needs to put on some lotion.
Submerge the dredged cod in the beer batter to cover it completely. Now, allow the excess batter to flow off of the cod before carefully sliding it into your hot oil.
Fry the cod for 6-7 minutes, or to a deep golden brown. Once fried, use tongs (or your spider) to remove the fish from the hot oil. Transfer the cod to a cooling rack set atop a sheet pan. This will help drain the oil away from the crispy exterior without leaving it touching a surface, which might cause it to steam and become soft. Alternatively, you can drain the fish on a paper towel-lined pan to absorb that excess oil. Keep the fish in a warm, 200°F oven while you fry the rest.
Be sure to allow the oil to come back up to 375°F before frying the remaining fish.
Fry the Chips until Crisp
I’m a stickler about serving hot food hot. I cook food in a way in which the foods that will retain the heat longest are cooked first. I also prefer things to be a crispy as possible. As a result, though I blanch the potatoes before frying the fish, I wait until after the fish is fried to fry the fries. Say that five times fast. The meaty cod retains heat longer than the thinner potatoes.
I also do this because the fries are finished in the hottest oil temp of three separate frying times. It’s inefficient to start at a low oil temp, increase it, only to decrease it. I’m about efficiency. All of this is to say, fry the fries last.
Increase the oil to 400°F. Once the oil reaches the proper temp, add a handful of the blanched potatoes to the oil.
Fry the “chips” for 3-4 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown. Transfer, again, using your spider, to a paper towel-lined sheet pan or bowl. I like to use a metal bowl, because once they’re all fried, I remove the paper towel before seasoning and tossing them in that very same bowl.
Keep the chips in a warm oven until you’ve fried all of the potatoes.
Serve the Fish and Chips
Now that you’ve fried all of your fish and chips, serve them as desired.
Tartar Sauce and lemon wedges are the perfect accompaniment, in my opinion. The Irish serve theirs with a side of mushy peas, but I’m not going there.
Because the crispiness of the fish batter is clutch, it’s best served immediately. Leftovers may be reheated, though I only recommend doing so in a 350°F oven to regain any crispness that you can.
Check out that juicy, flaky fish! Not for nothing, but I’d take fish and chips over corned beef and cabbage any day.
Switch up your standard St. Patrick’s Day menu for this fun, classic pub-favorite.
Pin this Fish and Chips recipe for your favorite Irish holiday, even if you’re not from the Emerald Isle.
Beer-Battered Fish and Chips
- deep frying pot
- deep-fat frying thermometer
For the Chips (French Fries)
- 3 large russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into sticks (see post images)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dredging
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 12 ounce bottle (can) beer
- 4 filets (about 2 pounds) fresh cod
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 lemon wedges
- 1 cup Tartar Sauce
- oil for frying
Soak the Potatoes (2 hours ahead)*
- Two hours prior to beginning: place the cut potatoes into a large bowl. Cover them with 4 inches of cold water. Place the bowl in the refrigerator and soak the potatoes, uncovered, for at least 2 hours.
Blanch the Fries
- Fill a deep, heavy bottom pot with a gallon of cooking oil (peanut or vegetable oil works best).Insert the probe of a deep-fat fryer thermometer into the oil. Be sure the tip of the thermometer is not resting on the bottom of the pot, though.
- Once the thermometer reads 300°F carefully drop a handful of the dry potatoes into the hot oil. The temperature of the oil will drop significantly when you add the potatoes, so be sure to work in small batches. Blanch the potatoes for 3-5 minutes, or until they are soft. Use a spider to remove the fries from the hot oil, then transfer the fries to a paper towel-lined sheet pan to absorb any excess oil.
- Repeat this process until all of the potatoes have been blanched. Leave the softened potatoes on the towel-lined sheet pan for now. The potatoes may be kept at room temperature.
Prepare the Beer-Batter and Fry the Fish
- Increase the oil's temperature to 375°F. Set up a dredging and battering station on one side of your stove and a draining station on the other. The draining station can be a cooling rack set atop a sheet pan, or a sheet pan lined with a lot of paper towels.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder with a whisk. Add the egg and beer to the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk to form a thick batter- it should be the consistency of pancake batter. If you find the batter is too thin, add a smidge more flour. Too thick? Thin it with more beer. Set the batter aside.
- Lightly season your cod filets with salt and pepper. After seasoning, coat the filets lightly in unseasoned all-purpose flour. Shake any excess flour off. Submerge the dredged cod in the beer batter to cover it completely. Allow the excess batter to flow off of the cod before carefully sliding it into your hot oil.
- Fry the cod for 6-7 minutes, or to a deep golden brown. Use tongs (or your spider) to remove the fish from the hot oil, transferring it to your draining station. Keep the cod in a warm, 200°F oven while you fry the remaining fish. Be sure to allow the oil to come back up to 375°F before frying the remaining fish.
Finish the Chips
- Increase the oil to 400°F. Once the oil reaches the proper temp, add a handful of the blanched potatoes to the pot. Fry the "chips" for 3-4 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown. Using your spider, transfer the chips to a paper towel-lined sheet pan or bowl.
- Keep the chips in a warm oven until you've fried all of the potatoes. Once all of your chips have been fried, toss them in salt and pepper as desired.
- Serve your fish and chips while hot, accompanied by Tartar Sauce and lemon wedges.