Fish and chips is one of the most popular menu items in the United Kingdom, but you don't have to fly across the big pond to enjoy this crispy British cuisine! With this easy recipe, you can make tender white fish, coated in a light and crispy no-beer batter in your own kitchen!
Classic fish and chips is the quintessential British food! It consists of fried whitefish, usually cod or haddock, coated in a beer (or non-beer) batter, then lightly fried and served with potato "chips," or french fries. Enjoy this British pub-fare with a side of malt vinegar, tartar sauce or ketchup.
The origin dates back to the 1700's, but it wasn't until the 1800's when the Malin family of London and the Lee family of Mossley began serving fried fish with "chips" in their chippy shops. (The "chips" were originally fried thin potato slices, but over the years, the french fry has come to replace the thin chip.)
Interestingly, during World Wars 1 and 2, the British government excluded fish and chips from rationing. There was an abundance of both fish and potatoes at the time, so the food combination made sense.
What Type of Fish?
Make this English fish dish with either cod or haddock. Both are thick whitefish that hold up well to the batter and high heat. According to the National Federation of Fish Friers, there are over 10,000 fish specialists in the United Kingdom and over 60% of these fisheries use cod and 25% use haddock.
Ingredients for Fish and Chip Batter?
Batter ingredients are simple:
- baking powder
- water (plain or sparkling)
- salt and pepper
- chips: frozen steak fries or thinly sliced peeled potatoes
In Ireland and Britain, the batter recipe is typically water, flour, baking soda and vinegar. This recipe calls for baking powder instead of baking soda because baking powder already contains an acid--cream of tartar! After you give the fish a quick dip in cornstarch (which reduces glutenization of the flour and ensures a light, crispy coating), dredge the fish in batter and fry.
This recipe uses frozen steak fries which cook up beautifully! Heat oil to 350ºF and place potatoes in a single layer in the skillet; work in batches and drain cooked chips on paper towels. Make the "chips" first then place in a warm oven (uncovered) while you fry the fish.
Beer or No-Beer Batter?
In order to produce a light, fluffy coating, carbon dioxide must be present in the batter, and the combination of baking soda and acid (vinegar, lemon) creates the bubbly gas that makes the batter light.
Some recipes call for a bottle of light or dark beer. The purpose of the beer is two-fold: it provides carbon dioxide and acid. (Note, dark beer produces an amber colored fish.)
You can achieve the same results with this easy fish and chips no beer-batter recipe because the baking powder already contains acid - cream of tartar.
Note: make the batter last. You want the bubbles from the carbon dioxide to "fluff" the fish coating. If you let the batter sit out, the bubbles go away and the coating will not be as fluffy and light.
Frying Oil and Temperature
For best results, use an oil that is tolerant of high-heat such as peanut, walnut, grapeseed, vegetable or canola oil. The ideal temperature of the oil is between 300 and 350ºF, which is really hot! Make sure you heat the oil and a heavy-duty stock pot or cast-iron skillet and use long-handled tongs.
Frying fish at home and in such a hot temperature can be a bit intimidating, if not outright scary! I've found that the fish fries up nicely when the oil is around 312-320ºF. It takes a few minutes longer to reach the ideal internal temperature of 145ºF, but I feel safer working with a lower temperature.
How Long Do I Fry the Fish?
Generally speaking, a one-inch thick piece of cod or haddock takes about 10 minutes total to fry (about 5 minutes per side); however, times may vary due to the type and heat of the oil, as well as the thickness of the fish filet.
To ensure the fish is completely cooked, use a thermometer. Once the filet reaches 145ºF at the thickest part of the filet, remove it from the oil and drain on a paper towel.
How to Re-heat Fish and Chips
The best way to reheat crispy fish and chips is to place them on a wire rack in a 300ºF oven and bake for 15 minutes uncovered. If you use a microwave or wrap the fish in foil, the crust gets soggy.
Craving More? Try Southern Fried Catfish!
Fish and Chips No Beer Batter Recipe
- Heavy bottom pan for high-heat cooking; cast-iron recommended
- Long-handled tongs
- 1½-2 lbs. whitefish- cod or haddock
- 3-4 cups oil: high heat oil canola, vegetable, peanut (not olive oil)
- 2 cups flour
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1½ cups sparkling water or club soda
- 1 pkg. Frozen steak fries (for chips) See Recipe Notes: Chips
- Preheat oven to 300ºF (this is for keeping the chips warm while you fry the fish); if you're not making chips, disregard
- Pat fish dry with paper towel
- Cut fish into pieces; lightly salt and pepper
- Spread frozen steak fries out in a single layer on a baking sheet (this allows any ice crystals to melt)
- Pour cornstarch in a medium size bowl
- Heat oil (medium-high heat; keep an eye on the oil while you're making the batter!)
Make the Chips
- Place steak fries (or sliced potatoes) in a single layer in hot oil; use tongs and stand back-cook about 9 minutes or until chips are light golden brown; drain on paper towel and lightly salt
- Work in batches; once all chips are fried, place in warm oven, uncovered, until the fish is done
Fry the Fish
- Combine flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in large bowl
- Pour in sparkling water; combine well
- Dip fish pieces into cornstarch; shake off excess and dredge in batter
- Place battered fish in hot oil
- Cook fish approximately 5 minutes per side or until golden brown; internal temperature should be 145ºF
- Place hot fish on paper towel; sprinkle with kosher salt and a drizzle of malt vinegar
- Remove chips from oven and serve with malt vinegar, tartar sauce or ketchup
- Peel and thinly slice 2-3 large russet potatoes.
- Pat slices dry with paper towel;
- Place slices in a single layer in the hot oil; remove when golden brown; drain on paper towel; lightly salt and pepper
- You can use the oil from the chips, or refresh the oil. I recommend replacing the oil for best results.