Everything you need to know

How to make perfect, crispy, golden batter


Have you ever wondered how the local fish shop gets such great batter time after

time?  It all comes down to a few simple steps and a very simple recipe.

     For years I struggled with heavy, soggy batters.  Do you put eggs in?  Is vinegar

necessary? Is custard powder the secret batter ingredient?  Is beer batter as good as it

gets for the home cook?  

     The following recipe and methods are the result of my kitchen experience and a

dusty old collection of recipes put together by the late Marjorie Bligh.  It is the

following recipe and a few simple procedures that will provide you with the ways and

means to satiate even the fussiest battered seafood connoisseur.

     Time to learn the secrets of golden, crispy batter.


  • 1 cup of self-raising flour or plain flour with baking powder (the choice is yours)
  • half cup of milk
  • half cup of water
  • pinch of salt and pepper


Sift the flour, salt, and pepper into a bowl.  Make a well in the centre of the flour

and pour in the wet ingredients.  Grab a whisk and beat the batter until it becomes

smooth and lump free.  Cover it with a tea towel and let it rest while you prepare your


     Here are the other things to do to turn that batter into delicious, crispy, ocean

flavoured goodness.  You need to get your deep fryer out and fill it to capacity with

your choice of frying medium.

     Vegetable oil or canola oil works fine for me.  Rice bran, sunflower, and most other

plant-based oils will all do a satisfactory job.  The decision on oil is up to you.

     Olive oil, sesame oil, or any other strong-flavoured oil will prove to be an

unsuitable choice of frying medium.  These will have a negative impact on your end

product.  Good, neutral-flavoured frying oil is all that you will need.

     Heat the oil to 180 degrees Celsius (356 degrees Fahrenheit depending on your

preferred measurement of temperature).

     Some lovely fresh fillets of fish will come in handy right now.  Skinless and

boneless fish pieces always works well with batter; nobody likes to find hidden bones.

     Experience dictates that when deep frying in a typical home fryer objects to be fried

have greater chances of success when they are smaller and thinner than their

commercial counterparts.  The reason for this is that home fryers do not have the

capacity.  They hold less cooking medium and lose temperature quicker when food is

immersed in them.

    On that note let’s say you have acquired some fresh, roughly iPhone- or Samsung

Galaxy-sized pieces of fish, about as thick as those pieces of technology would be if

they were housed in a heavy duty rubber protective case.  For those preferring

measurements your pieces of fish need to be around fifteen centimetres long and no

more than two centimetres thick (six inches long and around half an inch thick in

Imperial measurement).

     You will need a plate with some plain flour on it to roll, dust, or coat your pieces of

fish with. This helps the batter to stick by giving it something to cling to.  Make a work

station up for this process: fish, flour, and batter (from left to right).

     Work with three of four pieces of fish at a time. Grab a cooling rack and place that

near your fryer.  The fun now begins.

     You should have in front of you now lovely fish fillets, a plate of flour, batter, deep

fryer, and cooling rack. Remove the basket from the fryer beforehand; you don't want

the basket in the fryer or you will have all sorts of fun and games trying to get the

battered fish out of the mesh of the basket!

Coat the fish in flour; shake off the excess. Coating fish in batter is a messy

process.  I still haven't worked out the perfect way to do this without leaving a little

mark on the fish where my fingers were holding it.  It’s just part of the process.  I've

tried forks, tongs, and all manner of things.  Thumb and forefinger turns out to be the

best utensil for the job I have found.

Drop the flour-dusted fish into the batter.  Do this till you have three or four pieces

in the batter ready to go.  Make sure the oil is at 180° C as noted previously.  Take a

piece of fish and let the excess batter drip off.  Carefully place it in your fryer.

Repeat the fish battering process till you have three or four pieces in the fryer,

depending on the size of your pieces.  Don't overcrowd the fryer or things will become

soggy quickly.  

The pieces of fish you have in the hot oil only need to be in the fryer for about 60

seconds.  The purpose is to seal the batter on the fish at this time.  This is one of the

secrets to crispy, golden batter.

   When the fish has been frying for around sixty seconds take it out carefully and

drain in the fryer basket.  When drained place them on to the cooling rack.  If you

have more fish pieces to coat just repeat the process until all your fish is battered and

on the cooling rack.

     Once you have finished the first fry you can do one of several things.  You can let

the oil come back to temperature and do the final cook.  You can refrigerate them for

later use in the day.  Or you can bag them up into meal size portions and put them in

the deep freeze till required.  They will keep in the freezer for three months

     Here are the instructions for success for the second fry of the fillets.  Bring your oil

back to 180° C (356° F).  Place your fish back in the fryer, in the frying basket this

time. Simply fry till the batter is a lovely golden colour.

     Ideally, the fillets will be floating.  This a good indicator that the product is cooked.

 Floating is not, however, a hard and fast rule.  Some things can be cooked and still be

submerged.   Generally, though, if it is floating, it's good to go.

     Lift the basket out of the oil and drain.  Serve the fish with a sprinkle of good salt,

lemon wedges, and a green salad, and chips.  I'm salivating just thinking about it!


Golden Battered Fish, Sweet Potato Fries & Garden Salad

Credit: Michael G Preddy