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
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
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!