Best oil for deep frying fish: All You Need to Know

Best Oil to Deep Fry Fish
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What you need to know

  1. The types of oils available for deep frying
  2. How oil works, and what to look for in your oil
  3. The actual oils that fulfill your fish deep frying needs
  4. What kind of fish you are looking to deep fry
  5. Tips to get the best flavored deep fried fish
  6. How to deep fry fish without a deep fryer

Types of Oil to use when Deep Frying

There are two types of oils/fats that you can use to deep fry foods such as fish or even chicken. The most common in a deep fryer would be normal liquid oils such as vegetable oil or peanut oil. These oils can be used in a deep fryer quite easily.

The second type of oil you can use is a thick fattening oil. Examples of this type of oil would be vegetable shortening or lard. These types of solid fats will actually melt as it heats up. This method is extremely popular when deep frying in southern parts of the United States, although it's done to some degree just about everywhere.

So which should you choose? If you're not experienced with deep frying, it's probably easier to deep fry with a deep fryer using a liquid oil.

How to Choose the Best Deep Frying Oil for Fish

To pick the best oil, you'll have to understand smoke points, taste, taste transfer, and a few additional features that help the process.

Smoke Point: The smoke point of an oil is important when deep frying anything, not just fish. It determines at what temperature an oil starts to break down and consistently smoke. If oil reaches beyond its smoke point, not only will your food taste burnt, but could potentially harm you health in a number of ways. 

Taste- Almost regardless of the type of fish you decide to deep fry, the taste is usually pretty strong. That being said, it can probably handle some oils that give off a slight altering taste, however it is still best to try and use a neutral flavored oil. Let the fish bring out flavor, not your oil.

Taste Transfer- One of the beauty's of deep frying is that you're able to re-use your oil multiple times, possibly over several weeks. If you pick an oil that offers a good amount of taste transfer resistance, then your french fries that you fry a day after frying fish, will actually take like french fries. Not a lot of people will pick eating fish fries over french fries. You can always check out when to change your oil, if you're unsure.

Additional tips- Some fish are naturally oily. That being said, you probably don't want to choose an oil that really enhances that oily texture. Most oils won't do this, however sometimes its good to know that it's a possibility when choosing your oil.

The Best Oil to Deep Fry Fish

We've already analyzed oil on many facets here at The Cooking Expert. If you're interested in knowing which oils are best for deep frying all kinds of food, from doughnuts to french fries, check out our rankings here.  

If we're talking about deep frying at home with a deep fryer, we must know that it'll require a lot of oil. So finding an oil that burns at high temperatures, offers a neutral taste, and still doesn't break the bank are all the most important factors.

Overall, our favorite oil is vegetable oil, because it's cheap, widely accepted for deep frying, offers a neutral taste, and boasts a smoking point of 400° F. However, the best oil to deep fry fish in our minds is actually peanut oil. It's offers a higher smoking point of 440° F and is good with preventing taste transferring between foods. These two factors prevent you from having to change your oil as often if you want to deep fry different types of foods, which helps nullify having to spend as much money on additional oil, as well as saving time from having to clean out your deep fryer each time you put in new oil.

What Kind of Fish is Best to Deep Fry

Of course, you can always buy frozen fish from the store. These fish are usually come with breading, which is necessary to get a great crisp breading taste on the outside, while eating the delicious flavor of fish on the inside. However, on the off chance, you're catching or buying your own fish, we've listed some of the better kinds of fish to deep fry.

Note, when wanting to deep fry fish, you'll want to look for fish that offer more lean white flesh than not. Also, dense, strong flavored fish, and oily fish make for interesting experiences, and not always in a good way. You don't want oily food submerged into oil. So which fish fit the bill, you ask?

Fish to Deep Fry:

  • Bass
  • Catfish
  • Halibut
  • Shrimp
  • Cod

Fish to avoid Deep Frying:

  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Sea-bass

Always note that some fish that are popular and taste great, such as Salmon don't go well together with deep frying. However, there are multitude of other ways to fry some of these fish.

Tips to get the Best Flavored Deep Fried Fish

Now that you know which oils to deep fry fish, as well as the best fish to deep fry, lets take a look at tips and tricks to enhance your overall experience

  • If you try and fry fish without a batter, the fish can harden and be tough to eat. That is why it's always best to get a batter around your fish before deep frying it. The batter will create a nice and crunchy taste, while keeping all the moisture in the fish, creating a nice and juicy flavor. That's the same reason things like corn-dogs, chicken strips, and onion rings come with a coating of breading. Those are all great deep frying choices.
  • You'll want to fry fish at the correct temperature, which should measure between 360° and 380°. Cooking below or above the correct temperature, especially if it's by a considerable amount, could create a poor experience.
  • Just like most deep fried food, once you're done cooking, ensure you pat down the fish with a paper towel to get rid of as much resting oil as possible. This'll enhance the eating experience without a doubt.

Can you Fry Fish without a Deep Fryer? (YES)

Whether you don't own a deep fryer, or you simply don't want to submerge your fish, there are other ways to get a good fry. Note if you don't own a deep fryer, but you'd like to, make sure to check out our best fish fryer choices

To fry fish without a deep fryer, you'll need some sort of deep pan, preferably not cast iron, as cast iron is known to break down oil than other metals. Once you find an appropriate pan, ensure it's deep enough to fill it up roughly half way. You won't want to fill it up any more than 1/2 way to ensure oil doesn't rise enough to spill over. It'll also help contain the sizzling and popping, helping prevent you from getting burnt. If you're able to fill it up half way and still submerge a fair portion of the fish in the oil, you should be okay.

It may be best to check out a thermometer that can rest in the pan, to ensure you're cooking at safe temperatures. Because you're frying on a pan, and it may have an open top, at least for portions of the cooking process, it's best to have lengthy equipment, such as a pair of long tongs, to help keep your distance from the hot burning oil.

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