Fish and Chips: Critical Temps for Flaky Fish


Fish and chips are associated in the minds of many with the British Isles. There is this iconic image of fish and chip shops, even pubs, serving up hot, crispy fish with golden fries (called chips by the Brits). And while this dish is certainly important in the Isles—fish and chips weren’t even rationed during the World Wars in England!—it by no means belongs to them.

All across America, in local diners and in mega-chains, fish and chips are offered up and scarfed down every day. Whether you serve them with malt vinegar, tartar sauce, or just a squeeze of lemon, they’re exquisite when made right. Here, we’ll show you how, with temperature critical temperatures to guide the way.

Fresh fish and chips with a Thermapen on the side

What kind of fish for fish and chips?

In the British Isles, the most common fishes used for fish and chips are buttery-tasting cod or haddock (a species of cod), but pollock is also frequently used. Halibut is also fantastic for this purpose. You can use whatever fish you like, so long as it is boneless, but rich-flavored white-flesh fish are best. I would avoid tilapia, which has almost no flavor—if you’re going to go to the trouble of battering and frying your own fish and chips, make it great, not just good!

Fish doneness temperature

While the USDA recommends a doneness temperature for all fish and seafood of 145°F (63°C) for maximum food safety, most chefs prefer their fish cooked a little bit less. For this application, 140°F (60°C) is just right for fish that is nice and flaky but not dried out.

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Oil temp for fish and chips

What temp the oil should be is really two questions, as there is the oil for the fish and the oil for the chips. With the fish fry, we face the classic dilemma of cooling slowly enough that our fish inside cooks through without burning the breading and cooking fast enough that the batter doesn’t get oil-logged and soggy. But because flaky white fish have a doneness temperature of only 140°F (60°C), we can crank the heat a bit—375°F (191°C) is just right.

Fish frying in 347°F oil, with 375°F on the alarm thermometer.
The oil temp drops when the fish goes in, watch the temps and adjust as necessary

For the “chips” we follow our guide to golden, crispy fries and cook at two different temperatures, starting with an initial cook at 325°F (163°C), then a second cook at 375°F (191°C).

To get the best results using only one fryer, you should do the initial cook on the fries first, then, while they rest, cook the fish, and finish the fries right before you serve.

Using a ChefAlarm® to monitor your fryer temps is a great way to make sure you’re cooking everything right. You can set both high- and low-temp alarms to help you adjust the heat as necessary to keep your oil temperatures in the right range.

Fish and chips batter

The batter for fish and chips is about a 1:1 ratio of liquid and flour. Some like it thinner, some like it thicker. Beer is quite traditional and is what we use here, but you can use club soda or even just water. The alcohol in the beef is good for batters, though, because it provides liquidity but also cooks off very quickly in the oil, giving you a shatteringly-crisp crust. The CO2 in the beer/club soda adds lightness to the batter, expanding in the high-heat fo the fryer and becoming airy.

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Adding beer to flour for fish batter

If you want to experiment, you can season you batter however you like, maybe with some chili and lime zest or some curry powder. But for classic fish and chips, just stick to salt and pepper.


Tasty fish and chips

You don’t need to travel to an English chip shop for quality fish and chips. With the aid of a ChefAlarm and a Thermapen®, you can have golden, crispy, perfect fish and chips at home that will probably surpass what you could get in most shops, anyhow. Bring the tradition home and make it your own, with this easy, delectable recipe!

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>