Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Fish is fried in hot metal pans in two different ways: with just enough oil to lubricate the fish surface in contact with the pan, or with enough oil to surround and cover most or all of the fish. Either way, the fish is exposed to temperatures sufficient to dry out and brown its surfaces, and therefore develops a contrastingly crisp outside and characteristic, rich aroma. Because high heat also makes the lean flesh fibrous and chewy, fish to be fried is often given a protective coating of starchy and/or proteinaceous material, so that the coating can crisp while the fish remains moist. Common coatings include flour and flour-based batters; cornmeal or breadcrumbs; ground spices or nuts or shredded coconut; thin shreds, strings, or sheets of potato or another starchy root (sometimes cut and arranged to look like fish scales); and rice paper. The adhesion of coating to fish can be improved by first lightly salting the fish, which draws some protein-rich, sticky fluid to the surface.