Unlike most fish batters that are made with beer, this one is made with a well seasoned buttermilk pancake batter from a box! It sounds a little strange, but it’s absolutely delicious! Fried until crispy, the fish is perfectly cooked and surrounded by slightly sweet, light and airy batter – yum!
I already know that the title of this recipe alone has some of you screwing up your nose. I’m right, aren’t I? Well, I can’t really blame you! It does sound weird. But, I’m here to tell you that Pancake Batter Fried Fish is my all-time absolute favourite way to eat any type of white, flakey fish. I’m so confident with this recipe, I’m posting it to my blog despite the fact I know I’m going to get more hate mail. Ha!
This is the type of battered fish I grew up with. If there was fresh fish being battered, it was pretty much a guarantee that it would be battered in a pancake-style batter. I remember seeing my dad frying up large quantities of it. Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever saw my mom frying fish. My dad always did it.
Was this a typical meal in our home? No. But, I do remember it being served often enough that I can still recall what my mom would serve with it. She never backed down from a double carb meal, so oftentimes, Pancaked Battered Fried Fish was served with both fries and rice! Personally, I think fried fish and fries go hand in hand. Maybe it’s my English origins. But, my North American upbringing demands coleslaw too. What do you serve with your fried fish?
SEAFOOD AND NEWFOUNDLAND
Cod fish was probably the number one source of seafood protein in our family home, so I’m going to use if for my Pancake Batter Fried Fish. Living in Newfoundland, in a small fishing village, in the 80s, made sure of that. Cod was in abundance back in those days, and we ate it whenever we were presented with the chance. Actually, most people ate it whenever presented with the chance, but I was a little picky when it came to the preparation of fish.
First of all, everyone who knows anything about seafood at all, knows that seafood and lemon are a match made in heaven. But, I can honestly say with 100% assurance that a fresh lemon was never brought into my mother’s kitchen. And, cooking cod with lemon was unheard of. Fish dishes from my mother’s kitchen were basic and home style.
BUT, NOT DRIED SALTED COD!
Salted and dried cod was the fish of choice, and unfortunately, it was the only way I would not eat cod. I hated the texture of it; I hated the saltiness of it; and I hated that in most cases, the bones were still in it. Fisherman’s Brewis, not to be confused with Fish and Brewis, were often prepared by my mom or dad. Both dishes are a Newfoundland delicacy and consist of salted cod fish and Newfoundland hard bread.
On the occasion when fresh cod was present, the meal changed from traditional Newfoundland cuisine to what might have been considered modern at that point in time. Fresh cod was never baked – not that I can remember. Usually, it was pan fried in a cast iron skillet with pork fatback. There was never a need for oil or butter, because fatback was the bomb! Fried cod with fatback that has been diced and fried until rendered and crunchy, (Newfoundlanders call this scrunchions) was the best way to eat cod.
Other than that, cod was lightly battered and deep fried – most likely, in a pancake batter! Personally, I think that was my favourite way to eat cod, probably because we got to eat fries with it! In recent years, I’ve been trying to increase my seafood repertoire. I’ve been branching out into baked fish, like this salmon. And, trying to copy my mom’s fried squid. And, most recently, we’ve been experimenting with shrimp, like you see here in my Crispy Fried Shrimp recipe.
TYPES OF FISH THAT WORK IN THIS RECIPE
This Pancake Batter Fried Fish recipe works best with white, flaky fish. Obviously, cod is one of the go-to choices for deep fried fish. But, you can use other white fish varieties as well. Cod can be expensive, depending on where you live. I get our cod from Ottawa Valley Meats. I wish they could deliver everywhere, but they are limited to just Ontario for now. For this recipe, I used just under two pounds of cod. That was less than $17, which is a steal!
If you are in Ontario, be sure to take a look at the website. Ottawa Valley Meats offers seafood, beef, poultry, pork, etc. And, they deliver right to your door! My box of seafood arrived the next day and was delivered in a chilled truck. I’ve had frozen meat and seafood delivered before, but never as well as this. Even the driver waited by his truck after leaving the box at our door. He was so friendly and wanted to make sure we got the box without any issues. I can’t wait for my next order to arrive!
Let’s get back to the fish. You can use halibut, which is another very common white fish used in deep fried fish recipes. You can also use tilapia, which is probably one of the cheapest types of white fish. Haddock is another popular fish often found in fried fish shacks. Grouper will work, although I have to say, I’m not too familiar with cooking with that fish. Finally, sole and flounder will work well too!
HERE’S WHAT YOU WILL NEED FOR THIS RECIPE:
- Cod– Two pounds of cod will feed at least 4 people. Cut the cod in 1 inch cubes and set on a plate lined with paper towels to help absorb some of the moisture.
- Buttermilk Pancake Mix – You can make your own pancake batter, but I use the store-bought boxed stuff. This is the exact one that I used. It’s the complete mix, meaning you only need to add water!
- Old Bay Seasoning – This seasoning mix includes mustard, paprika, celery salt, bay leaf, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, mace, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger. It’s perfect for seafood!
- Seasonings – Salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder, and paprika.
- Water – Not much to say about this one! Ha!
- Oil for frying – Vegetable oil or canola oil is what I normally use.
PANCAKE DRY MIX
I had this paragraph already typed out, but had to go back to re-write it. I was writing about Aunt Jemima pancake mix, and remembered that there was a name change this year. Previously known as Aunt Jemima, the new name will be Pearl Milling Company. Also, the company has retired the use of a racist stereotype used for the product’s image. The link to the product in the previous ingredient section will provide more information on that.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to use the buttermilk pancake mix. And, be sure you pick up the buttermilk complete box. That way, all you have to add is water. Also, do not follow the mixing instructions on the packaging. They offer amounts that will yield a thick and fluffy pancake. This Pancake Batter Fried Fish recipe thins out the batter so that you get just enough batter without your fish ending up like a chicken ball!
You know what I’m talking about! How most Chinese take-out restaurants can call a chicken ball a chicken ball is beyond me. Most of the time the amount of batter far outweighs the chicken. Maybe it should be called a batter ball! Get the ratios right by using a thinner pancake batter consistency for your Pancake Batter Fried Fish.
HOW TO PREPARE THE FISH AND BATTER
When you’re ready to fry your fish, you should set up a work station to make things go smoothly. The first thing I do is to cut the fish. I like to cube it into one inch pieces. This is just the way my dad used to do it, and I love the easy, manageable, bite-sized pieces. This way, you can easily pick up a piece of fish with your fork, dunk it into your tartar sauce, and pop it into your mouth. Could you fry the cod fillets whole? Yes, of course you can! And, they will be delicious still!
Be sure to place the pieces of cod onto a couple of layers of paper towel. Draining out some of the moisture, and dabbing the tops of the fish with paper towel, will help the batter stick better. If your fish has been previously frozen, there will be more water content. Add a few layers of paper towel on top and press down gently to squeeze that excess water out.
Next, dump all of your batter ingredients into a bowl and whisk it until it is well incorporated. Basically, you want to whisk it until there are no lumps left. Set it aside and get the frying oil ready. Pour the oil into a heavy bottomed pot. A Dutch oven is great for deep frying! You will want about four inches of oil in your pot. Turn on the heat and bring the oil to optimum frying temperature. You will want the oil to be 350 degrees. If in doubt, use a kitchen thermometer!
A WORK STATION HELPS KEEP THE FLOW
Finally, set a baking sheet with a wire cooling rack on it next to the pot. You will place the fried fish on the wire rack in a single layer. This will allow air to flow around the fried fish, allow the excess grease to drip off, and keep the batter crispy. Once all of the fish is fried, you can place the baking sheet in your oven set at 175 degrees F. This will keep the fish warm until the rest of your dinner is ready.
Keep in mind that the oil temperature must be as close to 350 degrees F as you can get it. And, try to keep it there! When you drop the fish into the oil, it most likely will drop the temperature a bit, but it should bounce right back. If the oil is too hot, the batter will brown before the fish is cooked. If the oil isn’t hot enough, the fish will take longer to fry, and your batter will be soggy.
HOW TO FRY BATTERED FISH
Okay, let’s get this fish frying already! Dump the fish pieces into the bowl of pancake batter. Use a rubber spatula to gently stir the fish into the batter until each piece is well coated. Now, working with one piece of fish at a time, pick it up with tongs and let the excess batter drip off.
Lower the piece of fish into the hot oil and fetch another piece. I like to fry the fish in batches. It’s important to not overcrowd the pot. Doing so will change the temperature of the oil and you risk having the pieces sticking together. I will fry about 6-8 pieces at a time. They only need 3-4 minutes. If you decide to fry the fillets whole, you might need an extra minute or two.
When the batter is golden brown, lift the fish out with a slotted spoon. Transfer it to the prepared baking sheet, keeping the pieces in a single layer. Before you add more fish to the pot, check to see that the temperature is still at 350 degrees F. Sometimes, the temperature of the oil will continue to climb. This can be especially true if you use a cast iron pot.
I love fried fish with dipping sauce. If you’ve been a reader of Lord Byron’s Kitchen for while, you will know that I will dip just about anything I can into sauce! Tartar sauce is my go-to sauce for seafood. I have a Classic Homemade Tartar Sauce that you can make in minutes and it’s much better than store-bought.
Try serving Pancake Battered Fried Fish with my Homestyle Creamy Coleslaw and fries. Everyone loves fries, and I happen to think that fried fish and coleslaw are the perfect pairing! Finally, whatever you do, do not forget to serve these with a few wedges of lemon. All seafood pairs well with lemon!
Oh, one last thing – be sure to take a minute to check out Ottawa Valley Meats if you’re in Ontario. Maybe you’ll be just lucky enough to be in their delivery area! They also have a store-front in Ottawa, so you can always go there in person. Enjoy!
Pancake Batter Fried Fish
- 2 pounds cod, cut into one inch cubes
- 1 cup buttermilk pancake mix, store-bought, complete mix version; see post for more info
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- vegetable or canola oil for frying
- In a bowl, beat together all ingredients except the oil and fish. Beat until smooth. Set aside.
- Lightly pat the fish with paper towel to get rid of any moisture. If the fish was previously frozen, gently press down onto the fish to get rid of the excess water.
- When you’re ready to fry the fish, set up a work station. First, pour about 4 inches of oil into a heavy bottomed pot. Turn on the heat and bring the oil to 350 degrees F.
- Set a baking sheet with a wire cooling rack on it next to the pot.
- Transfer the fish into the bowl of batter. Stir gently until all of the fish pieces are well coated.
- Working with one piece of fish at a time, pick it up with tongs and allow the excess batter to drip off. Lower the fish into the hot oil.
- Don’t overcrowd the pot. Fry them off about six to eight pieces at a time. Fry for about three or four minutes or until they are lightly golden.
- Remove from oil and transfer to a prepared baking sheet. Keep fried fish in a single layer.
- Serve immediately or keep in oven at 175 degrees F to keep warm.