What Are the Best Types of Fish for Frying?

Get an authentic fish and chips experience at home when you pick the right fish for frying.

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While it’s always fun to head to your local hot spot for a fish fry, why not batter up and make it yourself? Before you dive in to the seafood section, let’s review what kinds of fish are best for frying (and which you can prepare in other tasty ways).

Fish To Fry Vs Fish Not To Fry GraphicTaste of Home, Getty Images (3)

The Best Fish to Fry

Alaskan Cod

In American restaurants, Alaskan cod is often used for fish and chips because it takes perfectly to the breading and high frying temps. (See for yourself by trying out this delicious fish and fries recipe, starring cod.)

Cod can be quite large, so when purchasing it, do the fish freshness test, but also consider the size of the fillets. For the best frying, you’ll want to buy cuts that are less than 1.5 inches thick and will fit in your skillet or fryer without touching the sides or overlapping.

Tilapia or Catfish

If cod isn’t your style, try farm-raised tilapia or catfish. Both of these ready-to-fry fish are available at most markets and are very affordable. Try our favorite fried catfish recipe.

Tilapia is a mild-tasting versatile fish which allows you to play with various seasonings, toppings and batters. Try out this easy air-fryer tilapia for a good introduction. On the other hand, catfish has a stronger taste that’s mellowed by a cornmeal breading, like this pan-fried catfish recipe.

Both of these fish come in boneless, ready-to-fry fillets that will fit perfectly in most pans.

Local Panfish

Don’t forget about exploring local fish options. Depending on where you live, you’ll find panfish like walleye, perch, whitefish, bluegill and/or crappie in your grocery store—all great for frying.

When purchasing, check to be sure that the fillets are boneless; frying is a quick process and doesn’t allow enough time for bones to be broken down.

Avoid Frying These Fish

If you’re angling to fry fish, we recommend avoiding varieties with a steak-like texture, including these:

  • Tuna
  • Swordfish
  • Salmon

Because of the density and thickness of these types of fish, when breaded and deep-fried they tend not to cook in the center. Plus, the high heat can cause them to dry out.

Pan Frying vs. Deep Frying

Pan frying and deep frying can produce equally delicious results, but you may find that using a deep fryer is easier if your fish is in small pieces. You can use a spider to scoop up the fish when it’s done!

If your deep fryer doesn’t have temperature control or if you are frying in a skillet, use a kitchen thermometer to ensure your temperature remains at 375ºF. (Scared to try frying? Here’s some tips on how to deep fry with confidence.)

If you’re opting to pan fry, I find that using cast-iron is the best choice. It is difficult to keep other materials hot enough without the risk of discoloring the metal or warping. Plus, if you properly care for cast iron, it’ll last a lifetime!

Enjoy your home-crafted fish fry, and don’t forget the traditional and delicious sides.

Try These Classic Fish Fry Recipes
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Sue Evans
I am a mom, grandma, wife, nurse, gardener, writer, student, a steward of and a passenger on Planet Earth.