The Ultimate Beer-Battered Fried Fish

The Ultimate Beer-Battered Fried Fish

While recently researching various beer-batter recipes online, I discovered an interesting revelation. Every recipe I found, it seemed, was drastically different. In order to fine-tune a recipe, I went to 10 different sources, printed them all out, and dissected the ingredient lists. I consulted Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse, Gordon Ramsay, Alton Brown, Paula Dean and five other reputable sources. No two recipes matched up.

For instance, four recipes included eggs in the batter, one called for just an egg white, and the remaining five had no mention of eggs whatsoever. Three recipes used just flour, while the others called for varying amounts of cornstarch and/or baking powder in addition to flour. Some recipes have you coat the fish in flour before it goes in the batter, but some do not. Three mentioned refrigerating the batter for a half hour; the rest had no mention of this step. And as for the beer? Well, that was all over the map as well. Three recipes called for an ale or lager, one swore by IPA, and the others claimed that a dark beer gave the best results. Even the cooking temperatures were inconsistent, ranging from 350 degrees to 375 degrees. And what kind of oil is best? Depends on who you ask … vegetable, canola, peanut, or safflower?

The more I studied them, the more confused I became. There was only one thing to do. I headed to the liquor store, bought a bunch of beer, went home, and fired up the deep fryer.

I narrowed down my taste test to the five recipes from the aforementioned celebrity chefs. Here is what I discovered.

The Beer

I experimented with four different types of beer: pale ale, nut-brown ale, Guinness, and IPA. I could detect no difference in flavor in the final taste. The batch I made with Guinness did have a slightly darker color, but it was barely noticeable. My advice? Save the good beer for sipping, and go ahead and use the cheap stuff in your batter.


Two of the five recipes included eggs in the batter, which resulted in a softer, doughier coating. If you like your fried fish nice and crispy, like I do, skip the eggs.

Emeril Lagasse vs. Gordon Ramsey: Emeril’s batter included eggs (left), but Gordon’s did not. Chef Ramsey’s recipe yielded a crispier finished product.

Flour Power

Chef Gordon Ramsey’s recipe was the only one that incorporated rice flour. (He calls for 1 cup flour, and 3/4 cup rice flour.) Rice flour is what gives Japanese tempura its light, crispy crust. His recipe was, by far, the crispiest.

Flour Before Batter?

Two of the recipes called for dusting the fillets in flour before dipping in the batter, one called for a dusting of cornstarch, and two had no mention of this step whatsoever. I could not detect any difference between the versions with flour versus cornstarch. However, the batch I made where the fish went straight into the batter was the clear-cut loser. The crust easily crumbled and separated from the fish after it cooked. Dusting your fillets in flour (or cornstarch) before dipping them in the batter is indeed a critical step.

Always dust your fish in flour before coating it in batter, which helps the crust stick to it. This crucial step was skipped in the photo above.

Flour After Batter?

Paula Dean’s recipe had an unusual twist to it. In hers, you dip the fish into the batter, then back into flour, and then into the hot oil. I had never seen or heard anything like this. It sounded a bit bizarre and unnecessary, but after trying it, I am now converted. It resulted in a fried fish with a super-crispy exoskeleton and an enhanced golden-brown color.


Martha Stewart’s batter was the simplest, calling for beer, egg, flour, and salt, but I found it to be a bit bland. Emeril’s recipe called for eight different spices, which I felt overpowered the delicate flavor of fresh fish. A bit of salt, chili powder, white pepper, paprika, and garlic powder provided the winning flavor. Another interesting addition came from Gordon Ramsey. His recipe called for the addition of a teaspoon of sugar. I tried it, and I liked it!

Let It Rest

Some recipes call for letting the batter rest in the refrigerator for a half hour. I tried it and couldn’t tell if it made any difference in the final product. It seems like the whole purpose of using beer is to induce carbonation. When the batter rests, it loses this effect. Why bother?

Time & Temperature

Of the five recipes I surveyed, two called for cooking at 350°; the rest called for 375°. Cooking time varied from two to ten minutes. I preferred the crispier crust of the fish cooked at 375°, although I was working with relatively small pieces of fish. If you are cooking a large, thick fillet, 350° might be a better way to go. At 375°, four minutes was the perfect cooking time for the haddock fillets I used.

When deep-frying anything battered, avoid using a frying basket. The wet batter can become fused to the basket, and the crust will break when you try to remove it. Instead use a spider skimmer to remove your fish from the oil.

The Ultimate Beer-Battered FRIED FISH

After testing five recipes, I have developed this Franken-recipe that uses different techniques from different recipes. Give it a try! You will not be disappointed.

  • 1 pound of haddock, cut into 4-inch strips
  • 14 ounces beer of your choice
  • 3/4 cup flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 3/4 cup rice flour (plus more for dusting)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • Canola oil for frying

Whisk together the dry ingredients listed above, and then stir in the beer until the batter is smooth. It should be the consistency of pancake batter. Arrange two plates; add about 1/2 cup additional flour to one, and an additional 3/4 cup of rice flour to the other. Lightly salt your fish (which should be room temperature), roll it around in the rice flour, then dust in the other flour until it’s well coated. Dip the fish in the batter until it’s completely covered, roll it back in the rice flour, and then gently drop it into 375° oil. Cook until golden brown, about four to five minutes. Your eyes and ears are the best way to tell when it’s done. Listen carefully – when the bubbling, hissing, and popping begins to subside, the fish is done. Remove it and let it rest for a minute on a wire rack. Serve immediately with some lemon wedges and tartar sauce, aioli, malt vinegar, ketchup, or whatever condiment catches your fancy. So yummy!



34 on “The Ultimate Beer-Battered Fried Fish

  1. Bobbi Ysmael

    Thank you for the recipes. I really appreciate this very, very much

  2. JimBob in Rhode Island

    I plan to try this recipe with fresh scup (porgy) fillets. I think it will be excellent. My fishing buddies will surely let me know what they think!

  3. Charley Soares

    Andy you are a creative, inquisitive and dedicated chef. Yes I said Chef. My wife loves your recipes and I love the food she is preparing for me. Don’t forget to use the Michaels ground pepper sauce at every opportunity. The calamari was delicious, proving that fried fish is better than baked or broiled. Keep up the good work.

  4. John Johns

    Tried it. Loved it. Closest thing to the beer batter I remember from my youth, eating at the Hot Fish Shoppe, in Winona, MN!!

  5. Mischelle Lischewski

    This is the absolute BEST beer batter recipe we’ve ever tried! Thank you for doing all the research to come up with the perfect recipe!

  6. Norma

    Just made these tonight. BOMB dot com!! So good!not too breaded it was light enough for my liking.

  7. Bob Culhane

    Thank you. After trying a few good recipes on my own I was glad to find someone else had done all the research for me. Easy and worked great

  8. Jon

    Love that you’ve done all the leg work on this. I was facing the same confusion while trying to find a real good beer batter recipe. This makes sense to me…going to give it a go. Thanks so much.

  9. Myrtie

    Finally, my husband said this recepie tastes just like the $11 bar fish fry for under half the price. So grateful!

  10. Rochelle

    This recipe is soooo good! It is better than restaurant fish fry which we pay $12-15 for. I do adjust the recipe to my liking. However, the rice flour was a great tip. Thank you for doing all the research. It probably would be even better if I used different beer but I just use what my father has in the frig. I do find that resting the mixture was also a great tip. Who knew so much attention went into a fish fry. The more I make it the better it gets. Practice makes perfect! Thank you!

  11. Michelle Oquendo

    So I made your recipe except I did not have rice flour. And could not get it since it’s 2020 and we should not leave the house to prevent the spread of COVID. Anyway my husband loved this recipe. I served it with tilapia planks, Shrimp and used it to make onion rings.
    I work in a restaurant and would even say this is better than the recipe we use because nothing was overly salty. The batter had great flavor. I will use this recipe again. Thank you for your hard work creating a fantastic recipe based on a lot of great testing. Well Done!

  12. Hannah Nguyen

    Thank you for your systematic evaluation of beer-batter fish stick. I have the similar confusion as to which which is the best recipe on the internet. Your amalgamation of celebrity chefs’ appears to be the best. I’ll do it tonight, the Nabreski’s.

  13. Dave- Allen

    Interesting not one mention of cream of tartar powder. You busted your hump on this one,great job.I believe tempura is actually made with white cake mix. But I am wrong more than right, just ask my wife. Keep up the good work.

  14. Matt

    This is the best recipe for fish and chips that I have ever made. Hands down better than any restaurant version!

  15. K. Cross

    This recipe for fried fish was delicious. Made it for fish taco, kids loved it. The crust did not separate from the fish, crunchy crust, flaky fish.

  16. John Grafton

    This is absolutely the BEST fish batter recipe I’ve tried. Have used it four times now and it’s always turned out to be the crispiest, most succulent fish I’ve served. Just did it on Walleye fillets last night and they were supurb. Thanks so much for your research!

  17. Max

    Andy, thank you kindly for this amazing beer battered fried fish recipe! Your article is exactly what I was looking for as I take a methodological and research-based approach to cooking. I have tried numerous beer battered recipes and have been disappointed in various ways like you mentioned. Then I found your recipe! Amazing for sure! This is the best beer battered recipe I have ever tried. I must mention that my brother in law is a master chef and is very fond of your recipe as is my entire family.

  18. Angela

    This was a really good recipe. The added spices in the batter and the rice flour (I used what I had on hand which was cornstarch) make all the difference. I also added 1/2 tsp of tumeric for a beautiful golden color. I then used the batter for onion rings. Delish!

  19. AW

    Thank you, Andy for doing all that work comparing recipes and creating a Franken Recipe. I don’t eat shrimp or much fried food butI started making fried shrimp for my husband on the stove but it was time consuming and after a burn he decided we needed a fryer. Since then we have been off frying shrimp, chicken, hot dogs . On short notice he asked for fried fish and curly fries. I don’t eat either of them and had not made either of them. I found the same thing you found – so many different techniques. Your Franken Recipe won lots of praise! I used 48 ounces of cod and a batch and a half of the batter. I had batter left over and used some on zucchini spirals. I will probably reduce the amount of fish to 24 ounces and 1 batch of the batter. We did experiment with including and omitting the last step of rolling the fish in the rice flour again right before frying. Those not rolled in rice flour turned out with a little bit different texture and a slightly more golden appealing color. We determined that omitting that step tasted best to us.

  20. robert j. walters

    excellent recipe, however canola oil has been banned in the U.K. due to it’s inherent chemical composition that promotes both breast and colon cancer … I recommend just using Crisco lard (believe it or not) ’cause folks came from downtown Buffalo to Darien, NY (27 miles into farm country) to get a haddock Friday-night fish fry at the legendary Greenwoods Restaurant, that I worked at and paid attention to Hankl Doktor’s recipe that is almost exactly like yours !!! … bob walters

  21. Eric J. Berger

    Bravo! You actually experimented with famous recipes and came up with a winner. I still believe in using a deep fryer. Slightly tweaking spices in your recipe works with various vegetables, too. You did quite a bit of footwork for us all. Thank you very much.

  22. Ronald Braund

    Used this recipe with slight modification – substituted cajun seasoning for the pepper, garlic, and chili powder. Used fairly thick cod loins. Took a little longer, but they came out great! Crispy outside, tender and flakey inside. Made a dinner for 9 people and everyone praised the fish. Have two people working together if you are doing more than a few fillets. You need one to monitor the frying while another is breading and dipping the fish. Highly recommend.

  23. Fobes

    Tried this over the weekend with Haddock. Came out awesome. The first piece was finished with the rice flower as the last step. Being old, I forgot that step on the second piece. It came out better (to us), so we had beautiful darker brown pieces that were delicious. My wife couldn’t believe I could cook so well 🙂 Thanks for the research and testing!!

  24. Erik

    You are a genius! Best ever! Thank you….my whole family thanks you! Made with haddock…OMG! So good!

  25. Brian in Vermont

    Been cooking fishfrys for years…..Best recipe by far….thank you for all the “homework” you did

  26. Max

    Still come back to this recipe all the time, have been for years. It perfectly embodies the spirit of cooking and genuinely produces the best fried fish I’ve ever had and teaches you a lot about the art of cooking it. Of course it does, you compared the ingredients so thoughtfully. Every recipe could be improved by this methodology. Thank you.

  27. Richard Forbes

    Letting a beer batter rest is essential, at least when using flour! There is something magical (its science, really) about the gluten in the flour and the beer interacting. I make mine in the morning and let it sit at least all day, sometimes even 24+ hours. The difference between it and a beer batter that hasn’t been allowed to “rest” is night and day!

  28. Gene

    Wow your did the homework and the results are fantastic. Best batch of fish and chips so far. Paula’s redip in the flour made the batter extra crispy. We also used the same method for garlic cheese curds. Yum Yum

  29. Ann Sheer

    Made fish and chips for our Saturday night dinner. Holy Cow!! This recipe is delicious!! Never made fried fish before but this was better than any restaurant we’ve been to! Thank you for doing your homework so we can enjoy 🙂

  30. Mike P

    Damn! Being from WNY I remember enjoying a fish fry every Friday night with my family. I’m now in FL and really miss the taste of a good local beer battered fish fry with the homemade salads. This recipe is legit! I especially like that the recipe calls for 14 oz of beer, because beer comes in 12 oz containers. That leaves 10 oz to enjoy while you are making dinner. The brand of beer makes no difference. I used a can of Busch Light and 2 oz of Molson’s Canadian, because no self respecting Buffalonian would ever drink Busch Light! The recipe still turned out perfectly. Also, I didn’t have any rice flour so I used my Vitamix dry grain container to make my own. I can’t thank you enough for all your research.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *