Beer batter can be contentious. When done right, it is light, airy, and crunchy—perfectly complimenting the fillet within. When done poorly, it can be heavy, doughy, and overpowering.
Beer battered fish takes more attention to detail than other method of frying, so it’s best to work in small batches. Different beers will yield varied flavors. I like a robust beer, like an IPA or stout, but any American light lager (Coors Light, Bud Light, Miller Lite, etc.) works great, too.
Best Fish for Beer Batter
Fish with white fillets are ideal for beer batter. Fish with large flakes, like halibut and redfish, really shine for frying. Cut bigger fillets into one-inch-thick pieces for a good fillet-to-batter ratio.
Best Oil for Beer Batter
I like a mix of peanut oil and lard or beef tallow, but plain vegetable oil is great, too. If you want more options for frying, check out Danielle Prewett’s article on the best oils for deep frying.
Get the oil to 375° F and allow it to recover to this temperature before frying each batch. Use a slotted spoon or strainer for turning the fish and paper towels or wire rack for draining.
Temperature is key for making the perfect beer battered fish. Keep the meat and batter as cold as possible, and the oil as hot as possible. This creates an immediate “puff” of the batter and makes for a lighter, crunchier end product. A digital thermometer is great for precise temperature reading.
Best Beer Batter Recipe
It’s crucial that you season the fish before dipping it in the batter. This is a rule to follow no matter what kind of batter or breading you use.
After your fillets are seasoned, dredge them in the flour mix so the batter will coat the fillets. Once the oil is hot and everything else is ready, the beer can be added—but absolutely don’t add the beer until just before frying the fish. The immediate reaction of the beer and baking powder will create an aerated batter that puffs up. This should be on the thin side of a pancake batter and freely run off the fish, leaving a thin coating stuck to the floured fillet.
Time to make
1 lb. fish fillets
Salt and pepper
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. honey
Also works with
- Season the fish with salt and pepper.
- Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl with a whisk.
- Dredge the fillets well in the flour mix, shaking off any excess. Refrigerate fillets until ready to fry.
- When the oil is hot, add the beer and honey to the flour mixture and stir well. A couple of lumps are preferable, so don’t overwork it. Add a couple ice cubes to the batter.
- Dip a couple of fillets into the batter, coating them completely. Allow any excess batter to drain off.
- Gently place them into the 375° oil and fry for 30 seconds.
- Flip the fillet, exposing the more-cooked bottom. Drizzle a little bit of batter on top. Flip the fillet back over and drizzle a little batter on top again. Don’t overdo it, but just add a thin layer of additional batter.
- Fry the fish until deep golden brown, about 2 minutes total for fish that’s an inch thick. Serve immediately.