North Carolina Sea Grant

August 6, 2010 | Joyce Taylor

methods of preparation

“Frying” has almost become a dirty word in recent years, and much of the criticism is deserved. We know that grease-laden foods add fat and calories we do not need. But remember that our bodies need some fat. The problem is that we eat too much of it.

Obviously, frying adds some fat and calories. But many of these calories and much of the fat added to fried seafood result from improper cooking. Cooked quickly and with very little oil, fried fish and shellfish can be surprisingly light and tasteful.

The keys to good frying are proper temperature and fast cooking. The ideal temperature for frying fish is 375 F. With cooler oil, the food absorbs too much fat and the fish becomes soggy. If the oil is too hot, the fish may brown too quickly and burn. Also, most oils begin to smoke when they reach 400 F.

Oil, a combination of oil and margarine (or butter), or clarified butter can be used for frying. Most vegetable oils work fine. We almost always use oil and butter combined. If you try it, you’ll notice a significant increase in flavor.

Seafood Frying Tips:

Oil should reach 375 F before adding fish. If using a deep-fryer, check the thermostat for accuracy with a cooking thermometer. Or drop a one-inch cube of bread into the oil. It should brown in 30 to 45 seconds.

Fry only a small amount of fish at a time so that the temperature remains constant. If it drops, allow it to return to 375 F before adding the next batch.

The high temperature will quickly form a crust that will seal in the juices and prevent the food from soaking up oil.

Seafood is done when golden brown. Remove from the oil immediately and drain on paper towels. Be careful not to overcook or the food will dry out. A minute can make a difference. It’s like that steak on the grill—give it just a few more seconds and it’s overdone.

Lean, firm fish such as flounder are more suitable for frying than fatty ones. Oily fish such as salmon are too rich in flavor to fry; they will probably taste too strong.

Thin fillets and dressed fish no more than three-fourths of an inch fry better than large or thick pieces.

The term “frying” includes pan-frying, deep-frying, sautéing and stir-frying. The methods are different for each.

Almost all seafood can be fried. If you enjoy fried seafood—and most of us do—it can be part of a healthy diet. By regularly limiting the amount of fat and calories in our diet, we can occasionally select and enjoy fried fish and shellfish. As with many other things in life, moderation is the key.

From: Mariner’s Menu: 30 Years of Fresh Seafood Ideas 

Contributed by Joyce Taylor

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