When I was a child, my mother, looking to broaden our horizons, introduced my brother, sister, and I to baked fish. It did not go very well. The next week she decided to try again, only this time she fried the fish. Eventually, she taught us the process and all three of us still make our mother’s recipe to this day.
Fried foods are a tradition in many families, while others may be hesitant to work with such a volatile compound as hot oil in their own kitchen. With a little extra care and preparation, you too can enjoy fried fish or chicken.
Kids in the Kitchen – Episode 1
Cooking with children can be a wonderfully empowering learning experience for everyone involved. Time seems to slow down in the kitchen, making for a fulfilling (and not to mention, productive) shared activity. For this episode in our new Kids in the Kitchen Series, we are diving into the how-to of chicken/fish batter.
Who Does What
Age appropriateness is all important when approaching fried food recipes. Older children can be trusted to read the oil thermometer, or even turn over the fillets. Watch them get all excited as the oil fizzes and bubbles up around the uncooked edges. Younger kids will have tons of fun with the dipping and breading. As your fillets are cooking, have the kids pick out and prepare the dipping sauces. This is especially helpful if you have picky eaters. I have found that when my kids get to mix up the tartar sauce, they are much more inclined to actually try it. Whatever responsibilities you decide to delegate, you are on your way to building family traditions.
What You Will Need
While the ingredients in a fish/chicken batter are simple, quality is still paramount. I recommend using a high protein flour for the perfect consistency. Oil that has a higher smoke point, such as vegetable, peanut or canola oil, works best as it creates much more stable cooking conditions. You will also need…
- A deep fryer, if you have one. If not, a cast-iron skillet or deep pot works great too.
- Long metal tongs
- A thermometer with pot clip
Dress appropriately – Have the kids throw on long sleeves, closed shoes/slippers, and aprons
Get the oil temperature to where you want it before you start to fry- then keep watching the thermometer! Frying is not actually boiling oil. Its water evaporating from inside the food to the outside. So resist the temptation to turn the heat up mid-fry.
- Never fill the pan/pot more than two-thirds of the way with oil
- Foods that are wet should never be dropped in the oil.
- Pound fish or chicken strips so it is not too thick before breading.
- Never leave oil unattended
- Follow your recipe as close as possible – Baking is a science. So, until you hit a certain level of expertise, eyeballing is not the best idea.