Chef Tips for the Ultimate Fish and Chips

Spurred by a recent spate of British pub openings across the country, fish and chips are having a moment. Look no further than Gordon Ramsay, who’s growing a concept dedicated to the dish with locations in Washington, D.C., and New York. Like the chicken sandwich, fried fish and fries are inherently simple, but can be sublime, depending on the type of fish and batter. Six chefs across the country share their secret to the perfectly crunchy fish and chips.

Local and Thick Fish are Best

  • Ken Lingle, corporate chef at Harbor Bistro + Terrace in Portland, Maine
  • The fish: wild caught haddock from Casco Bay

“The key to a great fish and chips is utilizing the freshest local fish,” Lingle says. He uses paprika, Old Bay seasoning, salt and white pepper in the batter, along with a local lager. “Thick portions are important, so the fish retains moisture and doesn’t lose its integrity and shape.” Lingle fries the haddock at 350°F and serves it with hand-cut french fries, spicy remoulade, pickled lemon and housemade coleslaw.

Hake: Flaky and RicheR

  • Ed Szymanski, co-owner/chef at Dame in New York’s West Village
  • The fish: local hake

“Hake is flakier and richer than cod,” Szymanski says, adding that it holds up better. Refrain from an oily fish and go for a leaner, flakier whitefish for better texture. Szymanski uses Heston Blumenthal’s batter recipe with equal parts flour and rice flour, whipping up a frothy, bubbly batter that he describes as soufflé-like. Battered fish is fried at 385°F, so the fish steams inside the crispy batter like Japanese tempura. “You don’t want to cook your ingredient, but cook the batter, and the fish will poach gently inside.”

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Consider Your Ratio

  • Danielle Van Steen, executive chef at Ironside Fish & Oyster in San Diego
  • The fish: wild Pacific cod or rockfish

Van Steen recently switched up her fish-to-batter ratio, moving from a large, coated fillet to several smaller ones. “This new preparation gives a better crunch factor to every bite and is more user-friendly, in that it’s much easier to eat as a shared entrée,” she says. She keeps her batter simple with Old Bay, sea salt and soda water, which creates a crispier texture. “Frying in a lower temperature (350°F) will make a heavy, saturated batter that will become soggier by the second as it cools.”

Use Vodka for a Crispy Fry

  • Kieron Hales, executive chef and co-founding partner at Cornman Farms near Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • The fish: cod

“I grew up eating fish and chips at least once a week,” Hales says of his childhood in England. “I think the best addition to my batter was vodka. It’s definitely not traditional, but when the batter hits the hot oil, it instantly evaporates and creates a very light, crispy batter.” Hales sous vides his cod for an hour with salt and lemon, then cools it in the fridge to firm up the flesh, before covering the cod fillets with a flour and cornstarch batter. Since the fish is already fully cooked, a quick of couple minutes in the fryer is all he needs to achieve a hearty golden-brown crunch.


  • Sam Sherman, chef/partner at Milady’s in New York
  • The fish: pollock

“We really wanted to get that seafood shack flavor, which is how we landed on our simple beer batter recipe using Miller High Life,” Sherman says. “The only spice we use in the batter is turmeric, which gives the batter a nice earthy aroma, and gives the final product the correct color.”


  • Aaron Cuschieri, chef at The Dearborn in Chicago
  • The fish: Icelandic cod

Cuschieri beat Bobby Flay with his fish and chips recipe on the Food Network show by the same name, and it’s a bestseller at The Dearborn. “We use a tempura batter with baking soda, egg, flour, salt and soda water, which is lighter and crispier than traditional beer batter,” Cuschieri says. He foregoes any special spices, seasoning with just salt and pepper, and makes his own tartar sauce.

“The glory of fish and chips should be in its simplicity and quality of ingredients.”