Classic Fried Salt Cod Recipe

Fish and chips are two things that just sound better together. History's on our side, given that the dish is a beloved combination that can be found in seaside cities all over the world. A year-round favorite for most but definitely a must-have dish for all seaside visitors in the summer, the key to the best fish and chips is the perfect batter for your fried fish. You don't want your delicate, white flakey fish to be overly breaded, after all, losing the taste and texture of the fish. However, if it's not breaded enough ... well, then it simply isn't fried fish!

To nail down the perfect recipe for this fried salt cod (though any white fish will do), chef Tara Rylie of RylieCakes tried a few different takes on breading and frying fish until she landed upon this one that's just right. She says it's a tried and true recipe and the only one her family now uses regularly. Follow along as Rylie walks us through the steps to create the perfect batter and ultimately, the most delicious fried salt cod.

Gather your ingredients

Before beginning any recipe, it's imperative to gather all of your ingredients ahead of time. This ensures that you have all the ingredients you'll need in house but also gives you time to chop, dice, and mince, or do whatever prep work the recipe calls for. That's a professional chef's trick called mise en place, one that home cooks should also adopt for maximum ease in the kitchen. For this fried salt cod, you'll need one pound of center-cut salt cod, along with some vegetable oil, all-purpose flour, salt, olive oil, and water.

Though optional, we highly recommend the use of sea salt and parsley for sprinkling on the cod as a garnish immediately after frying. You'll also likely want lemon wedges and tartar sauce for serving for that classic seafood experience.

Soak your cod up to 24 hours

To begin this recipe, you'll place the cod in a medium bowl or casserole dish and fully cover it with water. Then let the fish chill, preferably in the refrigerator, for up to 24 hours. How long it will need to soak depends on just how salty the cod was in the first place. Additionally, if you change out the water every few hours, this will help speed up the process. Thinner cuts of cod will also take less time to desalt than thicker cuts. However, we find that thicker cuts make for the best fried cod which is why we recommend buying the somewhat larger center-cut.

When the cod is ready to fry, remove it from the water and use a kitchen towel to pat it dry. Then cut your cod into four to six strips and then pat it dry one more time.

Whisk together your batter for dipping

Next, place your vegetable oil into a large (at least 6-quart) heavy pot and place it on the stove over medium heat. Using a deep-fat thermometer positioned in the pan or a digital kitchen thermometer, watch the temperature closely. The oil will be ready to fry the cod when it reaches 380 F. Do not let oil go above 380 F, as too hot of oil will burn the breading before the fish even cooks through.

While oil is heating up, combine the flour, salt, olive oil, and water in a medium bowl and whisk to thoroughly combine. The batter will be thick and look similar to pancake batter. You can individually dip each cod strip or you can place them all in the bowl at once. Just be sure that, whichever route you choose, each strip is fully coated in the batter.

Fry your fish

After you've dipped your strips, let the excess batter drip off slightly before placing each piece of fish in the frying oil. You can fry three to four strips at a time but it's important to not overcrowd the frying oil. When you overcrowd the pan, the temperature of the oil dips too low and inhibits the breading from actually browning and crisping up. If you notice your oil temperature has dropped after your first batch of strips, give it a minute to heat back up to 380 F before frying your next batch.

Fry each batch for 2 to 3 minutes until they are golden brown. Then use your tongs to remove the fried cod from the pot and place the pieces on a serving plate. 

Sprinkle fish with salt and parsley, then serve hot

Immediately after removing the fried salt cod from the frying oil, sprinkle the pieces with sea salt and chopped parsley if desired (though we highly recommend this step, as it adds a lovely bright, herbal flavor to the finished meal). Then serve cod immediately with lemon wedges, tartar sauce, and, of course, some type of chip whether it be potato chips or french fries.

Fried salt cod doesn't reheat well, as the breading will never get back to its initial crispness no matter how you reheat it. Thus, we recommend serving the fried salt cod immediately and eating it all. This recipe is definitely that tasty so we know eating it all won't be a problem!

Classic Fried Salt Cod Recipe
5 from 36 ratings
The key to the best fish and chips is the perfect batter for your fried fish. Here's how to make your own classic fried salt cod recipe at home.
Prep Time
15
minutes
Cook Time
10
minutes
Servings
2
servings
fried salt cod with tartar sauce and lemon wedge
Total time: 25 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 pound center-cut salt cod
  • 8 cups (2 quarts) vegetable oil
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup water
Optional Ingredients
  • Sea salt
  • Chopped parsley
  • Lemon wedges
  • Tartar sauce
Directions
  1. Place cod in a medium bowl or casserole dish, cover with water, and chill. Let soak for 24 hours, changing the water two to four times depending on how salty the cod was to begin with.
  2. When ready to fry, remove cod from water and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Cut into four to six strips and then pat dry again.
  3. Place vegetable oil into a large (6-quart) heavy pot and place on stove over medium heat. Using a deep-fat thermometer positioned in the pan or a digital kitchen thermometer, watch the temperature closely. Oil is ready at 380 F.
  4. While oil is heating up, combine flour, salt, olive oil, and water in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine. The batter should be thick, similar to pancake batter.
  5. Dip cod strips in batter and then place in frying oil using tongs. Don't overcrowd oil, fry three to four strips at a time. Fry for two to three minutes until golden brown.
  6. Using tongs again, remove fried cod from the pot and place it on a serving plate. Sprinkle with sea salt and chopped parsley if desired.
  7. Serve immediately.
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