Boiling, Broiling, and Frying Fish

frying fish in cast iron skillet, boiling fish, broiling fish, dressing fish
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When I buy fish, I often pan-fry it in butter, rather than deep fry it. Sometimes I’ll bake fish, but I’ve never boiled it.


In dressing fish of any kind for the table, great care is necessary in cleaning it. It is a common error to wash it too much, and by this means the flavor is diminished. If the fish is to be boiled after it is cleaned, a little salt and vinegar should be put into the water to give it firmness. Codfish, whiting, and haddock, are far better if a little salted, and kept a day; and if the weather be not very hot, they will be good two days.

Fresh water fish having frequently a muddy smell and taste, should be soaked in strong salt and water after it has been well cleaned. If of a sufficient size, it may be scalded in salt and water, and afterwards dried and dressed.

Fish should be put into cold water and set on the fire to cook very gently, or the outside will break before the inner part is done. The fish plate on which it is being cooked may be drawn up to see if it be ready, which may be known by its easily separating from the bone. It should then be immediately taken out of the water, or it will become woolly. The fish plate should be set crossways over the kettle to keep hot for serving, and a clean cloth over the fish to prevent its losing its color.

If fish is to be fried or broiled, it must be dried in a nice soft cloth after it is well cleaned and washed. If for frying, smear it over with egg, and sprinkle on it some fine crumbs of bread. If done a second time with the egg and bread, the fish will look so much the better.

Or you can make a batter for frying fish:
Put three tablespoonfuls of flour in a bowl with two yolks of eggs, and cold water or milk enough to make a kind of thin paste, then add salt and mix well. Beat the two whites of the eggs to a stiff froth and mix them with the rest. Put the batter away in a cold place for at least two hours, and use. It must not be put away longer than for half a day.

For general purposes, and especially for fish, clean fresh lard is not near so expensive as oil or clarified butter, and does almost as well. Butter often burns before you are aware of it, and what you fry will get a dark and dirty appearance.

The fat you have fried fish in must not be used for any other purpose.

To fry fish, parsley, potatoes, or any thing that is watery, your fire must be very clear, and the fat quite hot; which is when it has done hissing and is still. If the fat is not very hot, you cannot fry fish either to a good color, or firm and crisp.

Put on the fire a stout frying pan, with a large quantity of lard or dripping* boiling hot. Plunge the fish into it, and let it fry tolerably quick till the color is of a fine brown yellow. If it be done enough before it has obtained a proper degree of color, the pan must be drawn to the side of the fire.

Take it up carefully, and either place it on a large sieve turned upwards, and to be kept for that purpose only, or on the under side of a dish to drain. If required to be very nice, a sheet of writing paper must be placed to receive the fish, that it may be free from all grease.

The same dripping, adding a little that is fresh, will serve a second time. Garnish with a fringe of fresh curled parsley. If fried parsley be used, it must be washed and picked and thrown into fresh water. When the lard or dripping boils, throw the parsley into it immediately from the water, and instantly it will be green and crisp.

*Dripping — The fat and juices from the roasting pan when cooking meat.

If fish is to be broiled, it must be seasoned, floured, and laid on a very clean gridiron, which when hot, should be rubbed with a bit of suet to prevent the fish from sticking. It must be broiled over a very clear fire, that it may not taste smoky, and not too near, that it may not be scorched.

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What Kind of Fish do You Like to Eat?  Leave a Comment Below


Editorial Review on Amazon From Booklist

In instructive photographs, Moonen and Finamore show how to clean, bone, and portion both finfish and shellfish. Recipes are organized by cooking method—broiling, poaching, roasting, grilling, steaming, frying—providing the creative cook some latitude in determining what to do with the fish at hand. Succeeding chapters cover such fish basics as chowders, fish cakes, and salads. A final section offers unique takes on side dishes such as coleslaw. Both the book’s organization and its comprehensive coverage make this a necessary addition to any cookbook collection. –Mark Knoblauch


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Author: Angela Johnson

I’ve been interested in cooking since I was a teenager. Growing up in a small town in Illinois, I ate many home-cooked meals and tried out recipes (mostly cookies). Wherever I live or travel, I check out grocery stores for unusual foods, eat at local restaurants, and buy regional cookbooks. I’m also fascinated with learning how people in the past lived, and how they obtained food and prepared it.

2 thoughts on “Boiling, Broiling, and Frying Fish”

  1. Wooly fish? Ewww! LOL! We like fish – halibut is our favorite but too expensive to eat often. So much fish is contaminated or sold as something it isn’t so we pretty much stick to wild and responsibly caught salmon these days.

    1. So far, I haven’t been I haven’t been able to find out “wooly fish” actually means.

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