How to Cook for a Southern Fish Fry

Whether the focus of a political or civic fundraiser, or for a get-together among family and friends, the tradition of a southern (U.S.) fish fry[1] has endured for generations. Start with Step 1 below to learn the basics for the fried part of this event.


  • Fish of your choice, quantity depending on the number you will be serving, but about 1/2 to 1 pound per person
  • Cornmeal, or Cornmeal mix
  • Cooking oil
  • Salt
  • Onion(s)
  • All purpose flour
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • pepper, garlic powder, paprika


  1. Image titled Cook for a Southern Fish Fry Step 1 preview
    Select your fish. In the south, catfish are probably the number one choice, but near clean, sandy bottomed bayous and bays, black mullet are also popular and inexpensive, and easy to prepare.
  2. Image titled Cook for a Southern Fish Fry Step 2 preview
    Set up a propane cooker and a simple table for your preparation steps. If you are working in hot weather, look for a shady area, but try to choose a location where no flammable materials like dry grass and leaves pose a risk. Here are the basic items you will need:
    • 12-32 quart stock pot or other large pan with a strainer basket, if available.
    • Propane tank and regulator with an outdoor stove.
    • Slotted spoon or frying tongs.
    • Cooking oil (about 2 gallons, depending on the size of your fryer).
  3. Image titled Cook for a Southern Fish Fry Step 3 preview
    Prepare your fish. After the fish have been cleaned, rinse them with fresh water and while they are wet, drop them in a container of seasoned cornmeal. The type of meal is up to the individual, but medium to fine grind yellow Cornmeal is popular in the south. Salt is the only usual seasoning, but when you get the hang of it, you may want to experiment with other spices. For a finer crust, you can add one part all purpose flour to each 4 parts of Cornmeal. This will allow the fish to cook longer before they brown, for a more well done fish.
  4. Image titled Cook for a Southern Fish Fry Step 4 preview
    Shake the fish pieces in the meal until they are thoroughly coated. Leave them in the mealing container until they are ready for the fryer. This will help the Cornmeal to adhere better to the fish, giving them a good coating when they fry.
  5. Image titled Cook for a Southern Fish Fry Step 5 preview
    Heat the oil in your cooker to about 330-350 degrees (F), being careful not to allow it to get too hot. Ease pieces of fish into the hot oil one at a time until it is near its cooking capacity, being careful to avoid splashing the oil.
  6. Image titled Cook for a Southern Fish Fry Step 6 preview
    Watch the fish carefully as they cook. They will begin to float as they become done, making it easy to observe the color of the pieces. When they are a golden to medium brown, remove them and allow the pieces to drain in a pan or cardboard box lined with paper towels. This is where a basket or strainer comes in handy, since all the fish can be lifted out at one time, the excess oil will drain back into the pot, and the pieces dumped into your holding container.
  7. Image titled Cook for a Southern Fish Fry Step 7 preview
    Begin preparing hushpuppies as the fish are frying. Because hushpuppies are made with a mixture of cornmeal and wheat flour, adding the liquid to the recipe too early will allow the dry ingredients to absorb too much, making them very heavy and dense.
  8. Image titled Cook for a Southern Fish Fry Step 8 preview
    Chop a whole onion finely, place it into a suitable container, and add eggs and milk. Mix these ingredients completely. When the last batch of fish are placed into the fryer, add the Cornmeal mix (or separately, 2 parts cornmeal, one part all purpose flour, baking powder, and salt) to the previous ingredients and mix once more.
  9. Image titled Cook for a Southern Fish Fry Step 9 preview
    Remove the last of your fish, and begin dropping the hushpuppies into the hot oil. Use a spoon to dip batter from your bowl (or other container), then, holding it just above the oil, let it slide off of your spoon. Drop as many hushpuppies as the oil can easily cook. When the hushpuppies are done (cooked) on the bottom, they should float up and the heavier, raw batter on top will cause them to flip themselves over to continue cooking on the other side. Shaking the frying basket will help them do this.
  10. Image titled Cook for a Southern Fish Fry Step 10 preview
    Fry the hushpuppies until golden brown, removing them as your did the fish, previously. Place them in your holding container to allow excess oil to drain off.
  11. Image titled Cook for a Southern Fish Fry Step 11 preview
    Serve your fish and hushpuppies with baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad, cheese grits, or other choices of side dishes and a tall glass of iced tea.


  • If you forgot your thermometer for the oil cut a small wedge of potato and drop it into the pot as the oil warms. It will sit on the bottom of the pot until the oil reaches the perfect temperature, then it'll rise to the top.
  • Using a prepared Cornmeal mix gives good, consistent success when making hushpuppies. You can use as much or little onion as you like, and 2 parts milk (or beer, buttermilk, or other liquid) for 1 part egg in volume. Then add the mix until the batter is thick enough to suit you. For lighter hushpuppies, make the batter thinner, and it will expand more when it cooks, for heavier ones, make a stiff, thick batter.
  • At southern fish fries, catfish or mullet are perennial favorites. Other good frying fish are flounder, sea bass, red snapper, trigger fish, and even white trout and croakers.
  • Add other ingredients like red or green bell peppers, whole kernel corn, chopped jalapeno peppers, or cheese.


  • Do not over-salt the fish.
  • Be very careful with the fish fryer and hot oil. Having a fire extinguisher nearby is recommended.

Things You'll Need

  • Fish cooker
  • Preparation table
  • Paper towels
  • Cooking implements
  • Cooking thermometer

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