The Secret to Perfectly Fried Fish Is an Ingredient You Probably Have in Your Pantry
Hint: It’s also a Thanksgiving staple.
The universally loved fish fry—from Lenten Fridays to slaw- and hush puppy-filled summer gatherings—transforms flaky white fillets into golden-fried perfection. A typical fish fry involves dredging fillets in all-purpose flour, but we’re here to tell you this important fish frying fact: not all flours are created equal. The secret to perfectly crispy fried fish? Wondra instant flour.
Yes, the same pantry staple that’s a key player in lump-free Thanksgiving gravy is actually the pro’s go-to for frying fish, says Robin Bashinsky, Searching Test Kitchen Recipe Developer.
Wondra started in the early 1960s as a product loved by housewives for its quick-dissolving nature. The pre-cooked flour (as opposed to traditional flour that is simply ground into a powder) dissolves easily in liquids like gravy because of its uniform consistency—a result of being hydrated, baked, and then dehydrated. A few decades later, it found its way into the kitchens of classically trained French chefs. These culinary heavy hitters—Eric Ripert, Jacques Pepin, David Bouley, and Julia Child—prepared their fried fish, chicken cutlets, and crepe batter, all with the humble American convenience ingredient.
The wondrous Wondra makes for excellent fried fish because the instant flour absorbs less fat when frying than its all-purpose counterpart, which prevents a gummy texture and keeps the coating crispy. To use it when frying fish (like in our Ultimate Fish Fry recipe), treat it like any other flour. Dip the fillet in egg, then in the flour, shake off the excess, and fry until golden brown.
“You’ll have fillets with a crispy, light texture with a pleasantly brittle mouthfeel,” says Bashinsky.
Use the instant flour for pan-searing chicken breasts or skin-on fish—no need for any egg, as the protein’s natural moisture will make enough flour adhere. Stir it into any sauce that calls for flour, such as the cheese sauce in our Lobster Mac and Cheese, for a creamier, smoother result than all-purpose flour.
Store the iconic blue tin in the pantry at room temperature, and keep out moisture by putting the tin in a Ziploc bag for extra protection. The flour will last a year or so, but with all the frying happening in your kitchen, it should be long gone by then.