Fish fries draw lines of cars as people gather to collect food after work, but fried fish is also something we frequently cook at home during the season when many Christians refrain from eating. meat, especially on Fridays. We slid fillets of beaten trout and catfish in hot oil into a black cast iron skillet and fry them until they turned golden brown on the outside and flaky on the inside.
I love fried foods, but it can be a messy kitchen project, especially on a weekday evening, and these days I’ve relegated fried foods to the occasional treat.
Recently, Cynthia R. Greenlee wrote in The Post about how an air fryer rekindled her enthusiasm for cooking, which she was losing due to the pandemic. She gave a glimpse of how she “wished… that those miniature convection ovens weren’t deep fryers at all. Instead, they surround food in an El Niño of hot air, cooking with little to no oil. Baking and roasting, yes; fry, no. But then she started experimenting and found that the little countertop box was a great way to get that fried experience, but through “easier, healthier cooking with less oil and time.”
I followed in her footsteps, first making recipes she recommended for Air Fryer Korean Style Chicken Wings and trying bacon-wrapped shrimp. Then I started to experiment a bit on my own with mixed results. (Taquitos work well, but I still haven’t mastered these mozzarella sticks.)
So when the craving for fried fish hit, I experimented to see if I could get a satisfying piece of golden fillet from the device.
It was easier to get your hands on some fresh cod, so I used this with the recipe below, but any white fish will do, like trout, plaice or even tilapia.
I just tried washing the eggs and sprinkling with spicy flour, but found the resulting exteriors just not crisp enough. I had the same result when I tried a coarser fish coating. Then I tried an egg with just panko, but ended up with a few bald spots on the fish. Also, I missed the spice that the finer flour was delivering to the fillet.
What worked best for me was a three-step coating: a light coating of a well-seasoned cornstarch / flour mixture, followed by an egg wash enhanced with flavor with a generous touch of hot sauce and finally a generous layer of panko. The flour mixture coated the entire fillet and added flavor, and the coarse breadcrumbs browned beautifully and stood out, providing that revealing crunch.
- If you are looking for crispness, do not use very thick fillets. If the fillets are very thin, you can reduce the cooking time.
- Longer pieces of fish can break when you try to get them out of the basket, so if the fillets are long, cut them in half or third before coating and cooking.
- Do not overload your air fryer basket. This allows the fish to become crispy all over.
If you don’t have an air fryer you can get similar results in a convection oven (see recipe instructions), but I’ve found the air fryer gives a crispier finish faster.
Serve the fish immediately, with lemon wedges and a cocktail. To accompany the fish: a green salad, coleslaw, cheese oatmeal or fries will do.
Air fryer fish fillets
Storage Notes: Leftover fish can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. For crispier fish, reheat in a preheated air fryer for 2 minutes or until heated through.
- 4 cod fillets (4 to 6 ounces) or other white fish
- 1/4 teaspoon table salt
- 1/2 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper, divided
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons of water
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco
- 2 cups of panko breadcrumbs
- Cooking spray
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- Cocktail sauce, to serve (see NOTES)
Set the air fryer to 400 degrees and preheat for at least 5 minutes.
While the deep fryer is preheating, pat the fish dry and season both sides with salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. If the fillets are long, cut them in half or in thirds. (Smaller, thinner fillets are easier to flip and give crispier edges.)
Arrange three shallow bowls. In one, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper. In the next, whisk together the egg, water and hot sauce. In the third, put the panko.
Working one piece at a time, coat a drizzle with the flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Next, dip it in the egg, letting the excess run off, and finally place it in the panko, pressing the breadcrumbs into the fish from all sides. Place the fillets on a wire rack and spray them lightly on one side with cooking oil. Repeat with the remaining fillets.
Carefully remove the air fryer basket from the preheated fryer and spray it lightly with cooking spray. (Never spray cooking spray directly into the fryer.) Place the fish in the basket and, working in batches to avoid overcrowding, cook for 5 minutes. Then remove the basket, turn the fillets over and spray them with cooking spray. Cook for another 5 minutes – the fish should be golden and flake easily with a fork. Otherwise, cook for an additional 1 minute or until cooked through.
Serve the fish with lemon wedges and a cocktail sauce.
To prepare in a convection oven: Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. Follow the recipe as directed, placing the fish on a heat resistant rack placed inside a large rimmed baking sheet. This method may require a slightly longer cooking time, around 7-8 minutes per side, especially for thicker fillets. In our testing, the fillets in the air fryer were crispier and cooked more evenly.
To make the cocktail sauce: In a small bowl, combine 3/4 cup of the ketchup, the juice of one lemon, 2 tablespoons of horseradish and 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce (optional). Mix well, cover and refrigerate until needed. (Makes just 1 cup.)
Calories: 266; Total fat: 3 g; Saturated fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 111 mg; Sodium: 231 mg; Carbohydrates: 23 g; Dietary fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 1 g; Protein: 25 g.
From recipe editor Ann Maloney.