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Should the "fish" in "fish and chips" be crispy?

Hello all,

Forgive me for asking such an ignorant question, but today I went with my family to an English pub restaurant (the Whale and Ale in San Pedro, for any locals who are curious) for an early Father's Day lunch.

My mother ordered their fish 'n' chips, and when the plate arrived, the fish part was soft and, dare I say (because I didn't actually touch or taste it), soggy. I was surprised; while I've never personally had this dish before, I could've sworn I've seen it in some form or another (whether on tv or as ordered by a dining companion at some point), and I thought it was supposed to be crispy, as most battered food items are.

Am I wrong? My mother said the flavor was good, but I was so mystified by the utterly soft, soggy-looking texture. She had to use a fork and knife to cut it into pieces, and it just looked... kinda wet.

Is this how it should be, or did we seriously get a crappily prepared hunk of fish??

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  1. I like my fish and chips where the batter on the fish is crispy but where the fish beneath is moist and soft.

    1. If it was soggy, that probably means it got cooked and then sat around. If my fish n chips fish doesn't crunch, I'm not happy.

      1 Reply
      1. re: escondido123

        I'm with you. I don't often send food back to the kitchen, but soggy batter on my fish & chips would go back.

      2. YES, YES, YES it should be crispy and delivered from fryer to table immediately. I even apply the malt vinegar a little at a time before every bite instead of applying all at once so it doesn't have a chance to sog the whole fillet. I want to burn my lips on the first bite.

        1. the fish and the chips should both be piping hot, fresh from the fryer, and crispy to the max.

          1 Reply
          1. re: linguafood

            +1 I remember when in the UK they'd serve fish 'n chips as street food rolled up in a newspaper cone. Very crispy batter, tender cod.

          2. Mmmm...great fish and chips should ALWAYS be crispy, IMO. I've noticed a lot of variation here in the Bay Area. Sometime crispy, but often soggy like you describe. A friend told me the soogy type is battered, while the crispy type is breaded, before frying. I don't know if that's true, but battered fish does seem soggy a lot of the time.

            1 Reply
            1. I expect a good Fish-and-chips to have fish that is fairly thick, flaky, moist, with some juices; coated with a crisp, hot, deep-fried batter. Does that make sense? What you describe doesn't sound too far from that, unless the whole thing was soggy from condensation and the whole piece of fish (including the outer fried batter) was now getting soft as well.

              Hmm, I don't expect battered deep-fried stuff to all be crispy uniformly throughout, as your OP implies, unless I am misunderstanding you. If it is all crispy throughout, I would expect the center stuff (whatever it is, but especially fish or other seafood) to be dried out and NOT delectable anymore. As Passa says above, the fish is supposed to be still tender (and moist).

              1. I agree with you. I like my fish with crispy batter.

                1. Outside should almost snap as you go through the crust.

                  1. Fish and chips should not be limp and flaccid.

                    1. Wow, thanks to everyone for an intensely quick series of responses! To be clear, the ENTIRE fish piece was soggy -- outside included. I mean, as soon as they set the dish down, it looked wrong to me: wet on the outside, no crispy batter whatsoever. It almost didn't even appear to have any batter, as the exterior was so unpuffy, dark, and wet. I was so surprised that I thought my gut reaction must've been wrong, and didn't have the balls to speak up.

                      I suspect what Escondido123 said was probably why this had happened (fish got cooked then sat around), as it took FOREVER for all four of our dishes to be brought to our table (and we were the only customers there).

                      Thank you, everyone, for confirming my gut feeling. I really wanted to ask the restaurant why the fish was so soggy, but didn't want to be rude in case that was, somehow, the way it really ought to be. Now I know I will definitely never recommend this place (our crab cake appetizer was also cold in the middle).

                      1. The batter coating should be crispy and, if cooked properly, not exuding loads of oil.

                        Inside the fish should be cooked but, obviously, not overcooked. Effectively it is steaming inside the batter.

                        It is a great skill to fry fish & chips properly. To come across one in the UK that does it well is a comparitively rare occurance - and we have national competitions in

                        18 Replies
                        1. re: Harters

                          "To come across one in the UK that does it well is a comparitively rare occurance"

                          Isn't Fish and Chips the national cuisine of UK? Why would it be rare occurrence to find one in the country of origin? That is almost like saying it is a rare occurrence to find good sushi in Japan. I think you must have a very high standard. :)

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            And Berlin is the birth place of döner kebab and currywurst. Doesn't mean that good versions of it abound. They're still hard to come by. Ubiquity does not equal quality.

                            1. re: linguafood

                              Ubiquity does not equal quality. True to some extends, but competition improves overall quality because each vendor tries to best the next. :)

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                Or undercut the competition price-wise by using sub-par ingredients.

                                1. re: linguafood

                                  :) That is certainly another outcome, especially when the customers want affordable foods.

                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              "I think you must have a very high standard"

                              Of course. What is the point of being a foody otherwise?

                              Just because it is part of my national cuisine does not mean it is done well. If you go into the vast majority of chippies, you will come away disappointed. You'll find the fish overcooked, or the batter soggy with oil. And, all too often, both at the same time. It's partly because of poor cooking but, also, because most places fry in batches and the is then kept warm in a steamer. Chips should not be as crisp fried as American fries but, again all too often, have none of the hint of crispness that is "proper".

                              1. re: Harters

                                "Of course. What is the point of being a foody otherwise?"

                                My bad. I phrased it incorrectly. Of course, you have the right to have a high standard. What I meant is that as much as you may think the UK fish and chips are not up to your standard, they are probably still relatively better than the rest of the world. Somehow when I read your previous statement of :

                                "To come across one in the UK that does it well is a comparitively rare occurance"

                                It gives the impression that UK is the issue at hand and that you can find better fish and chips in other countries.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  Or maybe Harters mentions the UK because he lives there and that's his frame of reference? Just a guess. :)

                                  1. re: inaplasticcup

                                    Good guess. And spot on.

                                    We must have many tourists who want to sample this aspect of our national food and come away really disappointed. It is as if I visited America and wanted to sample a really good burger but only went to Mcdonald

                                2. re: Harters

                                  I always look forward to your posts, especially when it comes to anything British or requiring a British point of view. (bows in admiration).

                                  1. re: Harters

                                    What do you think about the fish and chips at Maggie's (and others) in Whitby? We found it to be good but not as memorable as we have had at a few other places in the UK.

                                    1. re: chefathome

                                      In Whitby, did you mean to write Maggie's (which I don't know) or the well known Magpie? If the latter, it's a goodly few years since we were in the part of the country but it was certainly good fish & chips.

                                      Don't get me wrong, there are good chippies out there. But, as often the case, you need to research to sort them out. Even in the north where you have a better chance of finding the good stuff. For example, the one in our "village" is horrible. I won't buy from them, preferring to drive a few minutes to one that's a bit better. Of course, that means you're speeding to get home while they're still hot - so you have to keep an eye open for the cops and little old ladies leaping off the pavement to cross the road just in front of you.

                                      1. re: Harters

                                        I am grinning at your apt description of little old ladies leaping off the pavement.

                                        Yes! Magpie, not Maggie's. We have not been to Whitby for about three years and are due to return. Lovely area.

                                        Sometimes we have found little nondescript places in the middle of nowhere to serve excellent fish and chips. But that can be the case with many memorable meals.

                                        1. re: chefathome

                                          You might want to have a nosy through this website to see if any regional winners of the national fish fryers competition work in with your future trip.


                                          1. re: Harters

                                            How awesome is that?? Thanks! We plan to come soon.

                                    2. re: Harters

                                      I order plaice or haddock in fish and chip shops on the rare occasion I visit them - the 'pre-fried' fish is always cod, so I know my order will be freshly cooked and will be crisp. It is harder to arrange for good chips, but a queue in a chippy often means there's a fresh batch in the fryer being waited for.
                                      I would only order fish and chips in a pub if there was nothing else on offer that I fancied. Pubs are not the natural home of good fish and chips, even the ones that profess to make their own beer batter and thrice cooked chips.
                                      (I am in the UK).

                                      1. re: Peg

                                        Agreed - on both points.

                                        It's always a good idea to order the "other fish" than the usual for that area. In the north, it's often haddock - but in my area it's cod, so I order haddock.

                                        And, as for pubs, they're almost inevitably lousy at fish & chips. I reckon if you work to only ordering them in a pub that's (1) within sight of the sea and (2) has a reputation for its fish. Otherwise, it's usually battered pre-frozen from the catering supplies company - straight out of the freezer and into the fryer. And as for the chips...

                                        1. re: Peg

                                          Totally agree. There's a place in Glasgow called the Wee Chippie Doon the Lane that puports to do good Fish and Chips and they're just rubbish. Chips aren't right and the batter on the fish is oily. Typical of what a restaurant or pub does to them.

                                          Best examples I've had have been at the Rainbow chippy on Musselburgh High St and the award winning fish bar in Anstruther. The two best in Glasgow are the McPhee's at the top of Hope St and the Philadelphia on Great Western Rd.

                                  2. The fish and the chips should both be crisp and hot !

                                    'd say you got ripped off and I would avoid that restaurant in the future.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: dragonchowmein

                                      Thank you, Dragonchowmein, for your succinct reply!

                                    2. I have to assume that Brits prefer soggy fried fish and chips, or they would seek out something more to their liking.

                                      1. If the "fish" is soggy, you might as well be eating Ore-Ida fish sticks.

                                        1. I was in Elmira, Ontario during the Maple Syrup festival (about 6 weeks ago?) and the food from the fish and chip truck was pretty decent. The fish was crispy on the outside and moist and flaky on the inside, so moist, it had an almost creamy texture. I think it was halibut but can't remember. The fries were fresh potatoes but machine cut with skin on, crispy on the outside, fluffy potato on the inside. That was a good batch of fish and chips and that is how I like the fish.

                                          When it's soggy, it's not tasty. It either sat around or was fried at a too low temperature.