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Cooking Tips

Why You Shouldn’t Use Tongs to Drop Battered Fish Into Hot Oil

Plus more tips for better fried food.
By Published June 17, 2022

Okay, fine. Using tongs won't ruin your fried fish. It will still cook up crispy and tender. But have you noticed the bare patches the tongs leave behind when you drop the fillets into the oil?

Or have you thought about the best—and safest—way to add battered food to the pot to prevent sticking? (Yes, there is a best way.)

Your fried food is already delicious. These three tiny tips will make it even better.

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1. Use a fork to drop battered fish fillets into hot oil.

Keep the batter where it belongs: on the fish. Tongs cover too much surface area, often leaving bits of coating adhering to the tongs instead of on the fish. 

A fork, on the other hand, pierces the soft flesh of the uncooked fish before it slides from the tines and into the grease. Don’t worry about the fine holes left behind: The batter expands over them as the fish cooks, leaving you with a crispy, even coating.

2. Drag the item around in the hot oil before releasing it.

Once you’ve gotten your fish fillets or pieces of chicken covered in batter, let the excess batter drip off and then hold each piece in the oil for a few seconds before releasing it. This does a few things:

  • It gives the batter a chance to set up, so that whatever you’re cooking won’t adhere to the other pieces.
  • If you’re cooking a denser ingredient, giving the batter a head start at hardening will prevent the piece from sinking and sticking to the bottom of your cooking vessel. 
  • When a food item is dropped into the oil, the temperature of the oil is automatically reduced. Dragging the food around for a second or two allows the oil to better maintain its temperature.
See the above two tips in action.

3. Lay items into the oil away from you.

The last thing you want is a splash back from The Ultimate Crispy Fried Chicken batter—this tip is particularly helpful for larger items with wetter batters. Avoid the hazard entirely by laying the pieces of food away from you as you put them in the oil. That way, if there is a bit of splatter, it’s going in the right direction. (And for added safety, try using a splatter screen.)