Fish and chips is a classic British dish consisting of fried fish served with chips (french fries). The type of fish used can have a big impact on the flavor and quality of the dish. When selecting fish for fish and chips, there are a few key factors to consider including taste, texture, availability, sustainability, and cost. In this article, we will explore some of the most popular fish choices for fish and chips and compare their pros and cons to determine the tastiest option.
What Makes a Fish Tasty for Fish and Chips?
The perfect fish for fish and chips should have these qualities:
- Delicate, mild flavor that won’t overpower the dish
- Flaky, moist texture that stays tender when fried
- Abundant flesh with few small bones
- Holds up well to frying without falling apart
- Readily available and affordably priced
- Caught or farmed sustainably
Keep these criteria in mind as we explore the top contenders for best fish and chips fish.
Cod is hands down the most traditional and popular fish for fish and chips in the UK. Its fame in this dish dates back to the 19th century when trawlermen in the North Sea began using their abundant catches of cod to fry up with chips.
Some key advantages of cod for fish and chips:
- Delicate, flaky texture.
- Mild, slightly sweet flavor.
- Stands up well to frying.
- Widely available.
- Reasonably priced.
Atlantic cod stocks are still relatively healthy making it a sustainable choice. Pacific cod stocks are more depleted but improving under sustainable management.
The main downside of cod is that it can sometimes lack flavor compared to bolder fish choices. But it remains a tried and true choice for traditional fish and chips.
Haddock is another top pick for fish and chips. It is very similar to cod but a bit less widely available and more expensive.
Pros of haddock:
- Flaky, fine textured meat.
- Sweeter, more robust flavor than cod.
- Holds up well to frying.
- Few small bones.
Haddock is more abundant and sustainably fished in the North Atlantic than Pacific regions. Its richer taste makes it a favorite for fish and chips connoisseurs.
Plaice is a common flatfish that makes for great fish and chips. Advantages include:
- Delicate, moist texture.
- Mild, slightly salty flavor.
- Few small bones.
- Relatively inexpensive.
European and American plaice stocks are fairly healthy and replenishing well under management programs.
The main drawback is that smaller plaice fillets can break apart easily when fried so they require more delicate handling. But overall plaice is an excellent choice for fish and chips.
Halibut makes for a very tasty, meaty fish and chips. Pros:
- Firm, steak-like texture.
- Mildly sweet, buttery flavor.
- Holds up very well to frying.
- No small bones.
However, halibut is not very accessible or affordable for most. And Pacific halibut fisheries are struggling with overfishing so it raises sustainability concerns. But for a special occasion fish and chips, halibut is hard to beat.
European hake is another sustainable candidate for delicious fish and chips. Benefits include:
- Flaky, moist meat when fried.
- Slightly savory flavor.
- Abundant supply.
- Reasonable price.
The only limitations are its milder flavor and softer flesh that requires more careful frying. Overall an excellent choice that’s becoming more popular.
Pollock is a cod family fish that works well for fish and chips:
- Flaky, white flesh.
- Mild, clean taste.
- Low cost.
- Sustainable fisheries.
The main issue is pollock’s softer flesh can become overly soft when fried. But it’s still a tasty, affordable fish option.
Farmed tilapia is a widely available, inexpensive choice. Benefits are:
- Mild, neutral flavor.
- Firm, meaty texture.
- Low cost.
Downsides are tilapia’s lack of flavor and questions over the sustainability of some farming practices. But it fries up nicely and absorbs the flavor of the chips.
Salmon is an oily fish that brings its own distinct flavor to fish and chips:
- Rich, fatty texture.
- Robust, savory salmon flavor.
But overfishing is a concern with some Pacific salmon species. And the strong salmon flavor may overpower the dish for some. An interesting alternative for fish and chips lovers looking for something different.
In different regions, other fish options are popular for fish and chips including:
These all have their pros and cons. Locally available species are a great sustainable choice and support smaller fisheries.
Comparing the Contenders
To summarize the top fish choices, here is a comparison table:
This comparison shows some of the tradeoffs between the different fish options for factors like taste, cost, availability, and sustainability.
So which fish makes the tastiest fish and chips? There’s no unanimous consensus, as people’s preferences vary. But a few standout choices emerge:
- Cod – The classic choice that’s hard to beat for its tender, flaky texture and mild flavor that doesn’t overwhelm the dish.
- Haddock – Brings a sweeter, more robust flavor while still keeping the tender texture.
- Plaice – A delicate, moist flatfish that makes great fish and chips at a reasonable cost.
- Hake – An up and coming choice with a tasty flavor, flaky texture, and sustainable fishery.
The type of fish can make a big difference to the fish and chips dining experience. The best advice is to choose a responsibly sourced fish that is fresh and suits your taste preferences. And then enjoy that piping hot, golden fried fish alongside crisp and salty chips for the quintessential British meal.