The Best Deep-Fried Walleye Ever

Chef Lukas LeafThere’s nothing worse than eating deep-fried walleye that’s oil-saturated, mushy and nearly raw inside.

It’s a common mistake – not preheating your cooking oil to the assigned temperature – and one you should avoid at all costs. But by following a few tips, you too can master the fine art of deep-frying fish – walleyes, sunfish, pike and more.

We used a wok to deep-fry our walleye fillets. Woks are deep enough and conduct and retain heat extremely well. But any large (four inches or deeper), heavy-bottomed cookware will do the trick. You don’t need a deep-frier to deep-fry fish.

By keeping the oil temperature stable at 375 degrees, our fillets, dressed in blue cornmeal batter, were cooked to crispy, golden-brown perfection, the white flesh inside moist and succulent.

As a bonus, we whipped up a simple yet tasty tartar sauce, the perfect accompaniment to our perfectly deep-fried walleye fillets. Enjoy.

1. To properly deep-fry fish, quality cookware is mandatory. A wok is deep enough and conducts and retains heat extremely well throughout the frying process. Monitor the oil temperature with a candy/fry thermometer.
2. Tartar sauce should be prepared well in advance (from two to 24 hours) of any fish fry so the ingredients can "marry" together. Make sure you have all your ingredients accounted for and prepped  before assembling.
3. Homemade tartar sauce is the perfect accompaniment to deep fried fish. It's simple to make and tastes far better than store-bought varieties.
4. Use a razor-sharp knife to fillet all fish – walleye, pike,  perch, sunfish, etc.
For deep-frying, cut your fillets into uniform-size chunks so they fry evenly. 

5. Beer batter is a fish fry staple. It's even better with blue cornmeal, which retains its crispy deep fried texture well. Routinely stir the batter because the cornmeal will settle to the bottom of the bowl. We also have a crispy tempura walleye recipe for you to try.

6. Two- to three-inch walleye fillets should take no more than four minutes to deep fry. Be sure to maintain the oil temperature at 375 degrees throughout the cooking process. Vegetable, peanut and canola all work well for deep-frying.
7. The finished product. Deep-frying is a great way to prepare a lot of fish quickly for a lot of people. The goal: fillets that are golden brown and crispy on the outside and moist and succulent on the inside. Do not overcook.

Deep-Frying Tips

  • Cook fish at 375 degrees; use a fry/candy thermometer to monitor temperature
  • Thoroughly dry each fillet before frying; oil and water don't mix
  • Gently lay a fillet in the oil. If the fillet begins to bubble, the oil is ready. If it sinks, raise the temperature.
  • The oil temperature will decrease as fillets are added. The goal is to maintain the oil temperature, and adding too many at once will cause it to plunge.
  • Closely watch the fillets and turn them occasionally so they can brown and crisp on all sides; do not overcook.
  • Remove fillets when they're golden brown and sprinkle with salt or other seasonings. Let them dry on newspaper, paper bags or a rack; do not set fillets on paper towels, at least for very long; they get soggy and will make your fillets soggy, too.
Categories: Cooking, Featured, Fish, Recipes, Walleye

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