Air-Fryer Beer-Battered Fish
We love a crispy piece of beer-battered fish, but we don't always want the calories that come with deep-frying. So we turned to the air fryer to develop a recipe with all the characteristics of the traditional dish—a light, crunchy-yet-airy exterior and a flaky, luscious interior. The secret to this recipe is in the method. Traditionally, the fish would go into a wet beer batter and then cook in hot oil. But in order to work in the air fryer, we needed to make some important changes. Get all the step-by-steps below, and learn how we tweaked the process, from the dredge to the oil, to create crispy air-fried fish.
The Double Dredge
First, the pieces of fish are lightly dusted with seasoned flour to give the beer batter something to stick to—the flesh itself is too slick for the wet mixture to adhere. After a dip in the batter, it's dredged again in the flour. This serves two main purposes: First, adding flour on the exterior of the battered fish makes it easier to handle and transfer to the air fryer (without it, all the batter would make a mess in the air-fryer basket). And second, the flour is also dry enough to absorb the cooking spray (skipping this step means the cooking spray will slide off the wet batter).
Why beer in the batter? It provides that quintessential fish-and-chips tang, but we're mostly after the CO2 it contains. As the fish cooks, the bubbles in the beer froth and suspend in the flour, providing a light and crispy texture. Go for a mellow pale-colored beer (like a lager or amber) as stronger porters or stouts can overwhelm the fish.
There's no easier way to apply oil to the exterior of the battered fish than cooking spray. Simply spray the fish with it until no dry flour remains. Using cooking spray during the dredging and air-frying process saves about 150 calories per serving compared to deep-frying.
A mild white fish, like cod, pollock or haddock, is ideal for this recipe. They have a meaty yet flaky texture and tend to stay moist when cooked. It's important to use pieces that are about 1 inch thick—any thinner and they'll dry out before the batter turns golden brown, any thicker and they'll take too long to cook properly. And make sure the pieces of fish are patted very, very dry before you batter and air-fry them, otherwise you won't get the crispy results you want.
The full recipe fits in an 8-quart or larger air fryer. If using a smaller air fryer, prep the fish through Step 3, then proceed with Step 4 (dipping in the wet batter and cooking) in 2 batches.