Should battered fish have the skin on or off?

On this National Fish and Chip Day, also known as the most important event on the social calendar, we must ask the big questions.

One such big question: Should battered fish still have its skin on? Or should it be delicately removed as part of the boning process?

According to the very animated reaction from our colleagues who grew up in Leeds, this is quite the contentious area – and there appears to be a real north/south divide.

From calling up a bunch of fish and chip shops around the UK, we’ve discovered that in general, London-based fish and chip shops leave the skin on the fish before battering it, while those up north tend to remove it.

As a Londoner (please, don’t throw things at me), I personally do not understand why this debate sparks such passion, as I’ve genuinely never noticed whether or not battered fish has its skin intact. The batter really does most of the work on the taste side of things.

But if you ask someone from up north, they will very likely tell you of the gloriously de-skinned fish from their hometown, then rant at length about how London chippies ‘can’t be bothered’ to remove all the skin from their fish.

To delve into this pressing issue further, we asked some fish and chip experts from both sides of this cultural divide.

Fancy chefs told us that the skin should remain on the fish, even when battered.

James Sommerin, owner of Michelin-starred Restaurant James Sommerin tells ‘I leave the skin on because it has such great flavour but it has to be treated properly – descaled and cleaned!’

Paul Askew, Chef Patron of The Art School in Liverpool (a pleasing midpoint in this north/south divide) adds: ‘Although a lot of people don’t eat the skin of a fish, there’s great flavour and nutrients in there.’

Representing team London is the owner of Toff’s of Muswell Hill, who told us that they keep the skin on, which they describe as ‘a very London thing to do.’ They will remove the skin at request, though, which is nice of them.

Ural Hassan, Director of Poppie’s, tells us: ‘We fry with skin on for a few reasons. Firstly, we believe there is great flavour between the skin and flakes of the fish which is lost if the skin is taken off.

‘Secondly, the natural oils from the skin are very high in omega 3s.

‘And finally, the fish can break apart easily if it has no skin!’

Fish and chip shop owners further north thought we were absolutely mad for asking about the skin on fish, so certain were they that the skin must be removed.

At JR’s Yorkshire Fish & Chips, we were told that the skin is entirely removed before frying. When asked why this is, the owner responded: ‘Don’t know really.’ Fair enough.

Thompsons, in York, removes the skin from the fish, as does Whiteheads Fish and Chips in Hornsea.

Vivek Singh, Head chef and founder of Cinnamon Collection, says it really doesn’t make a difference.

‘The batter coats everything anyway, Vivek tells us. ‘The skin doesn’t add any more interest or flavour. Thin skinned fish like cod, haddock are cooked with skin on for speed/ease while expensive fish like halibut are cooked without skin as you don’t want to have the black skin.’

Unfortunately this isn’t a matter we can resolve with haste. It’s true that no harm will come to you from eating fish skin, as long as it’s cleaned and properly descaled, so there’s no official need to remove it.

It comes down to preference, and whether you’re particularly perturbed by the presence of skin in your fish and chips.

If you have an intense hatred of the stuff, you’re better off heading to a chippy up north or putting in a special request.

But we wouldn’t dare to declare one way or the other the ‘correct’ preparation for battered fish. That’s up to you to decide.

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