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Southern Culinary Arts: Holle's Buttermilk Fried Fish

Culinary arts

Welcome to my online cooking school! Today's lesson, a specialty of Southern food, is the culinary art of frying fresh fish.

Folks in the South love fishing, and we have some great fish recipes. Well, allow me to narrow that down: folks in South Georgia love fishing! We have ponds and lakes everywhere. Since much of the area is rural, there are numerous farms, and the thirsty crops often require irrigation in the hot summers. Just about every farmer needs a pond or two – or an irrigation pit. No good Southerner worth his salt is going to let a perfectly good body of water go to waste, so the ponds get stocked with fish – channel catfish, largemouth bass, bluegill, and shellcracker. Some pond owners also place a relatively new fish variety in their waters – the Georgia Giant Hybrid Bream. It’s like a bluegill on steroids! In addition to the stocked fish, “wild” species also find their way into the water systems. One such fish is the crappie, or the white perch or speckled perch. The eggs are often delivered for free by birds.

Of course, Southerners don’t raise all these fish just to look at. They raise them to catch and eat! All the fish species mentioned thus far are tasty table fare. The bass and white perch are often large enough to fillet, and large catfish are usually steaked, crosswise. The bream are usually cooked whole – well, after the head and entrails have been removed, of course. Fried fish is a big part of Southern culinary arts.

How do we Southerners fry fish? If you ask a dozen of us, you’ll get just that many answers. I’ll share my method with you. This works for any lean fish – fresh or saltwater.

What you’ll need:

Cleaned whole fish or fish fillets


Peanut oil

Salt and pepper

Cajun seasoning (optional)




Wash fish thoroughly in cool water. Pat dry. Salt and pepper fish. If you’re using whole fish, salt and pepper the body cavity, too. If you like spicier fish, sprinkle them with Cajun seasoning, too. After seasoning, allow the fish to rest at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes.

Next, dip the fish in the buttermilk.

Place the flour and/or meal into a large paper bag. Add salt and pepper to the flour, along with the Cajun mix, if you’re using it.

Now here’s where it gets confusing. Most Southerners use all cornmeal to coat fish for frying. I’ve found, however, that cornmeal can get very greasy. Also, because it’s not as fine as flour, it doesn’t stick to the fish as well. It’s sometimes grainy, too. For this reason, I like to use half flour and half meal. Other cooks might try to get you to use cracker meal, but I don't much care for it because most of is too coarse. Some of those boxed fish-fry coatings are pretty good, I must admit, but give plain ol' flour and meal a try first.

Now, for the oil. I use peanut oil because it has a higher flash point and because it adds a nice taste to fish. The oil should be heated to about 360 degrees and maintained at or very near that temperature for the duration of the cooking.

Once the fish have been coated with the flour mixture, shake each piece to remove excess flour. Place the fish in the pan or fish cooker. When it’s golden brown on one side, turn it over. When done, remove the fish to a platter lined with several thicknesses or paper towels.

The fish should be golden brown on the outside and tender and flaky inside - a true culinary art!

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Fried fish is a favorite of Southern culinary arts!

Fried fish is a favorite of Southern culinary arts!


Susan from India on April 19, 2013:

Another great recipe of yours. It looks simply mouth watering. Thanks habee for sharing this delicious recipe.

sweetie1 from India on July 05, 2011:

Hi hubee this looks tasty receipe. would love to try it some day

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 09, 2010:

Funny, esatchel! Thanks for the visit!

PDGreenwell from Kentucky on June 08, 2010:

Sounds delicious. My mom always 1/2 and 1/2 her breading. I guess for the same reason you do, i just never asked!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on June 05, 2010:

Anamika - mine, too!

Anamika S Jain from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India on June 03, 2010:

This is one of my favorites!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 26, 2010:

See Pam, we Southern girls know how to cook! lol

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 26, 2010:

Habee, I have always used the flour and corn meal mixture for the same reason. I think the peanut oil is a good idea. Than is what we use in our deepfryer but I haven't used it with fish. I will next time. Good hub.

chubbycook from United States on December 31, 2009:

Fish is good for you... sounds like it can taste good too. I'll give it a try. Thanks

Money Glitch from Texas on December 31, 2009:

Yes, yes, yes you got to have buttermilk, corn meal, and a good seasoned fryer to make this dish come out just right. LOL, my mouth is watering now for some fish...:)

Habee, you are my kind of Southern cook :)

K Partin from Garden City, Michigan on December 30, 2009:

OMG! I love fish and will try this. I hope it comes out as good as yours in the picture. Thanks for this K.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 30, 2009:

I think you'll like the mix. Let me know. thanks for dropping in!

ehern33 on December 30, 2009:

That sound really good and you are right, corn meal does tend to soak up more oil. Will give 1/2 and 1/2 a try and see how that works out. Well, getting hungry so of to lunch..

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 30, 2009:

Ah, HH - another fish lover, eh?

Howdy, Ethel!

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on December 30, 2009:

Hmm more yummy food

Hello, hello, from London, UK on December 30, 2009:

Now, habee, you are coming to my favourite subject. Thank you very much. You will smell it soon coming from my kitchen.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 29, 2009:

MP, thanks for stopping by!

RN, 4 bucks for that?? Wow, I guess it's cheaper here because of all the peanuts! You are too funny, girl! Luv ya back!!

Barbara Bethard from Tucson, Az on December 29, 2009:

shore nuff is :) my baby girl, going to culinary art 2nd yr in Jan...she is soooo upset becaue here, in our heart home of Tucson cause peanut oil for llike one little bitty bottle 4 bucks/I kid you not!! all those huge bottle for a buck at the dollar store and here we are, our once a month baby girl secial frie cicken and 4 bucks for the il....costs as much as the chicken!!! but omg is it sooooo orth all my clogged arteries:)

who said that?

not the RN/surely not...must have been a slip f the soutern persona INSIDE the RN :)

love to you habee!!!

mpurcell10 from Arkansas on December 29, 2009:

Thanks for sharing. Sounds delicious.

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