Amidst all the excitement is an age-old question – how much fish per person for fish fry is necessary?
The classic fish fry is something that seems to grow in popularity every spring.
As millions of people celebrate the Lenten season, fish fries become more prominent across the country.
They’re delicious, so why not?
You should buy between a half-pound and a pound of raw fish per person. Once the fish is cooked, you can expect to serve 3.5-7 ounces per person.
If you don’t know what a fish fry is, prepare yourself for a trip into the pure deliciousness of classic Americana.
A fish fry is a communal meal that revolves around, as its name suggests, fried fish.
Typically, cooks will prepare fish in batter or breading, deep fry it, then serve it alongside sides like french fries.
There are many regional variants. In New England, fish is dipped in batter and served alongside french fries and lemon slices.
The Calabash-style fish fries of the Carolinas soak either fish filets or whole fish in buttermilk, dredge the fish in cornflour or cornmeal mix, and then serve sides of cornbread, hush puppies, or coleslaw.
Fish fries are popular in towns with strong ties to Catholicism, Lutheranism, and other Christian religions that fast from meat during Lent (the season leading up to Easter).
However, the tradition is not limited to Christianity.
After all, who doesn’t love crispy fried fish?
A fish fry is typically meant to serve a large number of people.
Whether you’re hosting one for your family and friends or running an event for your town, it can be overwhelming to decide much fish to serve.
Since a fish fry is often a community feast, people will come with big appetites, and it’s essential to keep them satisfied!
There isn’t an exact science for knowing how much someone will eat at a fish fry, but the average person will have one or two plates’ worth of food.
That typically equates to one or two fish filets per person.
That calculation can be a little complicated since it’s common for fish fries to slice fish into strips or tenders. Instead of focusing on filets, think about serving size.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture. a single serving of fish tends to be around 3.5 ounces.
Note: Conveniently, most fish filets are between 3 and 5 ounces in weight, so one filet using equals one serving.
That said, the nature of a fish fry is that people tend to eat more than they ordinarily would.
It’s a special event, after all.
You shouldn’t expect people to carry around their scales to measure exactly 3.5 ounces of fish – they might go for larger servings or multiple helpings.
As a result, when you’re calculating how much fish per person for a fish fry, serving size should be a guide, though not necessarily your final number.
Calculating how many pieces of fried fish per person can get complicated if you’re not using whole filets.
If you’re doing the latter, the important thing is to stay consistent on the size of your fish strips so that you can serve an appropriate amount to each person.
That way, you can just measure it against the serving size for fish filets.
For example, you might want to cut filets in half, ending up with fried fish strips that are each about 1.7 ounces.
Keeping in mind that most people will eat between 3.5 to 7 ounces of fish at a fish fry, this would mean you’d serve between two and four strips per person.
How Much Raw Fish vs. How Much Fish Per Person for Fish Fry?
Note: Some fish fries serve fish whole, which makes things simpler when you assume each person will eat one whole fried fish.
Holding a fish fry is relatively easy, but there’s a wrinkle that often trips up would-be fish frying experts – the size of raw fish versus cooked fish.
That might sound odd. Could it make that much of a difference?
In short, yes.
If you’ve ever cooked fish on the grill or the stovetop, you know that in the first ten seconds after a fish filet hits a hot surface, it shrinks dramatically.
This is because a good portion of a fish’s weight is water, which cooks off almost immediately in a high-temperature environment.
Note: A fish filet will lose about a fourth of its size when it cooks.
Because of this weight reduction and dramatic change in size, you’ll need to buy more raw fish to get the amount of cooked fish you want.
For example, if you want to serve 3.5 ounces of fried fish, you’d have to get about 4.6 ounces of raw fish.
Looking back at serving sizes, if you expect to serve between 3.5 and 7 ounces of fried fish per person, you should be buying between half a pound (8 ounces) and a pound (16 ounces) of raw fish per person.
While the guidelines above are reliable for most fish fries, your event may have some sort of special circumstance that will affect your calculations.
Cost of the Fish
As special as a fish fry is, you should be kind to your wallet. Certain fish can be more expensive in certain areas or under certain circumstances.
For example, while a red drum is an excellent option for a fish fry, it’s much more expensive in the spring than in the summer.
In those cases, it might exceed your budget to buy a pound of fish per person.
You can scale down the amount you buy and set the expectation that each person will eat just one serving.
Note: You can offset fish costs by buying so-called “trash fish” that are extras from fishermen looking for salmon, tuna, or swordfish.
Number of People in Attendance
A related concern is the number of people you’ll have in attendance at your fish fry.
Your calculations might change depending on the size of your crowd.
If you expect your fish fry to be a small family affair, it’s easy to ask each person how much fish they want. Some people are content with less than one serving, and some might want more than two.
You can incorporate that into your expectations simply by asking.
On the other hand, if you’re cooking for hundreds of people at a social function or public event, you might find your budget stretched thin.
If there’s a critical mass of people asking for fried fish, you might have to limit each person to a serving size of 3.5 to 5 ounces.
What Is the Best Fish to Eat at a Fish Fry?
There’s a wide array of options when selecting the fish for your fish fry. The choices are often geographical.
The classic Southern fried fish is catfish, while cod or haddock are more typical in New England and the Midwest.
The key is to get a fish that has a light flavor and isn’t especially oily.
That means that tuna, salmon, and swordfish are out, but drum, speckled sea trout, croaker, and sea mullet are all in!
What Equipment Do You Need for a Fish Fry?
You don’t need a massive collection of equipment to fry fish.
The essentials are a deep fryer, an apron, a set of oven mitts, a large amount of oil (namely oil with a high smoke point, like vegetable, canola, peanut, or avocado), and serving utensils.
Figuring out how much fish per person for a fish fry can make your life a lot easier when it comes time to turn on the deep fryer.
Remember that the magic number is 3.5 ounces and move forward from there.
If you’re still concerned about having enough fish on hand, always err on the side of caution. It’s better to have too much than not enough for your hungry guests.