How To Make A Better Homemade Fried Fish Sandwich

There are some things in life that just sound like they wouldn't work. One of those things is McDonald's Filet-O-Fish, a breaded, fried fish "square" topped with American cheese and tartar sauce on a standard squishy white bun. Doesn't sound great, does it? But that's where you're wrong! This little sammy is actually a delicious piece of nostalgia from my childhood, and it's surprisingly good.

Now, that is not to say that this formula can't be improved. It can be, and that's what we're going to do here today. Still, there are only a few ingredients, so only a couple of changes need to be made to take this to a serious next level. Here's how McDonald's does it vs. how I'm telling you to do it. Follow these instructions to fried fish sandwich bliss.

Processed square fish stick patty vs. fresh cod or haddock fillets with double-dredged spicy breading

Top-quality fish = top-quality sandwich. We're also going to double dredge it for some extra crunch. And spicy breading because I like spicy things.

American cheese vs. smoked Gouda

Cheese and fish is tricky — a lot of people won't even go down that road. But the American cheese works on the original, so we're keeping some cheese here. I went with smoked Gouda to give it a more complex flavor and just a little bit of smokiness. American cheese swaps in nicely for the smoked Gouda — feel free to use either.

Tartar sauce vs. spicy tartar sauce

Tartar sauce belongs on this sandwich, but why not make it spicy so it can keep up with the spicy breading? Why not, indeed.

Standard bun vs. standard bun

No change necessary on this one. Sometimes a plain white bun is just right.

How To Make A Better Homemade Fried Fish Sandwich
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  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 2 pounds cod or haddock
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons diced pickles
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons spicy brown mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Crystal hot sauce (or your favorite hot sauce)
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • salt
  • 8 slices smoked gouda
  • 8 plain white hamburger buns
  • 3-4 cups vegetable oil
  1. Mix all tartar sauce ingredients, cover and set aside until ready to use.
  2. Cut your fish into 8 sandwich-sized fillets.
  3. Get 3 bowls; put the egg wash in one, the flour in one and the breadcrumbs in one.
  4. Split your seasonings evenly between the flour and the breadcrumbs, then sprinkle a little salt in both.
  5. Add your oil to a Dutch oven or other large heavy-bottomed cooking vessel, and heat oil to about 350°F.
  6. While oil is getting hot, dredge the fish fillets in flour, egg wash, breadcrumbs, egg wash, bread crumbs.
  7. Let fish sit for 10 minutes to let the breading set and help it adhere.
  8. Once oil is hot, cook fillets 2-3 at a time (depending on how much space you have; don't overcrowd) for about 4-5 minutes, flipping at least once in the middle, and once again at the end before removing.
  9. Remove from oil and set on a wire rack or a paper-towel lined dish or tray.
  10. Dab oil from filets, and place a slice of cheese on top right away while everything is hot so the cheese melts.
  11. Put some tartar sauce on the bun, toss on the fish, and enjoy one of the best fish sandwiches you've ever had.
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