Frying Pan Fish Fry

When it comes to frying fish at camp, whether camp is as tame as a state park campground or as wild as an Alaskan river, I've always thought less is more.

By that I mean using the least amount of stuff and as little oil as possible, to keep cleanup and storage simple and straightforward. With this approach, deep-frying is out, and pan-frying is in.

It's easy, nearly foolproof, and results in far less mess and cleaning fuss when the bones are picked clean. Oh yeah, and pan-frying either whole fish or fillets results in some of the best camp grub on the planet. Here's how.

Step one
You'll need a fire or camp stove and a frying pan (the heavier the better, but I've made do with even lightweight backpacking pans). Other ingredients: peanut oil, your favorite seafood breading, Cajun spice shake or Old Bay and that's it.

Step two
Clean the fish, and dry with paper towels. Score each fish by cutting vertically through the flesh, at a 90-degree angle to the backbone, all the way to the spine. Make three or four cuts an inch or two apart. This helps the seasoning and batter work its way deep into the fish and aids in cooking the fish all the way through.

Step three
Give each fish a generous dose of seasoning, on each side, then roll in the breading mix. Shake the excess batter from the fish.

Step four
Pour enough oil into the pan so the oil level will rise midway up the side of the fish when you put them in the pan. It's an inexact measurement, yes. But you want more than a coating on the pan bottom, but not so much that the oil pools onto the top of the fish while cooking. Heat the oil until small water drops spatter like crazy.

Step five
Ease the fish into the oil, skin side down. Use a spatula to check on the progress. When you have a golden brown crust, flip once. The fish is done when it flakes with a fork. Add a bit more oil to the pan, and reload with the next round. Believe me: You'll want seconds.

Last tip: If you're on the trail, you can reuse fish-frying oil several times. Let it cool, then strain through a coffee filter.