Some of life’s most memorable meals are those prepared and eaten around a campfire. After a long day of floating, hiking or fishing, nothing beats cooking the day’s catch on an iron skillet. Cast iron skillets can stand high heat temperatures and are a preferred method for frying fish. Cast iron skillets are perfect for fish fries on stove tops, on a grill top or over a campfire along the river’s edge. Here are some tips and recipes for having the best fish fry ever in the great outdoors.
Be sure to use local seasoned, dry wood to create a fire that burns cleanly and stays hot. Most public campgrounds supply firewood but it’s a good idea to call ahead to be sure. Do not bring wood or coals from home. Once your firewood is burning strong place coals on the fire and wait for them to turn mostly white. Stack your coals by raking them so that you can achieve the size flame you want. Then position your cooking grill on either rocks or green logs over the coals. Take your cleaned fish and fillet it. Be sure to dry each fillet with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Batter sticks better on dry fish.
A cast iron skillet, a hot fire, some Ziploc bags, fresh caught fish and simple ingredients are all you need to enjoy your fresh catch of the day.
In a small bowl, combine ¾ cup beer and 1 cup buttermilk pancake mix with a fork. Whip the batter until it’s smooth with a heavy cream consistency. Dip your fish fillets into the beer batter. Next, heat oil, Crisco or lard in a skillet on your campfire grill before placing the fillets in the skillet. Fry the fillets until they are golden brown. This can take up to 4 minutes or longer. Be sure to bring some parsley, dill or lemon slices for garnish and a jar of your favorite tartar sauce.
Another fish fry recipe that can be prepared on a cast iron skillet requires two gallon size Ziploc freezer bags, tongs and a hot fire. Place 1 and ½ cups of flour in one of the bags and place your fillets in the bag. Zip the bag closed and shake. Then combine 2 cups dry pancake mix, 2 cups club soda, 1 TBSP onion powder, 1 TBSP Lowry’s seasoned salt in the other bag. Dip the fillets into this mixture and then place them on a heated skillet for about 4 minutes or longer, depending on how brown you like it. Serve your fish with French fries and steamed vegetables from your favorite aluminum foil pack recipes and tartar sauce.
A third fish fry recipe can be partially prepared before you leave home for your float trip. Mix 1 and ½ cups fine ground cornmeal, 1 heaping TBSP paprika, 1 level TBSP black pepper, 1 level TBSP garlic powder and 1 TSP salt in a Ziploc bag. Once your campfire is going, fillet your fish, pat them dry and roll each fillet in the cornmeal mixture. Heat a brick of Crisco shortening (butter flavor) in the pan before frying your cornmeal coated fillets.