All About Fish Sticks
Have you ever looked at the ingredient list on a package of fish sticks? There are so many unpronounceable ingredients that it's a little disturbing. And often the first ingredient in minced fish. (There are some good brands to check out at the bottom of the post.)
That means it has been pressed into stick shapes and held together with some kind of binding agent. I don't know about you, but I think any home cook can do better for their family than store-bought fish sticks.
Use a mild fish like pollock or haddock for the kids, and then offer a couple of dipping sauces - one the kids will enjoy and another for the adults. Whitefish is very economical to buy, and sustainable sources are also easy to find. Make a whole bunch of fish sticks at one time, and freeze some for another meal or two.
Here's an excellent opportunity to break out your FoodSaver to freeze the fish.
Let's Look Closer at Fish Sticks
Fish sticks are a popular and convenient food item that has been a staple in many households for generations. Made from pieces of fish that are breaded and deep fried, these sticks are quick and easy to prepare and are a great source of protein.
Fish sticks are usually made from white fish such as cod, haddock, or pollock and are often served as a main dish or as a side dish with french fries, tartar sauce, or coleslaw.
Fish sticks have a long history, with the first commercial fish sticks produced by the Gorton’s company in the 1920s. Initially, these sticks were made from a mixture of groundfish and other ingredients, but as technology advanced, it became possible to produce fish sticks using larger pieces of fish. Today, fish sticks are made using various methods, including battering and breading, to produce a crispy, delicious, and appealing exterior.
One of the most significant benefits of fish sticks is their versatility. They can be cooked in various ways, including deep frying, baking, or grilling. They can also be served with dipping sauces, making them perfect for those who like to experiment with different flavors. Whether served as a main dish or as a snack, fish sticks are a convenient and delicious food that people of all ages enjoy.
In recent years, there has been a growing concern about the fishing industry's sustainability and its impact on the environment. As a result, many consumers are now looking for sustainable fish stick options made from fish that is responsibly sourced and produced using environmentally friendly methods. Companies like Gorton's have responded to this demand by offering products made from sustainably sourced fish and packaged using eco-friendly materials.
How Healthy Are Fish Sticks?
Fish sticks can be a part of a healthy diet, but it's important to consider their nutritional content. On the one hand, fish is a good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and various vitamins and minerals necessary for good health.
On the other hand, many commercially produced fish sticks are high in calories, sodium, and unhealthy fats like trans fats, as they are often breaded and deep fried.
In general, consuming fish as part of a balanced diet is considered healthy and beneficial for children as they are still growing and developing. However, it's essential to be mindful of the type of fish and preparation method used. For example, opting for baked or grilled fish sticks made with responsibly sourced fish, and serving them with a side of vegetables, can help ensure that they are a nutritious addition to a meal.
It's also important to keep portion sizes in mind. Children and adults should eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of foods from all food groups and not rely on any one food item as a primary source of nutrition.
What Is the Most Common Fish Used in Fish Sticks?
The most common type of fish used in fish sticks is pollock. Pollock is a white fish readily available with a mild flavor, making it a popular choice for fish sticks.
Other types of fish that are sometimes used include cod, haddock, and other white fish species. The choice of fish depends on the manufacturer and the market being targeted.
For example, some manufacturers might use higher-end fish like cod for their premium products, while others might use pollock for their budget-friendly options. Regardless of the type of fish used, it's important to choose fish sticks made from responsibly sourced fish to ensure that they are sustainable and healthy for you and the environment.
What Are They Coated With?
Fish sticks are usually coated with a mixture of breadcrumbs and seasonings. The breading mixture is designed to create a crispy exterior when the fish sticks are cooked and to add flavor.
The specific ingredients in the breading mixture can vary depending on the manufacturer and the desired flavor profile but typically include breadcrumbs, flour, spices, and seasonings. Some fish sticks might also be coated with batter before being breaded to create an even crispier exterior.
The batter can vary, but it commonly includes ingredients like eggs, milk, and flour. The specific ingredients and preparation method used can affect the flavor, texture, and overall quality of the fish sticks, so it's crucial to choose a high-quality product for the best taste and nutrition.
Ways to Cook
- Deep frying - This is the most common method for cooking fish sticks, as it creates a crispy exterior and seals in the flavor. To deep fry fish sticks, heat oil in a deep saucepan or deep fryer to 375°F and cook the fish sticks for about 3-5 minutes or until golden brown.
- Baking is a healthier alternative to deep frying, as it eliminates the need for added oil. To bake fish sticks, place them on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 425°F for 10-15 minutes, until crispy and golden brown.
- Grilling - Grilling is another healthy alternative to deep frying, adding a smoky flavor to the fish sticks. To grill fish sticks, brush them with oil and grill over medium-high heat for about 4-5 minutes per side or until cooked through and crispy.
- Broiling - Broiling is a quick and easy way to cook fish sticks and is ideal for those who want a crispy exterior without the added oil from frying. To broil fish sticks, place them on a baking sheet and broil for about 4-5 minutes per side until crispy and golden brown.
Regardless of the cooking method used, it's important to cook fish sticks until they are fully cooked and golden brown to ensure that they are safe to eat and have the best flavor and texture.
Should You Defrost Commercial Fish Sticks Before Cooking?
Yes, it is recommended to defrost fish sticks before cooking, but please read the cooking directions on the package. If fish sticks are cooked in a frozen state, they will not cook evenly and could become overcooked on the outside while still being undercooked on the inside. This can result in dry and tough fish sticks that are not enjoyable to eat.
To properly defrost fish sticks, place them in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight, or use the defrost setting on your microwave. After defrosting, pat the fish sticks dry with paper towels to remove any excess moisture, which will help them cook more evenly and become crispy when cooked.
Is There Mercury in Them?
Some types of fish can contain mercury, a toxic heavy metal. The amount of mercury in fish depends on several factors, including the type of fish, its size, and where it was caught.
In general, larger, predatory fish such as tuna, swordfish, and shark tend to have higher levels of mercury than smaller, non-predatory fish like pollock, which is a common ingredient in fish sticks. However, the amount of mercury in any given fish stick can also depend on the fish's source and the processing and preparation method used to make the fish sticks.
To minimize your mercury exposure, it's recommended to choose fish sticks made from lower-mercury fish, such as pollock, and to limit your consumption of high-mercury fish, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have young children. Also, it's important to choose fish sticks made from sustainably sourced fish, as this can help reduce your impact on the environment and ensure that the fish sticks are healthy and safe to eat.
Best Condiment To Serve With?
The best condiment for fish sticks depends on personal preference. Some popular options include:
- Tartar sauce - This classic condiment is a blend of mayonnaise, pickles, lemon juice, and seasonings and provides a tangy, creamy contrast to the crispy fish sticks.
- Ketchup - This sweet and slightly tangy condiment is a staple for many people and is a simple and classic choice for fish sticks.
- Mustard - A classic condiment, mustard adds a tangy, spicy flavor to fish sticks and is especially good when paired with a honey mustard sauce.
- Sweet chili sauce - A popular Asian-style sauce, sweet chili sauce adds a sweet, slightly spicy flavor to fish sticks and can be an excellent choice for those who like a little heat.
- Remoulade - A classic French condiment, remoulade is a mayonnaise-based sauce with a tangy, spicy flavor. It is often used as a dipping sauce for seafood, including fish sticks.
Ultimately, the best condiment for fish sticks depends on personal preference and what you're in the mood for. Try experimenting with different sauces to find your favorite.
2022 Commercial Fish Sticks Rankings
I looked at several online culinary sites that rank food ingredients, and here's what I found:
America’s Home Kitchen 2022 Rankings
Gorton’s Crunchy Breaded Fish Sticks
Gorton’s Original Crunchy Breaded Fish Sticks
Van de Kamp’s Fish Sticks
The Mercury News
Trader Joe’s Lightly Breaded Fish Sticks
365 Whole Foods Breaded Fish Sticks
365 Breaded Fish Sticks
Fremont Wild Caught Breaded Fish Sticks
Ian’s Natural Foods Fish Sticks
Fish Sticks – Kid Friendly Version
- 1 pound white fish fillets such as pollock - haddock - flounder or tilapia
- ½ lemon juice from
- 1 cup flour
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 egg whites lightly beaten
- 1½ cups bread crumbs fine or panko
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning or your favorite spice blend
- olive oil for frying - optional
- Cut the fillets into sticks of as equal a size as you can get, approximately 3 inchs x ½ inch
- Sprinkle the fish with lemon juice. Set aside.
- Stir salt and pepper, to taste, into the flour and put in a shallow dish.
- Place the egg whites in a shallow dish.
- Whisk your preferred seasoning blend into the bread crumbs, and put in a shallow dish.
- Spray a cooling rack with pan spray and set over a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan.
- Dredge each fish stick in lightly in the seasoned flour, knocking off the excess.
- Dip in the egg white. Let drain a few seconds.
- Dredge in the seasoned bread crumbs. Set each stick on the rack.
- At this point, you can either bake these or pan fry.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Let the fish sticks set up for about ten minutes on the rack. This will help to keep the breading from flaking off.
- Bake on the cooling rack/jelly roll pan set up until the fish is cooked and the breading is nice and golden brown, about ten minutes.
To Pan Fry
- Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until hot.
- Add olive oil to a depth of about 1¼ inch.
- When the oil is hot, fry the sticks, making sure not to crowd the pan. Turn as each side cooks and turns golden brown. Total cooking time will be about five minutes.
- Remove to paper towels to drain.
- honey mustard (simply whisk together honey and mustard, to taste)
- the kids' favorite barbecue sauce
- ranch dressing or other salad dressing
- tartar sauce
- raita or tzatziki sauce
- marinara sauce
- Hollandaise sauce seasoned with parsley and dill
- Cocktail sauce with horseradish
- Soy sauce and Sriracha
- a mixture of mirin, dark soy sauce, minced fresh ginger and a pinch of sugar
- curry sauce
- sauce puttanesca
Some of My Favorite Seafood Recipes
- Everything You Need to Know About Ceviche
- Roasted Cod with Potatoes and Fennel Recipe
- Classic Tuna Casserole with Dill Recipe
- Shrimp Sauce Recipe
- Shrimp and Sweet Potato Curry Recipe
- Bacon Wrapped Scallops Over Coconut Curry Lentils Recipe
- Spanish Shrimp and Rice Recipe
- How to Purchase and Perfectly Pan Fry Branzino
This is a terrific recipe! Thank you for sharing it. I made it last night with MahiMahi and baked the fish. Everything turned out beautifully, but because oven temperatures vary, I did have to bake my fish sticks longer than 10 minutes. Still, I will make these again.
Hi Ruthie, thanks for letting me know and you bring up an excellent point that recipe times cannot always be correct because oven temperatures are not all the same. It's important to learn how to tell when something is cooked properly by more than time in the oven. Using a thermometer, touching, experience....these are alternatives that will make you a better cooks. Using posted cooking times should just be a guide, not the final determination. - RG