Enjoying a whole fried fish is the ultimate treat from the sea. Picking the flaky flesh from between the needle-like spines is a craft in itself, making eating an entire fish so primal and attractive! You kind of feel like on holiday on a beach somewhere.
And although every decent seafood restaurant serves some kind of whole fish, there’s no reason you can’t make one at home, especially if you have an air fryer.
To fry a fish, you need any type of small fish. A small sea bass, branzino or red snapper, they’re all awesome! You’ll also need salt, pepper and your dried herbs of choice. I like oregano but choose your favorite! Thyme is quite popular. And since we’re using an air fryer, you just need cooking oil in spray.
If you buy a whole fish, it’s probably already gutted, but it might still have those tough scales. To remove these, place the fish in a large-enough plastic bag, and work inside the bag, holding the fish in one hand and a sharp knife in the other. Run the knife perpendicular to the skin from tail to head and watch all those scales fly right off — that’s why you work inside a plastic bag, those nasty scales get everywhere.
Feel the fish with your fingertips to make sure you’ve removed all the scales. The ones close to the belly and tail are kind of hard to remove. The smaller ones? Don’t worry too much about those.
For a whole fried fish, leave the head and fins and eat your way around them. The fish looks nicer on the plate that way.
Chips are a classic partner for fried fish, and so are fries. Anything starchy and greasy is pretty nice. Don’t forget to have a few lemon or lime wedges to squirt over the pearly and flaky flesh!
Pat the fish dry, spray it with cooking oil on both sides and rub it with salt, pepper and oregano.
Preheat the air fryer according to the instructions. Place the frying basket if it has one.
Place the fish in the air fryer and air-fry for 15 minutes at 400°F. Pause halfway to flip the fish.
Allow to cool until manageable before serving with a lemon wedge and drizzled olive oil.