Fish and chips became popular among the working classes of Great Britain as trawl fishing in the North Sea suddenly became very common in the 1850s. The first fish and chip shop was opened in London in 1860 by the Jewish business man Joseph Malin.
Fish and chips (crop)

A common fish and chips meal with appropriate accompaniments.

Deep-fried potatoes, known as "chips," first became popular near the same time period in Britain. Though the fish and chip shop, known as the "chippy" or "chipper," originated in the United Kingdom, the idea spread quickly throughout Europe. Fried potato shops in Scotland merged with fried fish shops from southern England. Early fish and chip shops had very simple means of production which included a large cauldron of cooking-fat heated by a coal fire. Because these shops gave off a smell associated with frying, they were classified as an "offensive trade" by the local authorities. The fish and chip industry bested this stigma during World War II as fish and chips remained one of the few foods that was not rationed in the United Kingdom.


Traditional frying uses lard while vegetable oils are now more commonly used. Some shops in northern England and most of the shops in northern Ireland still use the traditional beef dripping or lard because it gives a different flavor. The side of effect of using lard is that it makes the fried chips inedible for vegetarians and people of certain faiths.

The size of the potato slab that is fried to make the chips is usually larger than the standard size used to make French fries. This causes the chips to have a lower fat content per portion than French fries. Because fat penetrates a relatively short distance into the potato during cooking, the surface area is proportional to the fat content. As chips have less surface area compared to volume of potato than French fries, they have a lower fat content per portion. Chips also take a slightly longer time to cook than French fries.

Fish and chip shops in the UK traditionally use a simple flour and water batter with some baking soda and vinegar to cause lightness and bubbles. Other recipes for batter may substitute milk or beer for water. The carbon dioxide in the beer creates a lighter texture in the batter. The type of beer also affects the taste of the batter. Common beers used are lager, stout, and bitter. When beer is used to make the batter, the alcohol is cooked off so little to none is left in the finished meal.

The most common fish used for fish and chips are haddock and cod but many vendors also use many other types of fish including pollock, coley, plaice, skate, ray, or rock salmon. In southwestern and northern England and most of Scotland, haddock is the dominating fish used. In northern Ireland, cod is most commonly used. In the United States, the type of fish used depends on the region. Common types in the U.S. are cod, halibut, flounder, tilapia, salmon, or in New England, Atlantic cod.