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What Are Fish Fingers?

By A. Leverkuhn
Updated May 16, 2024
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The term “fish fingers” is a British description of a food known by many other names in other parts of the world. Americans typically call the food "fish sticks". Fish fingers are small, thin fillets or bits of fish that are breaded or battered. They are generally much smaller, for example, than the fish pieces used in another traditional British meal, fish and chips, where large fillets are served with chips or fries.

Different kinds of fish can be used to make fish fingers. One of the main varieties is cod; this white fish is often the main ingredient in the food. Other fishes like Pollock are also commonly used. Some upscale fish fingers can be composed of higher end products, from mackerel and halibut, to salmon, crab meat, and even caviar.

The more quality kinds of fish sticks or fingers are fish parts cut into fillets and breaded. In cheaper versions of this dish, cooks, or more commonly, manufacturers, make fish into a kind of paste and re-shape it for breading. Either kind of fish fingers benefits from quality breading, for example, from organic or other quality bread crumbs or batter.

Fish finger products can be fried, or baked. These various cooking methods affect the final nutritional value of the food. In many places where they are enjoyed, these items are likely to be fried in commercial establishments with sophisticated food handling machines such as deep fryers, but in homes, where they are cooked for family meals, they tend to be baked, which can be done easily in a home oven, or in some cases, even in a microwave oven. Most kinds of fish fingers are not likely to be very palatable cooked in a microwave, but in some cases, when properly thawed, this cooking method might work.

The etymology of this popular food is mysterious. According to some reports, the name “fish fingers” came from factory workers in the plant where the food was first mass manufactured. Now, many different food makers compete to offer fish sticks or fingers that will appeal to a large consumer audience. Where makers place an emphasis on quality, some of these foods will be sourced locally, made from organic materials, or simply processed to a minimal extent. By reading the nutritional details on packaging, shoppers can understand more about what is in a particular brand of fish fingers, and how using frozen fish contrasts to cooking with fresh varieties.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By SarahSon — On Aug 18, 2012

My kids aren't very picky eaters, but they won't eat "fish sticks" that are heated up in the microwave. If they aren't baked in the oven, I might as well not even bother.

I really can't say I blame them as I have never tasted a microwaved "fish stick" that tasted very good.

By andee — On Aug 17, 2012

When I went online to look for some different fish fingers recipes, there were a lot of recipes to choose from. Some of them really mixed things up by using different spices and seasonings in the breading.

I also like to make my own fish fingers and like to try different ways of fixing them. I make a dipping sauce with a combination of Greek yogurt and mayonnaise that my kids love.

These are the best and the crunchiest when I bake them on a rack instead of placing them directly on the bottom of a pan. Otherwise they get a little soggy on the bottom.

By bagley79 — On Aug 17, 2012

I like to make my own fish fingers at home. I use real pieces of fish fillet and know exactly what goes in them. When I have eaten "fish sticks" from the store, I have been disappointed in the taste and quality of most of them.

Sure it takes a little bit more effort, but it is sure worth it. Most moms think of feeding their kids "fish sticks" for lunch, but the ones I make are good enough to have for a family meal in the evening.

What takes the longest is baking them in the oven, so I have these baking while I prepare the rest of the meal. Dipping the fish fillets in eggs and batter is something my kids like to help me with.

By julies — On Aug 16, 2012

My kids love "fish sticks" and I find this is often part of a quick and easy lunch for them. This was always something my mom fixed for us quite a bit too.

I have found a big difference in the quality of different brands. I tend to stick with the well known brands that have higher quality. Sometimes with the off brands, you never know for sure what you are getting.

I don't mind paying a little bit more for a better quality product.

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