Pan Fried Smelts

Serves 4 (or more if part of a buffet)


  • 1 pound fresh smelts, patted dry with paper towels
  • Flour for dredging
  • Salt and pepper
  • Canola oil
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Lemon wedges
  • Ingredients


  1. If the bones are still in the fish, you may wish to remove them.  Grasping the head-end of the backbone should allow you to remove the bones in a single pull.
  2. Put the flour in a large bowl or paper bag and season it with salt and pepper.  Gently toss the smelts in the flour to coat them evenly.
  3. Heat a large frying pan with about an inch of canola oil in it.  When a bit of flour sizzles when dropped in, it is hot enough for adding the smelts.  Cook them quickly in a single layer in the pan, turning them once; this may need to be done in batches.  
  4. Drain them on paper towels and keep warm until all are done.
  5. Arrange the smelts on a platter and sprinkle with coarse sea salt; serve immediately with lemon wedges.

This recipe was featured on Season 22 - Episode 2205.

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Smelts was a big part of Christmas eve each year as well in our family.
Since having moved from the NYC to San Diego I was unable to obtain smelts for 8 years, until.

I happened to walk into an Asian super market and long and behold they had fresh and frozen smelts.

Needless to say it’s July and we just fried them up on our outdoor grill.



Hi, Maria~ WHICH “Asian super market” did you find the dressed (headless) frozen Smelt at???

Was it 99 Ranch, maybe?

Thanx in advance, ch

Chef Pattyann

50 years ago where I grew up in north central Wisconsin, fried smelts were also a part of Christmas for us and on through the spring during lent. We went smelting in the spring wearing waders and using staked garbage cans with small holes poked through the bottom and sides. When the smelt were running in spring we were ready to harvest them.

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