Taste of the South: Fried Catfish

Breaded, seasoned, and fried, our fried catfish recipe will have you coming back for seconds.

Fried Catfish Recipe

Members of our Food staff have a tough time arriving at a consensus when it comes to the Southern delicacy of fried catfish. We tried a variety of techniques, from soaking catfish overnight to combining the best ingredients from several different recipes. We found 4- to 6-ounce, thin-cut, farm-raised fillets easy to manage in the skillet, and they curl up when cooked, giving great eye appeal. If you purchase frozen fillets, place them in a colander with a pan underneath, and thaw in the refrigerator overnight; otherwise, keep them in the coldest part of your refrigerator, and use within two days.

In searching for the perfect fried catfish recipe, we found the answer in a simple ingredient—cornmeal. It offers a crunchy texture without a greasy taste. Fried catfish opinions aside, we all agree our choices for side dishes are hush puppies, baked beans, and coleslaw. As for catfish condiments, a dab of ketchup and tartar sauce and a squeeze of lemon are high on our list.

Classic Fried Catfish

Beth Dreiling Hontzas

Frying Catfish Tips

  • Select an oil with a high smoke point, such as peanut oil.
  • Remove excess moisture from fish before dredging.
  • Keep one hand clean for dredging and the other hand available for frying.
  • Use a large Dutch oven or deep cast-iron skillet to keep the oil from popping out.
  • Don't overcrowd the skillet; fry, in batches, two fillets at a time. Bring remaining oil back to the proper temperature by using a deep-fat thermometer before frying the next batch.
  • Fish generally cooks 10 minutes per inch of thickness. If the catfish you buy is thicker, it will take longer to cook, Just lower the temperature slightly.
  • Remove fish from skillet with a wide, slotted, curved spoon.
  • To keep warm, place fried catfish on a wire rack with an aluminum foil-lined pan underneath; place in a 250º oven. For a crisp texture, do not cover fillets.
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