It was not too long ago that catfish, common in the Low Country – the coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia, where it flourished in local waters – was considered junk fish. Times have changed, and today catfish is highly sought after and expensive. Although I found pan-frying catfish to be very similar to pan-frying other fish, I did stumble upon differences unique to catfish.
First off, most catfish found at the store is farm-raised in fresh water, although ocean catfish (also known as wolffish) can occasionally be found. While oddly sized fillets of ocean catfish (some are mammoth and other tiny) don’t easily lend themselves to pan-frying, I found the average farm-raised freshwater fillets usually weigh in at around three quarters of a pound. Two fillets of farm-raised catfish will easily serve four people, and I found it best to cut each fillet in half down the middle so that each portion has a thin tail end and a thicker middle. This ensures that each half fillet will cook at the same ratio of crisp, fried tail to tender, flaky flesh. I also discovered that it was necessary to remove the skin and the tissue that lies directly underneath it. While the skin offended no one in my family, the dark fatty tissue was very fishy-tasting and unappealing (especially to my kids).
I found that these fillets benefited from begin dredged in flour, dipped in an egg wash, and finally coated with a seasoned cornmeal-flour mixture. Also, they browned beautifully and cooked through in only matter of minutes – great for a weeknight dinner.
Click HERE for my Pan-Fried Catfish recipe.
In this video, Chef Michele Nischan shows us how to prepare a delicious pan-fried catfish.