Click HERE for my detailed Pan-Fried Catfish cooking technique.
To minimize splatters and maximize safety, use a Dutch oven with sides at least 5 inches high (not a regular skillet) when pan-frying the fish.
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup fine cornmeal
- Salt and ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 large eggs
- 2-1/2 cups vegetable oil for frying, or as needed
- 2 catfish fillets (about 12 ounces each), skin and dark fatty flesh just below the sin removed, fillets cuts in half lengthwise
- Lemon wedges or one of these dipping sauces for serving
Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet, place the sheet on the middle oven rack, and heat the oven to 200oF. Place 1/2 cup of the flour in a wide, shallow dish. In another wide, shallow dish, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup flour, the cornmeal, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and the cayenne. In a third shallow dish, whisk the eggs with 1 tablespoon of the oil until combined.
Pat the fish fillets dry with paper towels and sprinkle each side with salt and pepper to taste. Drop the fish into the flour and shake the dish to coat. Shake the excess flour from each piece, then, using tongs, dip the fillets into the egg mixture, turning to coat well and allowing the excess to drip off. Coat the fillets with the cornmeal mixture, shake off the excess, and lay them on another wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet.
Heat 1/2 inch oil in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over high heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 400oF. (The oil should not smoke, but it will come close.) Place 2 catfish fillets in the hot oil and fry, turning once, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the oil between 385 and 390oF. Remove the fillets from the oil with a slotted spoon and lay them on a plate lined with several layers of paper towels; blot to remove any excess oil. Transfer the fried fish to the wire rack in the warm oven. Bring the oil back to 400oF and repeat the cooking process with the remaining fish fillets. Serve the fried fish immediately with either lemon wedges or dipping sauce.