Welcome. You will find many catfish recipes including recipes for channel cat, flathead catfish and blue catfish using different cooking methods from baked to fried. Feel free to use your favorite catfish with any of these recipes.
If you asked people which catfish they preferred to eat, the channel and flathead cat would top the list and the blue catfish would round out in third place. In another area of the country (or even water location), the list would be different.
How do you tell a blue catfish from a channel cat when they are smaller in size? The anal fin on the blue catfish has 30-35 rays, and the channel catfish has 24-29 rays (rays are the horny spine held together by webs of skin). The channel cat may have a few spots on the sides and the blue catfish will not (the blue catfish body is notably humped in the front of the dorsal fin too). If you look at these fish anatomy images, it will help you understand what I’m talking about.
But one thing in common with all three is the muddy taste you find when the water quality is not at its best. These are the catfish you catch in muddy, swampy water – lake water is generally cleaner.
I have a trick (three actually) that removes this taste from the meat including more catfish prep and cooking tips below.
How to Purge Catfish
Live catfish need to be purged of mud. If you have kids you will know what I meal by a kids swimming pool. The pool doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but I would suggest one thing. Make it a deflatable one and you can take it anywhere.
Fill the pool with water and put the catfish in it. Change the water every few hours when dirty or until it is no longer muddy. This may take a day or two depending on how often you change the water and where you caught them. Clean water = clean catfish. It may be a pain but will be so worth it because your catfish will be delicious.
Another way to purge fish of the mud flavor is to use salt/buttermilk soak. Buttermilk is also used in wild game meat (less the salt) to rid the meat of the “gamey” or “wild” taste.
Soak the catfish fillets in buttermilk with a 2 teaspoons of salt for 45-60 minutes before cooking. Make sure the buttermilk covers the fillets. Works like a charm. Rinse off the fillets and pat dry – they are ready to go.
Bring the fillets to room temperature before cooking.
To make catfish strips, cut off the yellow meat (bad tasting) from the shoulders of the fish. Split the catfish fillet from the lateral line and remove the brown/dark meat (this is bad tasting also), and cut the remaining white meat across the grain into “fingers.” Catfish fingers recipe below.
This blue catfish recipe uses Cajun spices for the catfish breading and is fried to perfection. I love a thin, spicy coating and dipping in tartar sauce.
FRIED BLUE CATFISH RECIPE
1 lb catfish fillets
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp Cajun seasoning*
1 cup ground yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup flour
oil for frying
Whip the eggs and milk together and add the Cajun seasoning to the egg mixture. Mix the cornmeal and flour together and place on a plate. Dip the fillet in the seasoned egg mixture and place on the cornmeal/flour mixture.
Sprinkle the top of the fillet with the dry mixture and press in with your hand. Place on a baking sheet and repeat until all fillets are coated. Let fish stand for 15 minutes before cooking them in the hot oil.
Meanwhile, preheat oil to 350 degrees on medium-high heat in a heavy skillet or cast iron pan.
Carefully place a few pieces of fish in the oil and do not overcrowd. Fry until brown and crispy, about 2 to 3 minutes per side (depending on how thick and big the fillets are). If the fish easily flakes with a fork, it is done. Place on paper towels and season with a squirt of lemon juice and salt.
I suggest when you try this blackened catfish recipe, that you do it outside on the grill. There is a lot of smoke and strong vapors from the pepper and to be on the safe side you need to be in a well ventilated area.
GRILLED AND BLACKENED FLATHEAD CATFISH RECIPE
3 flathead catfish fillets – cleaned and dried
2 TBS canola oil, for cast iron pan
2 TBS Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp lemon pepper *
1 tsp garlic powder
dash kosher salt
dash ground pepper
1 cup Italian salad dressing
Preheat the grill on medium-high heat and place a large heavy skillet on the grill. Add 2 tablespoons of canola oil and heat until it’s really hot.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a medium baking dish. Set aside.
Meanwhile, mix the cayenne pepper, lemon pepper, garlic powder, kosher salt and ground pepper together. Brush/spray the fillets lightly with canola oil and sprinkle with the spice mix.
Sear both sides of the fish in the cast iron pan on the grill for 2 minutes per side until lightly blackened. We are NOT cooking the fish at this point.
Bring back into the house and place the fillets in the prepared baking dish. Pour the Italian salad dressing over the fillets and brush with the mustard. Bake for 30 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
*If you do not have lemon pepper, just squeeze lemon over the fillets before you brush them with mustard. Mustard gives it a zing that’s good with the heat.
Buttermilk and cornmeal go hand in hand with catfish, and this catfish recipe is no exception. The other items needed are seasonings. Dip in egg wash or beer; it’s totally up to you.
FRIED CHANNEL CATFISH FINGERS
1 lb channel catfish fillets
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
3/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
peanut or canola oil, for frying
Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a cast iron pan or heavy skillet to 350 degrees.
Whip the eggs with the garlic and onion powder until foamy. Mix the cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper together and place on a paper plate.
Dip fillets in the seasoned egg and dredge in the cornmeal mixture. Place on a baking sheet and repeat until fillets are coated. Let fingers sit for 15 minutes. This prevents the breading from falling off.
Slowly lower a few catfish fingers into the hot oil and fry until golden brown. Place on paper towels to drain.
This catfish recipe is so easy and has boiled parsley potatoes as a side dish. Just boil potatoes and add parsley when serving.
PAN-FRIED CHANNEL CATFISH RECIPE
4 channel catfish fillets – cleaned, dried and brushed with oil
3 TBS canola oil, for frying
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp thyme
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
Preheat cast iron pan and canola oil on medium-high heat.
Meanwhile, combine the spice mix together in a bowl. Dredge fillets in the flour mixture and gently place two fillets in the pan.
Fry 5 to 7 minutes on each side. Fish is done when it easily flakes with a fork. Drain on paper towels.
Serve with boiled parsley potatoes. Just melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add 1/2 tsp of dried parsley in the butter. Pour over the boiled potatoes.