Easy Fried Southern Catfish Recipe | Wild-Caught

Easy Fried Southern Catfish Recipe | Wild-Caught

I feel pretty confident in my frying abilities. So when my husband brought home fresh wild-caught catfish, I broke out the cast iron skillet and was ready to prepare a classic southern dish. I had never fried catfish before and was about to make a big mistake. So I was feeling less confident pretty quickly. But let me tell you how I figured it out on the second batch and served up a really delicious meal with this southern fried catfish recipe. 




Where I Went Wrong


I love my cast iron skillets. They are my go to for frying anything. For frying catfish, though, I found the batter really difficult to stick to the fish, which was making a scorched mess in the pan. It wasn’t long before the batter that had fallen off, which was most of it, was turning black and filling the kitchen with the smell of burnt food. 


I realized immediately, the cast iron skillet was not the tool for this job. I quickly had the idea to pull out my dutch oven, cut the fish into smaller pieces, almost like nuggets and fry them like you would hush puppies. This worked like a charm and is clearly the best way to fry fresh catfish. If you knew this already, you are rolling your eyes at my foolishness. But hey, you live and you learn. 



Here Is What You Do


You can go for the whole catfish filets. But for more crunch, try nuggets! It also made it easier to manage as a rookie. 


Cut the fish filets into chicken nugget sized pieces. About 2 inches wide and no more than about 4 inches long. Then put them in a large bowl full of buttermilk (or regular milk) and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. 


A buttermilk soak cuts down on the fishy or muddy taste that fresh fish can have. It will also tenderize the meat a bit and help it hold in moisture and not dry out while cooking. 


I used Jiffy Cornbread Mix for my batter, adding black pepper. While I only went for the pepper, feel free to add garlic powder, onion powder or even cayenne pepper if you prefer. The Jiffy Cornbread Mix will give your crispy coating a sweeter taste for the best fried catfish. Take a large shallow dish and pour in 2 boxes of mix. Then sprinkle on about 2 teaspoons of pepper (and other seasonings if you choose) and use a fork to blend well. 


Fill the dutch oven about halfway with vegetable oil or canola oil and heat. If the oil starts to smoke, it is too hot so knock it down a notch. If the batter doesn’t sizzle as soon as you drop a bit in, then it isn’t hot enough, give it another minute and you'll be at the correct temperature. You will continue to bump the temperature up and down through out the process as you notice it getting to hot or cool. 


Dredge the fish pieces through the cornmeal mixture. I like to double batter, so dip the piece of fish back in the milk and give it another cornmeal coating. Using tongs lower in a few pieces at time into the hot oil, working in batches. You don’t want to overcrowd, so only do a few at a time. 


After 3-4 minutes it starts to float and turns golden on the side in the oil, then use a slotted spoon to slowly and carefully roll it over. This is the method you use for cooking hushpuppies and is what made me realize I was doing it wrong at the start. That and probably the Jiffy. 


Once it is a crispy golden brown catfish on the other side then use your slotted spoon to scoop it out and place it on a paper towel-lined plate to catch the excess oil. Sprinkle with salt and squeeze some lemon overtop of the fried fish. You are ready to start your next batch. Repeat until all of your fish is cooked. 



Sides Suggestions for your Catfish Dinner


You already have boxes of Jiffy out so whip up a pan of cornbread. Spreading butter and a drizzle of honey over it as soon as it comes out of the oven is the only way to serve cornbread in my house. 


Other sides to go with this southern catfish are okra, french fries, potato salad, green beans, collard greens, hush puppies, fried green tomatoes or coleslaw. But whatever you do, don't forget the lemon wedges, hot sauce and tartar sauce. 


I hope you love this recipe and use if for your next fish fry! And, I hope that I have saved you from making the same mistake I did at the start. 


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