Fried catfish is a staple on many southern tables. Although this fish is inexpensive, or free if you live near a river or pond, it often carries undesirable characteristics such as a fishy or even muddy taste. Catfish live along the bottom of lakes, rivers and ponds and taste like whatever they’ve been eating. Choosing the right type of fish and adding a little time during preparation will eliminate or minimize the fishy taste of your fried catfish.
Choose fresh catfish that is firm and white. If it’s been sitting around in a display case for days, or frozen, it will likely have a fishy smell and taste. If it smells overwhelmingly fishy, it won’t taste any better. If possible, find a local fisherman and buy freshly caught catfish. Farm raised catfish may taste less fishy as well because they are fed a controlled diet. Avoid catfish caught in extremely muddy water.
Remove the skin from the catfish using a sharp fillet knife. Fish skin increases the fishy taste and gives the catfish a dark appearance on one side after it is fried. Removing the skin decreases the fishy taste and makes the finished product more appealing.
Lay the catfish fillets in a shallow container and cover with milk or buttermilk. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. Milk can help reduce the fishy taste in catfish and other types of fish as well.
Remove the catfish from the milk and lay on a plate. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
Dip both sides of the catfish fillets into a breader, such as yellow cornmeal, flour or seafood breader mix. Pre-season the breading mixture with any seasoning of your choice such as Cajun, blackened or seafood seasoning.
Place the fish fillets in hot oil, either in a deep fryer or frying pan. The fish fillets are done when they turn a golden brown color. On average, this is 2 to 4 minutes on each side, if frying in a pan, or 3 to 6 minutes in a deep fryer.
Remove the fish from the hot oil and drain on paper towels. Enjoy with a squirt of fresh lemon juice, tartar sauce and freshly made coleslaw.