Making catfish batter is a simple (and sometimes messy) process. Many cooks opt to simply dredge their catfish fillets or pieces in a mixture of cornmeal and spices. However, a batter gives the catfish another whole dimension of flavor and texture. You don’t have to be Julia Child to create a scrumptious piece of fried catfish but you do need to prepare for the process.
First you should decide if you will be using catfish fillets or pieces. If you prefer catfish nuggets, then the fillets can be cut into the appropriate size. If choosing nugget size, look for fat fillets or you may end up with skinny catfish strips instead. For battering, nuggets are the easiest to work with.
Do you like your catfish regular or packed with punch? A good catfish batter will have the typical salt and pepper but if you prefer a flavorful kick, you may want to add something extra to your recipe like Cajun spices or hot sauce. A popular addition to catfish batter or most any fish recipe is Old Bay Seasoning. Remember, you can ruin a good catfish batter by not adding any flavoring like salt or adding way too much. Find a recipe that you know you will enjoy the flavors – one of the most popular recipes is a beer batter.
If you don’t want to make a homemade catfish batter, there are some very good boxed batters available at the grocery store – some cooks even prefer to use a boxed onion ring batter. Your own additional flavors can be added to the boxed versions like hot sauce, pepper flakes, or Cajun seasoning. For making your own catfish batter, a typical recipe will call for
1 cup flour,
1 teaspoon baking powder,
2 beaten eggs,
2/3 cup milk,
buttermilk, or beer,
1 tablespoon melted butter,
salt, and spices.
The ingredients are whisked until smooth. This recipe is enough for approximately one pound of fish.
Preparation of Catfish
You have a choice to simply dip the catfish fillets or nuggets into your batter recipe or prepare the catfish for battering. Soaking the catfish in buttermilk for up to 2 hours is a common preparation technique.
After finding a good batter recipe, the catfish is dipped in the batter and deep fried in oil. Oil should be 375-400 degrees Fahrenheit. Tongs are the best way to dredge the catfish pieces and place in the hot oil. Do not crowd the fish when frying. Fry the catfish until fully browned on all sides; remove from oil and dry on paper towel.
One of the most common problems that novice catfish cooks come across is the batter not sticking to the fish. This problem is typically caused from wet fish. It’s important to work with catfish that isn’t overly wet. Simply dry the fish with a clean paper towel to remove any access moisture from the outside of the fish. This is extremely important if the fish has been soaked in buttermilk beforehand. Moisture on the outside of the fish will keep the batter from staying attached to the fish.