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Big Daddy's Best Fried Catfish

Catfish has always been a southern delight even when northerners would scoff at the idea of eating a bottom feeding trash fish. Some of my fondest memories from growing up in Florida are associated with the fish fries the extended family would enjoy after the men folk returned from a day trip to Lake Okeechobee. But even when we didn't have time to do it ourselves we could always depend on the numerous roadside cafes featuring all the catfish and hushpuppies you could eat for a dollar. And I could eat a bunch.

One's opinion regarding "trash fish" has become a moot point in recent years with the advent of catfish farms. The catfish are raised in clean ponds and feed on quality grains and corn. The resulting filets are perfect for a fried fish feed.

Select either of coating methods below depending on your personal taste, they both produce great results. The beer batter method produces a thick, crunchy coating much like the fried shrimp and chicken fingers popular in Chinese restaurants. The flour and egg coating produces a lighter, more delicate result. They both make enough for about 2 pounds of filets, enough for four people.

2 pounds catfish (or other white fish) filets
1 large lemon
oil for frying
Beer Batter Coating
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons salt
teaspoon Cayenne pepper
teaspoon black pepper
~1 cup beer
Flour and Egg Coating
1 cup milk
4 large eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons paprika
teaspoon Cayenne pepper
teaspoon black pepper

Cut the filets into palm size pieces, and rub thoroughly with the juice of the lemon. Set aside while preparing the batter.

For the beer batter method thoroughly mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, and gradually beat in the beer. The batter should be about the consistency of pancake batter. When ready to fry simply dip the filets in the batter, coating completely and drain off the excess.

For the flour and egg method thoroughly mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl, and then divide equally into two, one gallon plastic baggies. Pour the milk and beaten eggs into separate bowls large enough to accommodate the filets. Then:

  • Dip a filet in the milk, and shake off the excess.
  • Put it in the first baggie of flour and shake to coat; shake off excess flour.
  • Dip the filet in the egg wash.
  • Put the filet in the second baggie of flour and shake to coat.
  • Place the filet on a platter.
  • Repeat until all filets are coated.
  • Place the platter of filets in the fridge for 30 minutes. This will help set the coating so it doesn't come off when placed in the fryer.


  1. Either use a deep fryer or heavy skillet for frying. If using a skillet you should have at least inch of oil. If you are frying in batches you may need to replenish the oil as you go along. The oil should be 350 degrees.
  2. The filets should fry for 5-6 minutes and will be a golden brown color. If frying in a skillet you'll want to turn the filets after 2-3 minutes. Drain on a rack over paper towels when done. Serve with tarter sauce and hushpuppies.

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