Contributed by Patterson Riley of

Note from Julie: When I was a little girl, I used to spend summers at my grandparents’ home. My grandpa was a prolific fisherman, and fantastic fish fryer! I fondly remember hot summer evenings, sitting around a big platter of finger-licking-good, southern fried fish.

While I’m not personally a fisher, I think there must be something quite satisfying about fishing all morning, then frying up your catch for a delicious lunch or dinner. 

When I met Patterson, the contributor of this article, I was thrilled to learn that she could share this classic southern dish with you! If you don’t have catfish in your area, substitute trout (that was my grandpa’s favorite). You can also get into the spirit with store-bought fish or fish fillets. 

*This recipe has not been tested by Julie or Taste Of The Place.

Southern Fried Catfish

southern-fried-catfish from Patterson Riley at

There are several reasons why anglers love catfish. The main reason being, catfish are always hungry and very eager to bite. On top of that, they are very easy to catch – whether you are young, unskilled, old, or skilled. Catching them is fun, too. A muscular catfish will throw its weight against your fishing line. Before it realizes, it is dangling at the end of a very long leash!

It’s time to roll that spin cast reel and bring the catfish home. Catfish are abundant in many areas. They’re very large, and very delicious, too. And the joy of fishing is only complete when you eat the catch!

About The Recipe

Whether you are frying it as you sing over a riverbank fire, or you are preparing it in your kitchen, the most important thing in this recipe is the fish. If you are catching them yourself, then you need to remember that fish are just like other game meat – the way you handle them after catching is very important. You’ll need to remove the entrails, put them in a freezer, and spread ice over top.

To thaw frozen catfish, run cold water steadily over them for about one hour. Remove any skin, ensuring that no bits are left behind.

The main secret to cooking catfish is in the frying process. Some people use peanut oil, as it can be reused several times, has a faintly nutty taste and clean flavor, and a high smoke point which is ideal for frying. When frying the fish, try to maintain an oil temperature of 325°F. Most chefs will tell you that 350°F is the standard, however, 25 degrees can make a lot of difference. The lower temperature allows you to get perfectly cooked fish with a crispy crust, rather than undercooked fish with a hard or burned outer crust. If you want smooth cooking, go low and slow, and you will have visitors coming every weekend for more of your tasty southern fried catfish!

What you need to serve 4 to 6 people

  • 3 pounds catfish fillets, cut into individual portions
  • Salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Ground cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup of yellow or white cornmeal
  • Peanut oil, for frying

What to do 

  1. In a heavy, large skillet or Dutch oven, heat 1 inch of peanut oil to 325°F. Keep an eye on the oil, making sure it doesn’t get too hot. (If you don’t have a thermometer, test the temperature by dropping a small piece of fish into the oil. It should bubble vigorously, but not violently, and begin to brown the fish rather than burn it.)
  2. Meanwhile, pat your catfish dry with paper towels. This will minimize curling when they are fried. Using a sharp knife, score the fish with 2 or 3 diagonal slashes. These should be about one inch apart and two inches long. An eighth of an inch deep will be just enough. 
  3. Season the catfish with salt, pepper, and cayenne.
  4. Dredge the catfish through the cornmeal, ensuring each piece is evenly coated. Gently shake off any excess cornmeal. 
  5. When your oil reaches 325°F, gently add 2 or 3 pieces at a time to the skillet, and fry, flipping once for even cooking, until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Use a wide, slotted spoon to transfer the cooked catfish to paper towels to drain. Don’t cover the filets, or you’ll loose that crispy texture. To keep them warm, place the drained filets on a wire rack in the oven set to its lowest temperature. Repeat with the remaining filets.
  6. Enjoy with fresh corn on the cob and a side of tartar sauce, or simply munch on your tasty catfish all by itself while you share fishing stories with friends!

Whether you do the fishing yourself, or you buy it from your local store, catfish is healthy and delicious. Seasoned, breaded, southern fried catfish will always keep you coming back for more!

About the author

Patterson Riley is the owner of, where she shares fishing tips and tricks, as well as delicious recipes. She helps you to fish like a boss and eat like a king!

Royalty free image provided Patterson Riley.