There’s nothing better than a crunchy piece of catfish on a slice of white bread – mixed with hot sauce, of course. A true delicacy of the South, seasoned catfish perfectly appears in fish fry, post-church gatherings, and in many restaurants all claiming to be the best. But frying it yourself at home isn’t that hard, and with the help of James Beard Award-winning fishing director Rodney Scott, you’ll be a frying pro in no time.
Although Scott – who co-founded Rodney Scott BBQ In Charleston, South Carolina—Smoked Meat Technique Specialist, his cookbook Rodney Scott’s BBQ World: Everyday is a good day It contains recipes for a variety of stovetop dishes, including fried catfish. His recipe is based on the description of his late grandmother, which he says he tried to imitate through memory.
“I remember she was cooking it in cornmeal and I remember eating fish mostly on Fridays for some weird reason,” he says. “It was so well prepared that you could eat the fish on its own.”
Scott would eat it with rice or grits, or between two pieces of bread for a delicious fried fish sandwich. When he first opened Rodney Scott, he knew his grandmother’s dish should be on the menu. He, of course, uses cornmeal like his grandmother and adds cayenne and Jesus tears (what Scott sweetly calls MSG) for an extra kick. “It reminds me of my childhood every time I bite into a piece of catfish,” Scott says.
When you nibble on catfish, the first thing you should get is crunch, followed by a dusting of cayenne, which Scott said is the only ingredient different from his recipe than his recipe. “It’s mushy on the inside, but still has a crunch on the outside. Not very crunchy, but just a nice little crust with that flaky white center,” he says.
For first-time catfish fryers, Scott’s number one tip is to make sure that if you don’t like the smell of fried fish in your home, fry it outside. He. She sure permeate. But if you don’t mind the smell and don’t have important tasks to run that day, Scott advises making sure the oil and heat are high enough.
“If you don’t have a thermometer, you can take a pinch of cornmeal and drop it in the grease, and if it floats, it’s not ready,” he says. “If you drop it in there and it kind of sizzles and kind of fries right away, your grease is at the perfect temperature.”
He also says adding too many pieces of catfish to the pan at once can cook the oil and lower its temperature. After placing the first two pieces, take a moment because you don’t want to crowd the pan.
The best way to determine if catfish is over, says Scott, is if you start to see it float in the pan a little bit. “He’s not alive again,” he says with a laugh. “It’s just starting to float a little bit in the oil. That’s when you know it’s been done quite a bit.”