Deep-Fried Catfish

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Yield:

    2 to 4


Appears in

Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking

Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking

By Craig Claiborne

Published 1987

  • About

Like most Southerners, I adore catfish. I’m not certain that my mother ever prepared catfish at home, however. She was too aristocratic for that. Red snapper, yes; but catfish was too common, something to be enjoyed on Sunday outings.

Eating deep-fried catfish was a ritual and the menu was always the same: the cornmeal-coated catfish with its golden-brown crusty exterior and moist white inner flesh; deep-fried hush puppies; deep-fried potatoes; and coleslaw. And ketchup. Deep-fried catfish without ketchup is like a hot dog without mustard.

Now that catfish are being raised in fresh water ponds, they are available frozen all over the country and can be used in any recipe calling for a white nonoily fish. Even after freezing and defrosting, catfish remain snow white and as firm as when taken from the water.


  • Corn oil for deep-frying
  • 3 catfish fillets (about 1 pound)
  • ½ cup white cornmeal
  • Salt to taste, if desired
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Lemon halves
  • Ketchup
  • Hush Puppies


  1. Heat the oil for deep-frying.
  2. Cut each fillet in half crosswise.
  3. Combine the cornmeal, salt, and pepper.
  4. Dredge the fillets in the cornmeal. Pat to make the cornmeal adhere. Drop the fillets in the oil and cook 5 to 10 minutes, or until crisp and brown.
  5. Serve with lemon halves, ketchup, and hush puppies.