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Help me figure out how to pan fry catfish...


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I've tried pan frying catfish filets twice now and both times they get scorched! Here's my setup:

Using catfish filets about 1/2" thick...I dunk them in milk and then into the mixture of cornmeal, flour and spices. In a Calphalon hard annodized pan, I heat up about 1/2 C of grapeseed oil until it starts to "dance" and shake a bit. I drop in 2 filets and cook them for about 3 minutes per side.

Both times they have scorched on the outside and leave bad tasting black charred crust. If I try to pull them off earlier...they seem to be undercooked in the middle.

HELP!

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Get rid of the milk. It's not doing anything but burning (that's not your problem, but that's what's happening anyway).

Take 2 eggs. Beat until fluffy. Add one cup of water. mix well. REFRIGERATE! Egg wash needs to be cold. If you are in a hurry throw some ice in it. Cold is a big deal. We are looking for shock here.

Prepare a mix of 50% yellow corn meal and 50% yellow corn flour. Add whatever spices you like (although I also add Crystal Hot Sauce to the egg mix, but that's your choice).

Heat your oil to 350F (I know nothing of this grapeseed oil of which you speak :wink: -so I am not commenting on it ), I prefer cottonseed or peanut as they both are pretty heat tolerant. USE A THERMOMETER_THIS IS KEY!

Dredge fish in eggwash and then into flour, making sure that you press the flour into the cracks of the fish-this makes it hold better than just rolling it around.

Fry a couple of minutes on each side, until golden brown-watch the thermometer-the fish and the oil will burn at about 390F. If the oil smokes or you smell or see smoke-you are screwed. Start over. Keep it at 350F and you will be a happy catfish eater. THere are few freshwater fish that approach a good piece of catfish.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Hmmmm...I took a cooking class where they did pan fried catfish and they used buttermilk prior to the cornmeal mixture.

Also...you're not talking about deep frying, right? I don't want to fully submerge my filets in oil.

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I took a cooking class called "making a living frying seafood" :wink::laugh: . You can use milk if you want, but there is no real reason to do it.

No, I am not talking about deep frying (although if it is oil in your food that you are worried about I can make the argument that you are probably going to have oilier food using the method that you are using than a proper deep fry). THe temp is key and a good thermometer will easily measure 1/2" of oil.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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I think there's nothing wrong with your technique, or with using milk (though I have not personally tried it). Your pan may be a little too hot. If your catfish coating starts to color too much on both sides before the fish is done, stick the whole pan in the oven at 400 degrees or so and finish cooking the fish in there. It shouldn't take more than three minutes in the oven and the fish contents will catch up to that delicious coating.

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I'll confess that I don't know much about pan fyring fish and have only done it a few times but most recently it was indeed catfish filets. I used about 3/4" of canola oil heated until a breadcrumb sizzled when it was dropped in but the oil was not smoking. Seasoned the filets, dredged with flour, shook it off, into a beaten egg dip and then rolled in panko bread crumbs. These happened to be very thick filets and I cooked them about 3 minutes per side - or maybe 4 minuntes on the first side and two on the second. They were perfect - nicely browned and moist on the inside. Maybe I got lucky but it seemd to work withou any careful acalculation on my part.

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Part of the problem might be the perception of how hot the oil is. The smokepoint of refined peanut oil is in the neighborhood of 425 F to 440 F. Refine grapeseed can be as high as 485 F. It seems to me that using the appearance of the oil is going be misleading. For instance, EVOO gets that shimmery look at a much lower temperature than canola, and I'm guessing that grapeseed will have to be hotter than peanut to get the same look.

phaelon56's breadcrumb technique works as a general indicator, but it's really hard to know if the temperature is stabilized, and not continuing to rise (though adding the room-temp fish will certainly dampen all but the most meteoric rise). I'm with Mayhaw Man -- use a thermometer.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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This is fully and totally unhelpful to the question at hand, but this thread reminded me of the Southern-type restaurant where I used to work. Deep-fried catfish was the number one seller there. When I worked the fry station, I hated having to use the buttermilk mixture if someone else had made it. The other guy tended to put heavy cream (?!?!) in it and the crust would burn way before the catfish was cooked.

Can you say "pain in the ass"? I knew you could!

(I never had a problem if it was mostly buttermilk, which I suppose has fewer sugars than cream?)

Jennie

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This is fully and totally unhelpful to the question at hand, but this thread reminded me of the Southern-type restaurant where I used to work. Deep-fried catfish was the number one seller there. When I worked the fry station, I hated having to use the buttermilk mixture if someone else had made it. The other guy tended to put heavy cream (?!?!) in it and the crust would burn way before the catfish was cooked.

Can you say "pain in the ass"? I knew you could!

(I never had a problem if it was mostly buttermilk, which I suppose has fewer sugars than cream?)

Surprisingly, low-fat, cultured buttermilk has lots more sugar than heavy cream (which has almost no sugar at all), as well as more protein. The big difference, of course, is fat (cream: ~37%; buttermilk: <1%).

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Actually you can omit the wash altogether and just pat the cornmeal/flour mixture into the previously spiced fillets. I use two different Prudhomme recipes at the moment, one uses a wash (milk) and one doesn't. Lately I prefer the later.

Did anyone mention dishes like this are what cast iron skillets were invented for?

PJ

"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

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As we speak there is catfish gurgling in the peanut oil in a big cast iron skillet that has seen one hell of a lot of fish in the last eighty years or so. I am cooking it exactly as described above and serving with sliced creole tomatoes, corn off the cob with butter and garlic (barely sauteed until warm) and a little more romaine salad with grapefruit and avacado (it's a great combo).

I juiced up the wash with a little Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce. It gives it a nice, but not overwhelming, zing.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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