Can You Eat Catfish?

Hey there my fellow fishing enthusiasts and welcome to my post covering an often asked question when it comes to Catfish fishing… can you eat Catfish? Now, the short answer is absolutely, if fact, it is one of the more popular species worldwide when in comes to eating…

So let’s check out the ins and outs of the consumption of this species below…

What are Catfish?

Catfish - Catfish swimming

Catfish are a predominately ground dwelling fish that are found in every continent around the world. They are a scaleless species with most exhibiting prominent whiskers (called barbels) that resemble a cat – hence the name. They range from extremely large Mekong Giant Catfish to much smaller species that can be found in domestic aquariums.

When it comes to consumption however, it should be kept in mind that most are bottom feeders who will eat pretty much anything they can find from weeds and grasses, moss and other fish – alive or dead.

Hence, many prefer to source their catch from designated farms where the water conditions and food sources can be monitored and managed. If you do choose to consume wild caught catfish, I highly recommend only doing so if they are found in clean water away from contaminants.

Can you eat Catfish?

Catfish can definitely be eaten and in fact is a popular table fish – even considered a delicacy in some countries. It is best sourced from farms rather than murky lakes and if eating from the wild, ensure that they have been caught in clean water.

Are they any good?

As mentioned above, Catfish are quite popular as a table fish mainly due to their white, meaty flesh that is low in calories and high in nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12. They are mild and slightly sweet in taste which adds to their attractiveness to those preferring a ‘less fishy’ flavour.

Another reason for its suitability is that it is a hardy and plentiful fish making it a staple in many countries around the world. However, as with most freshwater species, can take on many of the characteristics of their habitats such as:

  • They will take on the flavour of their surroundings – so avoid eating if they are caught in murky, stagnant or dirty water -remember our discussions about their bottom feeding habits.
  • The older, larger varieties tend to taste a lot stronger or ‘fishier’ so if you are planning to keep one for dinner, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the biggest one you catch.
  • Larger varieties are also more susceptible to worms, parasites and increased absorbsion of waterway contaminants.

In most cases, as long as the water is clean, then you are generally ok – again, if you are unsure, maybe source from a farm instead.

Preparation

As with most white meated fish, Catfish do not need to be bled upon capture however if you plan to consume it, then it is always a good idea to place them on ice as soon as possible after it is landed. Many use an ice slurry in a cooler which is generally a ratio of 2 parts ice to 1 part water for this purpose.

Due to their eating habits, Catfish must be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed prior to consumption. From here, preparation will be determined by how you plan to eat it. If they are to be eaten whole – which is not a common practice – then you will need to clean them beforehand. If you plan to pan fry, then fillet and skin prior to cooking (Catfish do not have scales). Keep the meat refrigerated or on ice at all times before and after preparation.

Can you eat Catfish - Catfish on beach

Can you freeze uncooked fillets?

Yes – Catfish can be frozen for 3 – 6 months. It must be filleted and placed in an airtight bag (ziplock bags are good here – try to remove as much air as possible) prior to being placed in the freezer. They will last longer (often up to 12 months) if vacuum sealed prior to being frozen.

Can they be eaten raw?

No – do NOT eat Catfish raw!

How to cook Catfish

At the end of the day, due to its white flesh, Catfish can be prepared in the same manner as most other fresh or saltwater species in that they can be:

Grilled

Catfish fillets can be cooked over charcoal or gas grills with any and all spices and seasonings as you see fit. Below is a common recipe:

  1. Heat a grill hot but not smoking.
  2. Pat fillets dry then spread butter or oil over the fillet along with salt and pepper.
  3. Grill fillets until just cooked (fillets start to flake) – Do not overcook as the meat will go dry.
  4. Consume with salad or grilled vegetables.

You can of course use any other herbs or spices on the flesh to taste.

Can you eat Catfish - Blackened Catfish

Pan Fried

As above, but in a pan – I like to add garlic to the butter when I pan fry white fish fillets with the salt and pepper as well. I have seen many Catfish recipes with Asian spices used too so that is also worth a try. Of course, they can also be crumbed as well which entails:

  1. Gather three bowls and in the first, place some flour, eggs (beaten) in the second and breadcrumbs in the third.
  2. Pat dry each fillet (skin on or off to preference) and then cover in flour.
  3. Sink the flour covered fillets into the egg mixture and then cover in breadcrumbs
  4. Shallow fry in the oil of your choice in a pan large enough to hold the full size of the fillet.
  5. Spritz with lemon juice and consume with fries (chips), salad or whatever else takes your fancy.

Note: For extra flavour, add salt and pepper to the flour or even some grated Parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs. I have even seen some good recipes using BBQ rubs on the fillets as well.

Baked

For this last option, the fish is cooked whole in the oven – as above, due to their appearance this is not a popular restaurant based option however many do enjoy eating them this way. A cooking example is as below:

  1. Make sure the fish is thoroughly cleaned.
  2. Score the skin with a sharp knife (This will stop it shrinking too much from the heat)
  3. Cover the outside with a lubricant such as butter or oil
  4. Fill the cavity with whatever takes your fancy (common options are garlic, herbs, spices, lemon, tomatoes or mustard)
  5. Bake in the oven until just cooked – again, it will dry out if left too long

Conclusion

And there you go – my response to the question of whether you can eat Catfish. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please let me know of your experiences – or recipes – would love to see your recipes below too.

Also, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, concerns, corrections, or would like me to check anything else out for you.

Until next time

Have fun

Paul

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Hi, I'm Paul

I am a passionate fishing, camping and four wheeled driving hobbyist who researches, tests and educates around issues and equipment relevant to them.

I am by no means a professional however my passion is to assist you in making informed decisions about buying and using awesome gear that will give you the best chance of success at whatever you are doing for the best price.

Please get in touch if you have any questions.

Paul