Ask anyone in South Arkansas what they use to bread their catfish, and the answer will be “cornmeal”. It’s the ideal coating for the flaky fish – forming a crispy texture without being greasy. But this is for deep fried catfish. For the oven baked version, cornmeal does not have the same result. It turns out soft with a raw meal taste – that is just no good! The obvious benefits to oven frying (healthier, less mess) are completely negated if you don’t want to eat the final product!
The complete recipe, with measurements can be found at the bottom of the post
So in looking for the perfect breading for oven fried catfish, I tried a few different things. Traditional store-bought bread crumbs, homemade bread crumbs and finally Panko bread crumbs. Hands down the Panko were the best – they created a crispy coating and a great flavor! If you’ve never used Panko bread crumbs before, you should definitely check them out. Traditionally used in Japanese cooking (tempura), they are coarser and crisper than the standard bread crumb but surprisingly light and flaky.
I’ve heard people say that they don’t like catfish because it “tastes like dirt”. I’m not sure what these people are talking about…Yes, they are bottom feeders and mostly grown in farm ponds. But if prepared correctly, there shouldn’t be anything dirty or muddy about their flavor. I start by soaking the fillets (or nuggets, if making them for the kiddies) in a seasoned buttermilk mixture. An hour long soak is ideal.
After they’ve had their buttermilk bath, the catfish needs to be patted dry with a paper towel. Then for some seasoning. Salt and pepper are a must, and a little Cajun seasoning is strongly suggested. My fillets are kind of thin, so I don’t want to go crazy with the seasoning – a little on both sides will do. Next we want to coat the fish in the bread crumbs. Use your fingers to press them into place – ensure that they are evenly coated and the crumbs stay in place.
Onto the cooking method – oven “fried”. To get crispy fish, I like to heat a sheet pan in the oven while it preheats. Pour a little olive oil onto the pan, and rub it around with a paper towel. You want there to be an even coating, but no pools of oil. Place the pan in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 425F. When the oven is hot, the pan (and oil) will be hot too. Place the fish on the pan, and spray it evenly with cooking spray. I have an olive oil sprayer (which is awesome). But you can use just regular old Pam too.
Bake the fish for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the coating is browning and the fish is cooked through. I prefer not to flip the fish…but if you fell so inclined, go for it.
To accompany the fish, I like tartar sauce. You can buy it pre-made at the store, or you can take 3 minutes to make your own (hint – make your own!). As far as sides – I go with roasted broccoli. It cooks in the oven at the same temperature and same time as the fish – how convenient! And usually I will make rice or White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese – tonight is a mac and cheese night!
Oven “Fried” Catfish (2 servings)
- 2 Catfish fillets (about 1/2 pound total)
- 1 C. Buttermilk
- 1 tsp. Cajun seasonings
- 2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
- salt and pepper (and Cajun spice, if desired) to season fish
- Panko bread crumbs
- 1 T. olive oil
- Cooking spray
Combine buttermilk, Cajun seasoning, and Tabasco sauce. Soak fish in buttermilk mixture for 1 hour. Pat fish dry, season with salt and pepper. Pack bread crumbs onto both sides of fish.
Pour 1 T. olive oil onto sheet pan, rub around to evenly coat. Place pan in a cold oven, and preheat to 425F. When oven is heated, place fish on hot pan. Spray top of fish liberally with cooking spray. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.
- 1 C. mayonnaise
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 scallion, minced
- 1 T. grated horseradish
- 1 tsp. capers
- 2 tsp. parsley, finely chopped
- 1 T. pickle juice (yep, straight out of the pickle jar. Or just use lemon juice)
- pinch of salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before using.
- 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
- 1 T. olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Toss broccoli in olive oil. Spread out in one layer on a sheet pan. Season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425F for 20 minutes.