Fun Fact: Before “Smoking” became the famous culinary technique we know it as today, it was originally conceived as a method of preservation.
The smoking process involves first marinating the meat in brine—a salt and water mixture—and then exposing it to smoke which cures and cooks the food.
The “smokey” flavor that we’re all familiar with actually comes from the type of wood that is burned when heating the meat. Different woods provide different types of smokey flavor.
How To Smoke A Catfish
Today we’ll be talking about how to smoke a catfish. Since catfish, like most other fish, is light meat, sweeter and milder flavored woods work best for smoking these. Cherry, apple, and alder woods are some common favorites when smoking catfish.
The two smoking methods we’ll be looking at today are: hot smoking and cold smoking.
Hot smoking is rather simple, it involves cooking the marinated meat at temperatures over 200 degrees Fahrenheit for around 5-7 hours.
Now, the name may be misleading but cold smoking doesn’t actually mean cold temperatures. It simply means the temperatures are much lower, around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s a very meticulous process that requires consistent weather conditions and takes about 1-14 days.
So… Which Is Better?
Between the two, hot smoking would be the more advisable method for catfish because the fillets are normally quite thick. Compared to cold smoking, hot smoking has a much shorter cooking time. This creates a crunchy outer layer that prevents drying out the fish all the way through, so it preserves and highlights the texture of the fish.
The magic in these catfish recipes really comes from the brine. Apart from salt and water, you can add different spices and seasoning to it to really make the taste pop. These flavors all seep into the catfish while it smokes.
Here are a couple Squirrel approved recipes for smoked catfish.
Cajun Smoked Catfish
- 1/2 Cup Salt
- Cajun Seasoning
- Hot Sauce
This recipe a super simple brine that you soak your fish in, this marinate helps the flavor pop, and brings out the beautiful natural taste of the catfish.
For the brine, take ½ cup salt and mix with water. Then leave the fillets soaking in this mixture in an appropriately sized bowl, and place in the refrigerator for about 4 hours.
While that’s going, preheat your grill to 200F. When you’re fish is done soaking, drizzle Cajun seasoning, salt, pepper, and hot sauce over the fillets right before putting them in the grill.
The reason we’re using lower than the usual smoking temperature to make sure the catfish cooks slower and absorbs more flavor.
Cook them in constant heat with the lid closed for about 2 hours. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.
This recipe is relatively simple, designed to showcase the natural flavors of the fish.
Spicy Buttermilk Smoked Catfish
Brine #1 Ingredients
- Hot Sauce
Brine #2 Ingredients
- Lemon Peel
- Hot Sauce
This recipe is a little more complicated as it showcases two separate special brines. But it’ll be worth the trouble, and you’ll definitely be able to taste the difference.
Brine #1: First, marinate the raw catfish in buttermilk and a few drops of hot sauce for about one hour. While that sets preheat your grill to 275F.
Brine #2: Prepare your second brine of; lemon peel, salt, pepper, and oregano in a small bowl, leave to set for 30 minutes. Once marinated lightly coat the fish with olive oil before setting on the grill.
Place it over the grill and smoke for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. Best eaten with Dill sauce.
These two recipes show just a few ways you can switch up the brine, soaking, and smoking heat to achieve different flavors and textures in the catfish. With a little practice and experimentation, you can create a rich variety of unique flavors. You may also want to try introducing some of your own favorite flavors to come up with your very own signature recipe.