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Smoked Catfish | Smoked Bullhead

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Smoked Catfish and it’s close cousin Bullhead are incredibly delish smoked. It gives the fish a whole new flavor profile.

Fork breaking piece of catfish off of the carcass.Pin
Smoked catfish

We love our smoked meats but have you ever smoked fish? It’s a different way of getting more fish in your diet.

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What are catfish?

Catfish are fresh water fish that are classified detritivores (they eat dead material on the bottom of the body of water). They are basically the “cleaners”.

It a large group of species that inhabit every continent except Antarctica. Some of the more common are blue catfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish and bullhead catfish.

They tend to frequent smaller bodies of waters like lakes, ponds and bays.

They have “whiskers” that resemble cat whiskers. Hence the nickname. Bullhead catfish are a distinct species that are common in the northeast.

Many angler’s are intimidated by cooking catfish so they just throw them back into the water. They are one our favorite species to eat. If you try this smoked catfish, we bet they will become one of your favorites too.

We love our fried catfish and our fried bullhead but smoking is a great break from the ordinary.

What you need

  • maple syrup – you can substitute honey too
  • kosher salt or sea salt
  • black pepper
  • garlic – use granulated garlic or garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • dry mustard
  • cumin
  • paprika – use sweet or smoked paprika
  • chili powder
  • lime peel or lemon peel
Ingredients for making smoked catfish. See details in recipe below.Pin
Ingredients for making smoked catfish.

How to make it

You can either use catfish filets or, if using small cats or bullhead, just leave them whole.

  1. Add brine ingredients to a storage container.
  2. Shake vigorously to combine.
  3. Wash the meat well in clean, cold water. This is an optional step but we find that if they smell particularly “muddy” or “earthy”, they usually taste muddy too. Salt the fish in a plastic storage container.
  4. Cover with water. Soak them in salt water for about 30 minutes (if you smell them, you will know what we mean). Once they are removed from the salt water, pat dry well with paper towel.
  5. Place the fish in a large container with a lid or in a gallon freezer bag. Season the fish well with the dry brining mixture.
  6. Then pour the syrup over them and massage the spices and syrup in with your hands. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  7. If you’re doing whole fish make sure to get the rub inside the cavity.
  8. Set up your smoker or grill. See instructions below if using a grill. Preheat to 180°F. Remove fish from the refrigerator and set on the grate of your smoker. Insert the probe or a meat thermometer into thickest part of the fillet.

Smoke the fish for 45 minutes to 1½ hours (depending on the size) until internal temperature reaches 140°F.

Don’t overcook the fish or it may be dry. Remove fish from the smoker. Place on a platter and tent with foil. Let it rest at least 10 minutes before serving.

Step by step process for making smoked catfish. See details in recipe below.Pin
Process for make smoke catfish

What if I don’t have a smoker?

If you don’t own a smoker, you can still enjoy smoked meats. You can use your grill to smoke. Set up your grill so that the fire is only on one side. You will place the meat on the side of the grill that does not have the direct flame (indirect heat). This is called indirect grilling.

Add soaked wood to a metal tray (we use a disposable foil pie plate or bread pan). Add another metal tray with water. Remember to fill the water if it runs out.

You can also create a similar setup for your oven in a pinch or in the winter.

Individual portion of smoked catfish with citrus salsa and lime slices.Pin

What type of wood to use

Our favorite are the fruit woods, apple, cherry, peach, pecan or alder wood. A strong flavored wood like hickory or mesquite are too overbearing for fish.

How to store leftovers

Store leftover catfish in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. For longer storage vacuum pack and freeze. Best used within 3 months.

Uses for smoked catfish

  • Serve the fish as an appetizer with cheese and crackers.
  • Add it to charcuterie boards or grazing boards. We’ve even use it on our Seafood charcuterie platter.
  • Make a smoked catfish dip with cream cheese, hot sauce, sliced green onion and chopped parsley.
  • Have fish and chips with your favorite dipping sauces, like fresh tartar sauce or comeback sauce.
Two whole smoked catfish on pewter plate.Pin
Smoked Bullhead

Helpful tools

More fish recipes

More smoking recipes

Plate with fish and colorful citrus salsa.Pin

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe today.

Enjoy. And have fun cooking!

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Fork breaking piece of smoked catfish off of the carcass.Pin

Smoked Catfish | Smoked Bullhead

Smoked Catfish and it’s close cousin Bullhead are incredibly delish smoked. It gives the fish a whole new flavor profile.
See Step by Step Photos Above!Most of our recipes have step by step photos and videos! Also helpful tips so that you can make it perfectly the first time and every time! Scroll up to see them!
5 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Brining time: 8 hours
Total Time: 9 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 341kcal
Author: Beth Neels
Cost: $2

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Wash the meat well in clean, cold water. This is an optional step but we find that if they smell particularly “muddy” or “earthy”, they usually taste muddy too. Soak them in salt water for about 30 minutes (if you smell them, you will know what we mean). Once they are removed from the salt water, pat dry well with paper towel.
  • Add brine ingredients to a small bowl or small container with a lid (except the syrup). Shake vigorously to combine.
  • Place them in a large container with a lid or in a gallon freezer bag. Season the fish well with the dry brining mixture. Then pour the syrup over them and massage the spices and syrup in with your hands. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
  • Set up your smoker or grill. See instructions below if using a grill. Preheat to 180°F. Remove fish from the refrigerator and set on the grate of your smoker. Insert the probe or a meat thermometer into thickest part of the fillet.
  • Smoke the fish for 45 minutes to 1½ hours (depending on the size) until internal temperature reaches 140°F.
  • Don’t overcook the fish or it may be dry. Remove fish from the smoker. Place on a platter and tent with foil. Let it rest at least 10 minutes before serving.
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Notes

Our favorite woods are the fruit wood, apple, cherry, peach, pecan or alder wood. A strong flavored wood like hickory or mesquite are too overbearing for fish.
You can either use catfish filets or, if using small cats or bullhead, just leave them whole.

Nutrition

Calories: 341kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 132mg | Sodium: 1274mg | Potassium: 967mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 757IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 93mg | Iron: 1mg
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12 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    We cook a lot of fish but are not as familiar with cooking catfish. Your recipe was so helpful – and so delicious and flavorful! Pinning it so we can make it again!

  2. 5 stars
    Great hack for those who don’t have smokers. That’s why I love a charcoal grill. Your catfish looks absolutely divine…love the flavoring. Perfect summertime meal!

    1. Yes. It’s easy to smoke on your grill. Gas, wood or charcoal will all work. Thanks for the comment Catherine!

  3. 5 stars
    The catfish turned out so delicious with that smokey flavor and all the spices! My family loved this! Thank you!

  4. 5 stars
    Wow! This fixed everything that I find wrong with catfish. Sometimes it can literally taste like mud and this resolves the issue totally. Thanks for a great recipe!

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