Catfish is high in protein, low in fat and a good source of essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B-12 and phosphorus. A 3-ounce serving of catfish is also rich in the omega-3 fatty acids linked to a decreased risk of heart disease. To maximize the health benefits you get from eating catfish, avoid frying in favor of cooking methods that include little or no added fat. Choose catfish farmed in the United States whenever possible, as it is low in contaminants like mercury.
Turn to broiling to cook catfish with a minimum of added fat and in as little time as possible, recommends "New York Times" food columnist and cookbook author Mark Bittman. Catfish fillets will take no more than four minutes to cook if the broiler is preheated and the fish is positioned as close to the heating element as possible. Brush the fillets lightly with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, garlic and your choice of herbs or spices, including fresh dill, thyme or parsley.
Low-Fat Oven Frying
Deep-frying is a classic way to prepare catfish, but it can add too much fat to your diet. Instead, soak catfish fillets in low or nonfat milk, coat with bread crumbs or Japanese panko -- choose whole-wheat crumbs for more fiber -- and bake the fish in a pan coated in nonstick spray. Use crushed cornflakes, pretzels or crackers as the breading, if you prefer. For people following a low-carbohydrate diet, crushed nuts such as pecans can be substituted for some or all of the bread crumbs.
Poaching fish entails cooking the fillets in gently simmering liquid. No added fat is necessary. A basic poaching liquid might consist of broth or water seasoned with herbs and spices, though any liquid or combination can be used. For instance, to yield Asian-inspired catfish, poach the fillets in a mixture of chicken or vegetable broth, white wine, soy sauce and freshly minced ginger and garlic. Once you've added the fish to the poaching liquid, do not allow it to boil -- a gentle simmer is sufficient to cook the fish in about five minutes.
If you want to bring out the natural flavor in catfish, Bittman advises steaming. Use a bamboo steamer, a metal steamer insert placed in a saucepan, a small colander fitted into a stockpot or a commercial food steamer. Be careful to fill the pot only with about 1 inch of water -- the liquid should not touch the catfish when the fillets are placed on the steamer rack or insert. Serve steamed catfish with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkled with salt and pepper.
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Basic Report - 15235, Fish, Catfish, Channel, Farmed, Cooked, Dry Heat
- American Heart Association: Fish 101
- Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch: Catfish, U.S. Farmed
- How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food; Mark Bittman
- SunSentinel: Steaming Fish Fillets Fast, Easy, But Don't Overcook