Range & Habitat: Rivers, lakes, estuaries. Catfish are popularly farm-raised in Mississippi. There is a saltwater variety called the Alantic Wolffish.
Identification & Biology: Scaleless dark-gray fish with long whiskerlike barbels (feelers) around mouth. They range in size from 5 to 10 lbs.
Market Description: White flesh of medium-firm texture and low fat content, and are sold as whole, or as fresh or frozen fillets. Catfish are farmed and harvested in 34 American states; in Mississippi, catfish farming is the state’s largest commercial industry.
Buying Tips: Cultured catfish are mildly flavorful; wild catfish can have a “muddy,” though not necessarily unpleasant, taste reminiscent of the river. In the U.S., most store-bought catfish is farm-raised and sold in frozen fillets of excellent quality. Look for pure white fillets and avoid those with a gray tinge or with browning.
Substitutes: Blackfish, carp, cod, dogfish, flatfish, grouper, haddock, ocean perch, pollock, rockfish, red snapper, weakfish, whiting, wolffish
Recommended Preparation: Catfish skin is not edible and is usually removed before cooking. Suited to almost any style of cooking, including pan-frying, baking, oven-frying, roasting, poaching, steaming, grilling. In Mississippi kitchens, fresh whole fish are often dipped in cornmeal and deep-fried. Firm-textured meat stands up well to soups and stews.