If you know how to clean catfish the right way then it can be fairly simple, relatively clean, and quick. But, without the proper techniques, you best bet cleaning fish will be slow, difficult, and filthy. The key difference is the technique.
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How to Prepare to Clean Catfish
You should know that proper preparation will result in some awesome fillets. Follow these simple rules and your fish fry will turn out much better.
Take Out the Cooler
Do you want to know how to kill catfish before cleaning it and do so in the most humane way? Just take the cooler, stock it with ice, and place your catch inside.
You would want hand-numbing, bone-chilling cold for catfish as this is going to keep them fresh for a longer time while slowing their metabolism. This technique called the ikejime method is a humane way to kill the cats before cleaning them.
Catfish can live in an empty cooler or bucket for hours, but remember that so can harmful bacteria. So, use ice and a lot of it to be safe.
Wash Your Hands Thoroughly
Beyond icing the fish, you would want to ensure that everything you use to clean the catfish is well-washed in soap and warm water. This includes your hands. After you’ve cleaned your hands, mix a cup of bleach with a gallon of water.
Use the solution to rinse everything down prior to cleaning. The diluted cleaning solution will be enough to kill bugs and bacteria that may be lurking on the knife and cutting board you’ll use for cleaning your catfish.
The diluted bleach won’t inflict any harm on your skin but we recommend wearing gloves while using. Be careful as bleach can damage or discolor your clothes and towels.
Have the Right Tools
For the cutting board, we strongly recommend you use a large plastic cutting board that’s professional-grade. Ensuring it is professional-grade will allow you comfort that the cutting board is sealed and less likely to hold bacteria.
Don’t skimp on a cutting board for your safety. It’s usually inexpensive. Get one that’s big enough to allow you to work on your catfish without feeling crowded.
You need to have a cutting board that lets you clean fish easily. Not only will you have an easier time, but you’ll also have a much better end result.
Knife and Glove
A good fillet knife is essential. No cleaning tool for fish is more essential than a proper fillet knife.
In general, you’d want the one that has a comfortable and easy-to-grip handle. As for the blade, it must be flexible, extra-long depending on the size of your fish, and razor-sharp.
We’d like to take a second to emphasize how important flexibility is. You will definitely run into some issues if you use a stiff fillet knife regardless of how expensive or sharp it is.
Cut-proof gloves are also great to have as they can save you a trip to the emergency room. Sharp knives are safe knives, but there are still accidents that can happen. It’s best to do everything that you can to avoid a disaster.
For added safety, consider getting cut-proof Kevlar gloves. You will wish you had them the very first time you slice your finger or stab your hand. It would be easier also if you have the gloves as catfish can be slippery and gloves will allow you to have a better grip.
Decide Whether You Will Skin or Fillet the Fish
Some anglers skin their catch, taking out the tough, leathery layer prior to working on the filleting process. This removes one level of difficulty because the skin can be tough to cut through.
If you plan on keeping some catfish whole for frying, then skinning would be the way to go. Remember that skinning catfish can be a real pain. We know this first-hand.
Since skinning fish can take lots of time, it will dramatically increase the time that you need to spend cleaning your fish. This may be something you don’t want in which case you can skip straight to filleting.
How to Clean Catfish and Fillet It
There are many ways on how to clean catfish, but what we have chosen to teach you is the most efficient and fastest way. Ensure you have all your equipment including your gloves, knife, cutting board and cooler full of catfish. Begin by washing your hands.
There are those that like de-sliming their catfish prior to cleaning and filleting them. This makes less mess and the cats are easier to handle. If you want to do this, rub the fish down with anything that has a texture like an old towel. This will get most of the slimy stuff from your fish.
Step 1: Take your knife and make a cut along the diagonal line to the pelvic fin from the dorsal fin while holding the catfish. This is going to keep you behind the fish’s internal organs and reduce the chance of a puncture. Apply some pressure when you cut through the ribs.
Step 2: Feel the knife hit the fish’s backbone. When you do, turn the edge of the knife towards the tail. Then, run the knife towards the rear along the backbone. Stop an inch or so from the tail.
Step 3: Turn the fillet over, then use the knife’s flexibility to your advantage. Let your knife run the edge of the connected flap of catfish skin from the tailback towards the fillet’s fat end. You’re looking to separate your meat from the fish’s skin. With a bit of practice, this will be easier to do. Then, flip the fish to repeat on the other side.
Step 4: The method leaves a couple of ribs on each fillet. Use the knife to cut them away.
Step 5: As there’s some meat that’s left on the fish’s head, remove this the same way you got your fillets. You can keep them as smaller fillets. There are those that skip this step; however, we suggest you don’t waste any meat when cooking fish.
Don’t forget to wash your fillets in water to remove slime or blood. After you’re done, congratulate yourself as you’ve just learned how to clean catfish and accomplished the task!