How to Smoke Catfish [Brine, Fillet, Wood & Recipe]


The perfect portion of grilled catfish. Filled and marinated in brine before being slow cooked over smoke and wood and topped with a delicious blend of butter and Cajun spices. So grill catfish.

Smoked catfish recipe

How many times have you caught a catfish and wondered what to do with it? Don’t throw those cats out again or let them sit in the back of your freezer. Once you’ve tried smoked catfish, you’ll be left wanting more. Today we’re going to tell you how to smoke them and even give you a tried and true smoked catfish recipe to help you on your way!

cajun smoked catfish served with grilled vegetables

How does smoked catfish taste?

Fried catfish may be the popular way to prepare your latest catch, but smoking offers a break from the ordinary. You can play around with spices and even wood flavors for a customized creation.

Catfish has a distinctly earthy flavor that many people dislike. However, the flavor will vary greatly depending on whether YOU are preparing a wild or farmed fish and what type of catfish you are eating. Channel catfish can taste sweeter and blue catfish tend to be pastern. The third species, Flathead, generally tastes better due to its live food diet.

Like fried catfish, smoked catfish has unique flavors that YOU may not notice the difference between the varieties. Also, is there anything that doesn’t taste fantastic after a tour of your grill? 

The best wood for smoking catfish

One of the most important decisions to make when smoking catfish is the type of wood to use. We found many different suggestions that experimentation might be the best option. 

Our personal favorite is of course a custom blend of alder and walnut, but maple is great too. These woods suit most species of fish, which is why we also recommend them as our salmon smoking woods. You might want to try some of the tried and tested smoker favorites like apple or hickory.

We also found a recipe that calls for a mixture of ¼ hickory, ¼ cherry, and ½ apple, but haven’t tried it yet. If you try it, we’d love to hear your feedback!

Raw catfish fillet on a cutting board

How to cook catfish for grilling

Browsing the internet for suggestions can uncover a wide range of recommendations. Some people like to use a dry brine, some prefer a wet brine, and still others prefer to cook the whole fish without prep.

We wouldn’t recommend this route for a number of reasons, the main reason being that you could affect the flavor and moisture levels of the fish. In short, they just won’t taste as good. This is the best way to add a little interest to your step.


For best results, remove the skin and cut the catfish into fillets, sometimes called steaks. They to cut them more similar but large to facilitate and speed up the salting and smoking. For a full tutorial, watch this video on the best way to fillet catfish:


Salting catfish before smoking improves the flavor and texture of the feed. It’s easy and only takes a few hours. You need a container that will fit all of your steaks and will not react to the salt mixture. Gallon freezer bags work well, but you can use glass, ceramic, or plastic dishes as well.

You can use a combination of warm water, sugar, and salt for the brine mixture, but feel free to get creative and add spices. There are two ways to pickle or salt your catfish fillets.

  • Create a water-based brine mix by combining ⅓ cup non-iodized table salt and ½ cup sugar or brown sugar in ½ gallon of cold water.
  • Rub the fillets with the salt and sugar mixture.

Place your fillets and brine mixture in freezer bags or containers and refrigerate. The general rule of thumb is one hour in the fridge for every ½ inch of thickness. For example, if you have inch-thick steaks, plan to put them in the fridge for at least two hours.

How to grill catfish

How to grill catfish

Prepare your catfish as above. While your steaks are in the fridge, it’s a good time to fire up your smoker. It is best to keep the temperature constant in the 190°F to 200°F range. Use an incense thermometer for the most accurate results.

Use a few handfuls of dry wood shavings in water and resist the urge to stir them up. for about ten minutes. Remember that you can use any flavor or combination of flavors you like. Add the wood chips to the coals in your smoker to create the smoke.

Before placing the steaks on the grill, pat them dry with clean towels or paper towels. Place your catfish in the smoker and cook for twenty minutes.

While the catfish is cooking, it’s time to prepare your marinade. You can find our favorite marinade in the smoked catfish recipe at the end of this article.

Once your catfish fillets hit the twenty minute mark, brush up on your marinade. Cook for another five minutes, then apply another layer of marinade.

Leave the fillets in the smoker for an additional five minutes, then inspect. You know the fillets are done and you lightly press the edges with your finger. If it falls apart easily, it’s ready to eat.

Smoked catfish

The perfect portion of grilled catfish. Filled and marinated in brine before being slow cooked over smoke and charcoal and topped with a delicious blend of Cajun butter and spices.
Course dinner, main course
American cuisine , BBQ
Preparation time 4 hours
Cooking time 2 hours 10 minutes
Total time 6 hours
For 4 people


Wet sole

  • 2 table spoons of brown sugar
  • 2 tea spoons of coarse kosher salt or kosher salt
  • Warm water

Glazed spice

  • 1 cup of honey
  • ¼ cup butter , diced
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
  • teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder


  • Combine sugar and salt in a little pain. Place fillets in freezer bags and cover with warm water until each catfish is submerged. Chill for four hours.
  • Remove catfish from cooling and freezer bags. Rinse with cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Leave on the refrigerated shelf.
  • Preheat smoker below 200°F(93°C). Use an incense thermometer to check the temperature. When finished, add wood shavings.
  • Arrange catfish fillets on smoker racks. Close chamber door and 20 minutes garden.
  • While the fillets are cooking, prepare the glaze. Heat the honey in a small saucepan for a minute or two to bring it to a boil. Add butter and spices. Mix until butter is completely melted. Remove the glaze from the stove and set aside.
  • After 2 hours in the smoker, the steaks are definitely ready for the butter glaze. Brush the fillets with the glaze and cook for another five minutes.
  • Apply another layer of glaze and cook for another five minutes.
  • When the fillets feel crumbly, they’re done. Remove smoker and wrap in foil. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

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