May 2017 News/Columns Whisker Whackers

Catfish and all the fixins’ in a Cajun Fryer

Catfish

Catfish

It don’t get much better than this

The growing popularity of catfishing demonstrates an interesting dichotomy. The question has become, to eat or not to eat. In recent years, many more catfish are released than in the past, but they remain popular on the dinner table.

catfish, cooking, Cajun Fryer, Tennessee, Jim Duckworth, Fried Food
The Cajun Fryer made me feel like a professional chef.

The growing trend towards Catch-Photo-Release (CPR) has many sportsmen and sportswomen returning any catfish over 10 to 15 pounds to the water. Those big fish are being looked at as trophies and anglers want to be sure that plenty of them are available for future anglers, our kids and grandkids.

Yet, most anglers also like to eat the whiskered critters, so the smaller ones often find their way to the dinner table. In the minds of most, the smaller ones are better table fare anyway. One of the most popular ways to fix them is fried, and in my opinion, the best way is in a Cajun Fryer.

catfish, cooking, Cajun Fryer, Tennessee, Jim Duckworth, Fried Food
This perfect “eater” was caught on Percy Priest near Nashville.

Pro fishing guide Jim Duckworth demonstrated the fryer to me at one of his outdoor writer camps. He has been cooking with them for some time. He takes great pride in cooking for his fishing industry friends when they visit him in Tennessee.

Design is the difference

Duckworth wasted no time in explaining that the difference between the Cajun Fryer and other cookers was in the design. “The oil at the bottom never gets hotter than 120 degrees,” explained Duckworth. “The oil in the cooking part of the fryer will reach what ever temperature I need to cook anything I want.”

He was referring to the fact that the burner/flue is placed 6 inches above the bottom of the cooker. It is designed so the top of the flue/burner is an upside-down V-shape pointing directly upward. Since heat rises, the cooking chamber above the heat source is heated to the desired cooking temperature while the oil below will remain much cooler, leaving the dreg to be easily removed.

The V-shaped burner/flue prevents food or batter from sticking and burning. It simply falls into the cooler oil below and the oil stays cleaner. R & V Works, the company that produces the Cajun Fryer, says their design results in an estimated 70 percent reduction in cooking oil use.

Cooking is Easy

When I had the chance to cook on my own Cajun Fryer it exceeded all my expectations. Fried food has always been one of my favorites, but it was never the same at home as it was in the restaurants that had real deep-fry equipment. Now the home cooking is actually better!

I wanted to cook for my family, so I set a date and invited my daughter, son-in-law and grandson over for a fish fry. What they did not know was the rest of the menu I was planning. I wanted to give the Cajun Fryer a test, so a few surprises were in store for my guests.

catfish, cooking, Cajun Fryer, Tennessee, Jim Duckworth, Fried Food
The deep fried pickles were delicious.

The first surprise was deep-fried dill pickles. I thought this would make an interesting hors d’oeuvre. For the pickles I mixed up some beer batter, dredged sliced dill pickles in the batter and dropped them in the hot oil. In no time at all we had the most beautiful golden brown morsels you can imagine. If I did it again I would slice my own pickles and make them thicker. Nevertheless they were a big hit dipped in a blend of catsup and brown sugar.

Next I prepared french fries and waffle sliced sweet potatoes. Nothing could be easier. Both came out crunchy and delicious.  My guests were split on the best dip for the potatoes, but most went with plain old catsup on the french fries and the catsup and brown sugar mix on the waffle-cut sweet potatoes.

catfish, cooking, Cajun Fryer, Tennessee, Jim Duckworth, Fried Food
I will pare down the menu next time, but it sure was good.

I was cooking at 350 degrees. It was amazing to me how steady the Cajun Cooker kept the temperature. The steady temperature resulted in a beautiful golden brown hue to everything I cooked.

I filleted catfish for easy, no bone, consumption. I used a commercial breading mix and held the fillets in an icy water mix before dredging. Once again cooking at 350 degrees I slipped the breaded fillets, one at a time, into the hot oil. In minutes we had delicious golden brown catfish fillets that everyone raved about.

I also fried up some hushpuppies and shrimp. My wife served up delicious cold slaw, green beans, parmesan tomatoes and a cocktail sauce for the shrimp. Each item on the table seemed to compliment the others. With all that great food on the table I did realize I might have gone a bit overboard on my first go at deep-frying. The next time I will have a little more restraint on the number of items on the menu, but I was on a mission to try out the Cajun Fryer and it was a huge success.

Cleanup and Storage

The cleanup was easy too. The company has an accessory hose that can be use to drain the reservoir, but I crafted a simple L-shaped PVC drain from a threaded elbow and 6 inches of pipe. It screws right into the drain and allows the oil to be placed back in the original container. I let it flow through a kitchen strainer and stored it for the next cooking event. It is a real bonus to be able to use cooking oil multiple times.

catfish, cooking, Cajun Fryer, Tennessee, Jim Duckworth, Fried Food
The oil can be drained back into the original container and reused many times.

After the oil was drained I flushed the reservoir with the garden hose, dried it out, and sprayed it down with nonstick cooking oil as suggested in the manual.

Durability

Duckworth also admires the durability of the Cajun Fryer. “I have cooked over a ton of fish on one of these cookers, more than a 100 turkeys and a bunch of tenderloins. It is still in perfect shape. You cannot wear one out.” That particular fryer he passed on to a friend who still uses it today.

The Proof is in the Pudding

All I can say after this experience with the Cajun Cooker, is that if I can do it, anyone can do it. I was amazed at how easy it was. Everything came out looking like I would expect from an experienced chef. Something I am not.

catfish, cooking, Cajun Fryer, Tennessee, Jim Duckworth, Fried Food
If I can do it, anyone can do it.

The real measure of success for me was when the family all had the same question. “When are we going to do this again.”

Cooking with the Cajun Fryer made me feel like a professional chef. I recommend the Cajun Fryer to anyone that wants to make a good impression at their next fish fry. Believe me, you will be praised for your cooking skills.

R & V Works also makes Smokers, Grills and Broilers. For more information on all their products visit http://www.cajunfryer.com. To view a video of the cooker in action click here.

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