Cedar Plank Catfish – You Won’t Believe How Good It Is!

grilling catfish fillet on a cedar plank

Sometimes it is just fun to get out with the wife and kids and catch some catfish. They are relatively easy to catch when compared to other species, and if you get into a mess of them, it’s easy to fill a cooler before you know it. We have even had days when the cooler filled up and we had to put them in the bottom of the boat!

After all the fun, the work starts. It may take several hours to skin all those catfish, and many people choose to just forgo the work and opt for catch and release. However, I encourage you to rethink that plan. After the tips in this article, you’ll be seeking out catfish because they can be quite delicious.

Anyone who’s been to the South knows about fried catfish. It’s a staple of country people all over, but it is not the only way to enjoy this whiskered fish. If you want to have a healthier option than frying, or if you are just an adventurous eater, give this recipe a try.

Cedar Plank Catfish

big louisiana catfish

The author’s brother Gary with massive catfish

That’s right, cedar plank Catfish. Usually when one hears the words, “cedar plank,” they expect to hear “salmon” afterward. However, cedar planks can be used to cook any species of fish. I discovered that it works on catfish several years ago when we caught a large catfish and the fillets from it were bigger than the average salmon fillet.

I thought about cutting it into strips to fry it, but then I saw the cedar plank in my kitchen and the idea sparked. Why not cook the giant slab of catfish on the cedar plank the same way I would salmon? So, I did and it changed my view of “trash fish” from that day on.

The Plank

You’ve probably seen cedar planks in the grilling section at your local “get-everything-store.” These can be quite expensive (usually $8 or more for two). There is another option.

Go to the hardware or lumber store and buy an untreated cedar board. They usually come in 8’ lengths and range in width. I prefer to get them around 6-8” in width as this will handle most fish. Obviously, you’ll need to cut the board into usable lengths, but this is a benefit as you can cut it to fit the fillet you’ll be grilling.

Before you can cook on it, you’ll need to soak the plank for at least an hour to prevent it from becoming firewood in your grill. You can soak it in water, beer, or any other water-based liquid safe for consumption. While the plank is soaking, you can prepare the glaze and the fish.

The Glaze

While the fish is cooking on the plank, you’ll need to brush a glaze on it a couple of times to really seal in the flavor. Making the glaze is easy and it fills the kitchen with an excellent aroma that promises a great meal. Here’s what you’ll need:

Ingredients:

  • Ginger                         1” cube cleaned and shredded/grated
  • Brown sugar                ¼ cup
  • Butter                          ½ stick
  • Lemon juice                1-2 lemons, fresh squeezed
  • Garlic                          1-4 cloves crushed (depending on how much you like garlic)
  1. Melt the butter, but not too hot.
  2. Mix everything else into the butter and stir.
  3. Your glaze is ready to make delicious fish.

The Fish

fresh catfish fillet prepared for grilling

Now that the plank is soaked and the glaze is made, it’s time to prep the fish. This step is also quite simple.  First, be sure that all fat has been trimmed away from the catfish. There are a few things I can think of in this world that can rival the horrid flavor of catfish fat. Once the fish is trimmed, sprinkle both sides of the fish with the following seasonings:

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • Chili powder or cayenne powder
  • Garlic powder

Note: fresh cracked black pepper is a very important part of any recipe. Peppercorns are full of oils that boast a lot of flavor, but after grinding, these oils dissipate rapidly.

Boxed pre-ground pepper is never as flavorful as freshly ground black pepper. Try it once and you’ll be hooked (no pun intended -well maybe a little). If you haven’t been cooking with it, you will after this.  It also kicks up a steak several notches on the flavor scale. Give it a try.

Grilling on the Plank

catfish on cedar plank in grill

“Gentlemen, start your grills!” Now that everything is ready, preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Once the grill is hot, place the plank on the grill and let it char on the bottom (about 3-5 minutes).

After the plank is smelling good and has a slightly blackened side, flip it over and place the fillet on the charred side. If you want a more intense smoky flavor, cover the fish and plank with an upside-down pan. This will trap the smoke a little closer to the fish. 

After the fish has cooked for about 3-5 minutes, lift the pan and brush/mop the fish with some of the glaze. Recover the fish and give it a few more minutes of cooking time. After about 5 minutes, reapply the glaze. Do this as often as you like until the fish is done.

Hint: if the board starts to burn on the edges, slide it to one side of the grill and turn the burner on that side off. This may slow down the cooking process a little, but it’s better than eating charcoal.

With most fillets, it will take about 15-20 minutes to cook. However, if you have a particularly large fillet, it could take up to 30-35 minutes. Be patient and check the fish for doneness each time you apply the glaze.

Once it’s done, remove the plank from the grill and let the fish rest for 1-3 minutes. This is the hardest step! I always have to steal a little corner to “test” it. After all, the chef must ensure that the food is edible.

To serve it, just place the plank on a large plate or serving pan and place it in the center of the table. If you used several planks for smaller fillets, you can place each plank on the plates in front of your family or dinner guests. The charred plank adds a nice touch to the eye-appeal of this dish and the smell will fill the room with excited exclamations.

delicious cedar plank catfish recipe

Alternative Recipe

If you’re not a fan of ginger, there are other options. Consider this cilantro-lime alternative for your catfish glaze:

Ingredients:

  • Butter                          ½ stick
  • Lime juice                   2-3 fresh squeezed
  • Garlic                          1-4 cloves crushed (depending on how much you like garlic)
  • Cilantro                       1 whole bunch, finely chopped
  • Tequila                        2 oz.  One for you, one for the glaze.
  • Brown sugar                ¼ cup
  1. Melt the butter. (But again, not too hot)
  2. Mix everything else into the butter. (only 1 oz. of tequila)
  3. Your glaze is ready.

Sides Anyone?

Fish this delicious needs a few friends to go along with it. While you have the grill hot, and you’re cooking the fish, why not add some asparagus to the meal. Asparagus is an excellent side for this flavorful fish. It’s also easy to make.

Grilled Asparagus

While you wash the asparagus, snap off the bottom of each stalk. The place where it snaps naturally is the place where it transitions from tough tree-like stalk to the softer edible part towards the top. After you wash and snap it, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

While you are cooking the cedar plank catfish, line the asparagus up on the other side of the grill. As they’re cooking, they will start to dry out. Give it a couple more minutes of this dry cooking, and then brush them with your favorite Italian-style salad dressing.

After a couple more minutes, flip them over. Brush them again on this side and let them cook until they are done. How will you know if they are done? Try one. It’ll be hard to resist. The cooking times look something like this:

  1. Place asparagus on the grill and let cook for 3-5 minutes.
  2. Brush with dressing and let cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  3. Flip it over, brush it again, and let it cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  4. Check for doneness and extend the time if necessary.

The nice thing about asparagus as a side dish is that they are long and straight. They line up next to the cedar plank perfectly, so they fit on the plate well.

Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

This one is delicious without a lot of effort. Place a handful of baby spinach on a plate. Sprinkle with roasted pecans. Roasted pecans add a sweet and smokey flavor that raw pecans can’t match.

Add some feta cheese. If you like fruit, a few slices of strawberries make this salad pop. Then drizzle with your favorite balsamic vinaigrette (or a homemade one). This is a simple salad, but it is a perfect pairing for cedar plank fish of any sort.

Now Go Try It!

I hope you will try this recipe but be warned. If you do, you will be hitting the catfish hole more often and that means hours of cleaning fish. Let me know if you try it and how you like it.

Blessings.

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This entry was posted in Fishing Tips & Other Wonderings, Reel Seafood Recipes on by .

About Jimmie Evans

Jimmie "Tri" Evans is a pastor, helicopter pilot, and knife maker. He fishes the Gulf of Mexico along the Louisiana and Texas coast and his favorite targets are the deepwater pelagics that stack up around the drillships. He also targets bass and catfish in local lakes and rivers. He takes a yearly trip to Colorado to test his knots and fly skills on some delicious trout, and bow-fishes with his brother whenever he gets a chance.

1 thought on “Cedar Plank Catfish – You Won’t Believe How Good It Is!

  1. hun

    Great read… I tried the Cedar plank on some blue cats and the family loved it.. Thanks to the author and adventure fishing…

    Reply

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